\Startup Life Opinion/

There’s never been a better time to hire women in tech

The rise of remote and flexible working and a looming recession mean tech companies have fewer excuses not to hire women — and more incentives to do so.

By Caroline Ramade

When pressed on their lack of gender diversity, companies often focus on the pipeline problem — the suggestion that there aren’t enough women entering STEM fields. 

It’s true that hiring for a more diverse team can take longer and require more effort. But the pay-off is more than worth it: tech companies with greater gender diversity outperform by as much as 15%, while employees at women-led companies are happier, more productive, and easier to retain.

Businesses like Slack or Twitter, which have taken intentional steps to hire teams with greater diversity, are already reaping the rewards. 

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As the world hovers on the edge of a recession, where efficiency seems critical, it takes an innovative strategy to recognise that these short-term costs have major upsides. Tomorrow’s leaders of the S&P 500, CAC40 and DAX will be those who invested in diversity early on. 

There are countless reasons to hire women in tech. What’s more, the difficulties created by coronavirus have made right now the perfect moment to do exactly that.

A unique opportunity for recruiters committed to diversity

1 A wealth of female candidates

Between slashed budgets and cancelled projects, there’s no doubt that times are tough for us all. But for those in a position to hire, there’s never been a better time to write diversity into your company’s blueprint. 

“Coronavirus-induced layoffs have hit women in tech 1.6 times harder than men.”

Coronavirus-induced layoffs have hit women in tech 1.6 times harder than men, with 8% of women out of a job, compared to 5% of men. People of colour have also been disproportionately affected. Practically speaking, that means an abundance of diverse, world-class talent, there for the taking.

2 Remote is working

Coronavirus has given us the first opportunity for widespread A/B testing on the effect of remote work or flexible hours. At this early stage, it looks positive: companies like Accenture have already seen their productivity rise, while others have chosen to remain partially remote, with the added bonus of paying less in rent (and having fewer pointless meetings). 

Women have been asking for more flexibility for years; the last Ivanty’s Women in Tech survey found that 51% of respondents were attracted to companies with policies to allow flexible or part-time working.

When it comes to hiring, it’s never been easier to cast a wide net for great candidates — and now it’s no longer a problem if your fantastic developer or engineer won’t relocate, or needs flexible hours. 

“We’re launching our #TechHerOn campaign today to help connect vetted employers with the fantastic employees they deserve.”

At the same time, there’s no doubt that there are barriers to hiring great female candidates. Yes, sexism plays a part — but so does poor recruitment technique, or not knowing where to look for the perfect candidate. These crucial factors are why we’re launching our #TechHerOn campaign today, to help connect vetted employers with the fantastic employees they deserve.

The dangers of unintentionality

We all know that you can’t just allow your company to grow and grow, and assume you can retrofit a diverse approach later on. It’s a recipe for silly mistakes, toxic company culture, or a product that doesn’t reflect the diversity of its potential users — smartphones too large for women’s hands, or algorithms that are built to induce racism.

“We all know that you can’t just allow your company to grow and grow, and assume you can retrofit a diverse approach later on.”

Caroline Criado Perez, the author and campaigner, says it best: in a “deeply male-dominated culture, the male experience, the male perspective” becomes seen as universal, “while the female experience — that of half the global population, after all — is seen as, well, niche.” 

More than that, it can be literally costly: if employees leave due to a lack of inclusivity, your bottom line and culture will both take a hit. But starting early lets you hardwire gender or racial diversity in, making it easier to create a sustainable hiring model that works for the long-term. 

Establishing a pipeline to find great entry-level female and BAME candidates is a great first step. But it’s critical that those same candidates get the leadership opportunities they deserve as they progress. It helps your culture, but it also demonstrates to prospective junior candidates that there’s an established pathway for their success. 

What could I be doing better?

Sometimes, getting there means asking yourself hard questions about what institutional obstacles are already in place that prevent diverse candidates from succeeding. Putting in place mandatory, equal parental leave and regular raise cycles goes a long way. So does doing away with your notions of who is and isn’t a ‘cultural fit’; look for ‘culture add’ instead.

“Putting in place mandatory, equal parental leave and regular raise cycles goes a long way.”

If it sounds daunting, it doesn’t need to be. With so much in flux, now’s your chance to make big changes, or to adjust your course if you know something isn’t working. More than that, questions of talent shortage have been blown wide open. Women make up a greater proportion of computer science graduates in China, Russia, Tunisia and India than they do in many western European countries: the rise of permanent remote working means you now have the option to look much further afield.

The opportunity is there for the taking, and it’s an incredibly exciting time for those prepared to take the plunge. But there’s one thing we know for sure: If we don’t do it now, when will we do it?

Caroline Ramade is founder and CEO of 50intech, a platform to accelerate the businesses and careers of women in tech.

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Candace
Candace

A terrific perspective! Even top performers that opted-out for caregiving, often women, can skillUP in Tech and add significant value to a company’s bottom line when flexibility and/or remote work are part of the mix.