Attracting and Retaining Female Tech Talent

According to the Office of National Statistics, women make up just 17% of tech workers in the UK. The numbers fall when looking at system designers and IT BAs to 14%, and even further to a mere 13% of software developers.

Investment in the UK tech sector has more than doubled since the Brexit vote, putting the country ahead of rivals in Europe. There has been a major push, trying to attract 1.2 million new tech workers by the end of this year, but why is there still such a low percentage of women in tech positions?

A previous study by Tech City UK found that around 36% of men wanted to work in the IT industry in the future, but only 13% of women respondents expressed a desire to undertake a career in tech.

This shortage of women has been argued to be down to a lack of confidence. The same Tech City report found that almost half of female respondents said they lack skill in technology, while just over 35% said they lack knowledge of technology and 24% said that the tech industry was “not for people like them”.

There have been some that have suggested that fewer women take up jobs in the tech industry due to gender stereotyping, as well as policies that actively discriminate against women. Back in the 1970s women were required to get permission from their husbands to work. Due to this, it’s argued that this exact kind of damaging ideology has somehow become ingrained within the fabric of society and that even in today’s world we are fighting to overcome these prejudices. These issues have leg to a low proportion of women in the graduate talent pipeline, particularly in subjects such as computer science.

Not only do companies need to attract women into tech roles, but they also need to work harder at retaining female tech talent. In a study conducted by Forbes, it resulted that women leave the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men. Some of the most common reasons for this phenomenon were lack of career growth, slow salary growth, and poor management. An Indeed report also found that just half of surveyed women believed they had the same opportunities at senior leadership roles as their male counterparts.

If the UK’s tech industry is going to continue being innovative and stay ahead of its competitors, then gender parity in the sector needs to be achieved. So, what can businesses do to attract and retain female tech talent?

Fair and Competitive Remuneration

It goes without saying that the first and foremost concern for women in the tech industry, whether they’re at the start of their career journey or more senior, is salary. Equal pay for equal work is highly important, therefore ensuring that transparent pay practices are implemented will empower women not to undersell themselves at interview stage and know that they’re entering a company on fair pay.

Female-Focused Benefits

Fair and equal salaries are highly important, however there are more ways businesses can attract and retain tech female employees. Diversity initiatives that encompass policies for women have proven to be highly beneficial.

Thus, ensuring policies such as post-maternity support, as well as benefits for working mothers and enhancing flexible working policies are invaluable. Policies that focus on women and respond to their needs can be the deciding factor between staying on in a career or quitting.

Fair and Equal Promotions

Representation is a very powerful tool when attracting and retaining female tech talent. By ensuring your company visibly promotes and champions equality you’ll set a positive precedent and boost your reputation while you do that. Your recruitment and retention are also closely aligned, so if a female candidate sees that other women in the company are in senior positions, then they’ll be encouraged to aim for the same for themselves.

Foster an Inclusive Work Culture

When an organisation gets a reputation that it’s a hostile work environment for women, it’ll put off potential female candidates and make it much harder to retain existing female employees. It’s important that your business continuously re-evaluates workplace practices to make sure they align with new D&I initiatives.

Your business could do this by sending out surveys to your employees, giving your workforce an opportunity to provide honest feedback on culture-related issues and suggest solutions. Your business could introduce minimum requirements that’ll work towards making the workplace more inclusive. An example of this that your business could insist on having is that internal committees should include at least one female employee. They’ll be able to vote on workplace issues, partnerships, dress codes, and diversity initiatives.

A Gender-Neutral Recruitment Process

The recruitment process needs to be flexible for businesses to attain a gender-balanced workforce. This process should take into accounts needs and aspirations that are particular to women. By introducing simple changes such as gender-neutral language within job description you can make a difference to the recruitment process.

Research found that in male-orientated sectors, job descriptions work to actively put women off from applying for jobs, and this is particularly the case in the tech industry. LinkedIn conducted research that shower that women feel like they need to meet the criteria 100% before applying for a job, while men apply after only meeting roughly 55%.

Blind hiring techniques could also attract female employees. This can be achieved by employing techniques such as pre-employment testing, blind candidate screening, and genderless CVs. Not only that but your business should consider implementing mandatory “Unconscious Bias” training for all hiring managers and creating a diversity toolkit that all members that have recruitment responsibilities should have access to.

Craft and Develop a Diverse Pipeline

Another good way of working towards gender equality within a tech company is to work with organisations that focus on getting more women into STEM roles. You can advertise job vacancies on specific portals, attend diversity events, and ask for advice on best practices to follow when developing and nurturing a diverse pipeline.

So all in all, achieving gender equality in the tech workspace is a mission, but not impossible. Do you think I’ve missed anything else that can be done to attract and retain female talent in the tech industry? Let me know in the comments!

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