Diversity in tech – a recruitment solution
Written by Paul Miles
Monday, September 4th, 2017
The tech sector is understandably under the microscope. In the wake of the now infamous Google Memo, tech companies are being forced to face a reality women and minorities have long known: that Damore’s ‘Ideological Echo Chamber’ memo is but the tip of the sexist iceberg.
It’s no secret that women are vastly underrepresented in technology, but it wasn’t always this way. Take Ada Lovelace, the 19th century mathematician and writer who worked on the world’s first proposed computer, or Joan Clarke, the deputy head of Alan Turing’s code-cracking operation. In fact, you have Hedy Lamarr to thank for the fact you’re even able to read this, as this actress-turned-inventor is the woman behind Wi-Fi.
In post-war Britain, the software sector was imbued by women – mainly owing to the fact it was deemed as little more than an extension of the typing pool – but this changed once it became apparent that technology would revolutionise the world. And so the sector became a man’s game, and women have been elbowing for a place at the table ever since.
But how far-reaching is the gender gap in tech? During my research I came across some staggering statistics; according to UNESCO, one third of the world’s 6.9m researchers are women. Meanwhile, research by McKinsey shows that companies in the top 25% for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have earnings above the national industry average. The top 25% for gender diversity are 15% more likely to do better than their competitors.
Why is diversity important?
Diverse workforces have been shown to be more productive, inventive and tend to be happier. And this isn’t just about doing the right thing, study after study has proven diversity’s beneficial impact on innovation. Crucially, it even boosts bottom-line, with research finding that mixed-gender higher management bolsters company performance.
But away from economics and ethics, 43% of UK STEM vacancies are hard to fill because of a shortage of skilled candidates. We simply cannot afford to overlook sections of the population when it comes to recruitment.
Indeed, diversity goes much deeper than virtue signalling. Monoculture is bad for innovation, we need teams as diverse as the audiences we market to. More experiences and educational backgrounds means more ideas – how can anyone not want to get behind that?
So, how can recruiters help?
For first-hand insight, we got in touch with Rebecca Abbott, HR Manager at eTech Solutions Ltd, to gain her two pence on how diversity has been a driving force in the company’s success.
As a company situated in the West Midlands, Rebecca prides herself on having a team that reflects their customer-base. She told us: “Diversity has an impact. You get different viewpoints, different ways of working, you get different backgrounds. It’s not just a box ticking exercise.”
Yet, despite their penchant for diversity, at eTech, within their team of around 50 developers, there is one female developer and a handful of female testers. For Rebecca, this is a problem that stems from schooling. And she’s right – research from academics at Roehampton University found that just 16% of GCSE computing entrants in 2015 were female, while for A-level it was just 8.5%.
As a consequence, Government-led programmes and university schemes may take years to translate into actual change, but there are adjustments companies and recruiters can make. Rebecca really drills home that the recruitment process has to do more than just align with affirmative action; organisations must do more than just talk the talk – they have to convert their ideas into action.
She champions the likes of bursaries and recruiters who look for candidates across a range of backgrounds – from apprenticeships and graduates, to older workers. Additionally, recruiters should be mindful of language, as research has shown how job adverts often use masculine language that inadvertently puts off female applicants.
She notes that “people recruit in their own image.” Hence, she explains that recruiters should endeavour to create diverse interview panels who will look for different things. If this isn’t possible in your company, consider holding in-house training to uncover subconscious biases.
Finally, recruitment is only the first step. Retaining that talent is essential. To do this, Rebecca recommends creating a company culture that is both inclusive and agile; she notes how her own office is structured with an open and flat management style, where they actively encourage everyone to get involved.
In a similar vein, Rebecca highlights the importance of inclusive out-of-work activities. At eTech, they regularly host LAN nights, board game competitions and hackathons. It’s imperative, she says, that these activities are structured around interests and not gender.
What methods have you implemented to encourage diversity in your workforce? Do you even think it’s important? Let me know what you think by tweeting me at @BR_PaulMiles.