Like many women in tech I have spoken to, I have experienced my share of challenges. I founded GearedApp at the age of 23 with 2 friends after completing my MSc in Information Systems Development. I had very little experience working in tech, never mind running a business. Yet over the last 9 years I have enjoyed learning all the possibilities the tech sector offers. Everyone should have the opportunity to be part of this incredible sector, regardless of their gender. Technology is the future, and everyone should be part of that.
MCKinsey’s 2020 report on diversity and inclusion found that gender-diverse teams were 25% more likely to experience above average profitability. Based on their analysis they found the difference in performance in the most diverse teams was 48% greater than those with the least diverse teams. But, despite all the data proving the benefits of a diverse workforce, less than 20% of the current Tech workforce in the UK are women. And only 5% of leadership positions in tech are held by women.
This needs to change.
In case you have any doubt, here are 3 reasons why making diversity in your tech company should be a priority:
1. Better problem solving
Research shows us that diversity among teams helps them make better business decisions 73% of the time. Collaboration in a more diverse team brings a much wider range of perspectives and approaches when building technology. This makes them more likely to spot key issues that a homogenous group might miss. Despite women making up 50% of our total population, there is a lack of women in the tech industry who can influence the design of consumer products. When men design products for women, they are less likely to understand women-specific needs. But by involving women and other minorities in the decision making process, you are more likely to have a successful platform and create more value for consumers that identify as women.
2. Happier teams are more successful
Company culture isn’t about Friday beers and pingpong tables. By actively encouraging diversity and openness this contributes to a happier team. We can all benefit and learn from different personalities, perspectives and approaches within our team. If potential new employees look at your team photos on your about page, and feel they are going to be the odd one out, the chances are they aren’t going to apply. No-one wants to be the token minority. This is especially important in your leadership teams. If you can’t show there is potential career progression if I am a minority in your company, why would I join you? This means you could be missing out on the best talent to grow your business.
If you say you can’t find ANY women, people of colour or other minorities suitable to fill the role then you have bigger cultural issues to resolve.
3. More diversity = More revenue
This is the absolute no brainer argument for increasing diversity in your company. Studies have shown that tech companies with more diversity within their leadership teams have more success, due to increased innovation. Companies who had women involvement on a board averaged 14% net income growth over the past six years as compared to 10% for the companies with no women board representation.
So you work for a tech company, what can you do to try and encourage more diversity, including women, to join your team?
Well, this isn’t something that can change over night, but here are a few tips that might help:
Review your team values
Half of females say that feeling like the work they do makes the world a better place is the most important factor when deciding their future career.
Are you not attracting diversity because you haven’t put any thought into your values? Do they feel like “fluff” to you? Are they buzz words that every company seems to have? Does your company’s actions day in and day out reflect these values or not? If so that might be a red flag that you need to have a long hard think about the bigger picture for your team. Your team and future employees want to know the “why” your company exists, not just what you do. Your “why” helps them to see if your company’s purpose feels aligned to their values. What should working with your organisation feel like, and how do you make sure that these values are reality, and not empty words?
Communicate your culture
It is increasingly difficult to complete for talent in the tech space. Now more than ever we need to focus on building a vibrant, open and diverse company cultures that we can all enjoy being a part of. One common piece of feedback from women applying to work at GearedApp, has been the friendly culture that comes across in website content and social media. It’s important to portray who you really are to attract people of all backgrounds, who feel at ease and confident when applying for any position.
Flexible and family positive policies
Over a quarter of female students say they’ve been put of a career in technology as it’s too male dominated. Are your policies restrictive and assume that your employees have no life outside of work? This will likely mean that very qualified and experienced candidates will not apply to your company. The pandemic has proved we can be effective as productive when working in a more flexible way. There is also growing evidence that a 4 day week with the same pay does not decrease productivity but increases employee satisfaction, company commitment and teamwork. Also the cost of childcare is one of the major contributing factors for the lack of women across all sectors including tech.
Make sure your policies are fair and available for both men and women. Communicate these well in your job ads and career pages.
Clear and approachable job ads
Over the years I’ve had many conversations with female friends who had considered applying for a job, but were put off because they felt that they did not meet the extensive list of requirements for the job. Women typically deselect themselves if they don’t meet close to 100% of the job criteria. But men are more likely to apply if they feel they match 60% of the requirements (source). Try to make sure your job ads are clear, concise and don’t throw everything and the kitchen sink in. Don’t make it sound like you need to have 5 PHD’s and 15yrs experience for an entry level role. Split off some nice to have requirements if you need to mention them, but less is more.
This follows through into the hiring process, are you removing people who had a career break for childcare for example? Are you asking inappropriate questions like “so who’s going to look after the kids while you’re at work?” or other biased questions that you would never ask a male candidate? (And yes a friend was asked this by several hiring managers.) Don’t use “you’re not the right fit” as an excuse to cover the fact you are selecting people based on internal biases.
Benefits that matter
Make sure to sell your company culture in your ad too. And I don’t mean perks. Talk about the practical values and benefits that will mean the most to people of all backgrounds. Such as your openness to communicate, collaborate, transparency and flexibility as an organisation. 50% of women said benefits like healthcare, working from home, pensions, childcare, training budgets, and opportunities to grow were most important when deciding to apply for a job.
Investing in improving diversity in your company improves your company culture, employee retention and increases it’s bottom line.
I have been very privileged to receive the support I did along my career journey. But even with fewer challenges than many, there have been times I felt it would be easier if I chose a more female-orientated industry. Despite this, every day I wake up knowing I may learn something new, which is something I love about tech. And that I may have the opportunity to make a positive difference for one of our clients, our team members or one of the organisations we work for. So for that, I am eternally grateful. I cannot imagine a world where I don’t work in such an ever-evolving sector, and every woman should have the opportunity to share their skills. The pandemic has shown us that we cannot go back to the way it was and we cannot move forward without technology.
To any woman (cis or trans) who is struggling either mentally or physically with the challenges of being accepted in their workplace for who they are, I encourage you to:
1. take some time for yourself,
2. find your biggest supporters
3. listen to your gut.
Keep reminding yourself of the big picture and what gets you up in the morning. I found the people you surround yourself with are everything.
If you are a woman in tech and need support feel free to reach out to me for a chat via LinkedIn.