A Guest Post by Tanja Lichtensteiger
Do you want to produce good technology products that everyone wants to use? Start by addressing the gender balance in your development team.
Our future is going to be shaped by the technology we build now. If technology is being designed and built by only a certain type of person, it is more than likely that the future will deliver only to their needs and ignore the rest of the population.
Each developer involved in building your system provides their own unique insight to the requirements and how the system should function. This is incredibly valuable. Nuances of system functionality can be picked up and addressed by different individuals. And that’s what helps make a great resilient product. But to do this, you need a diverse team.
How to get started
Review Job Descriptions / Advertisements
Women tend not to apply for jobs that they feel they aren’t 100% qualified for. We are at times terrible at estimating our own abilities and don’t blow our own trumpet enough. So, when job descriptions and advertisements have a long list of essential criteria, it is more unlikely that anyone can fully cover all points. That’s why job descriptions should always be reviewed. Are those essentials really mandatory?
If your job description states that degrees or paper qualifications are required, ask yourself – shouldn’t equivalent experience be enough? A lot of great techies, especially women, transfer into technology from other backgrounds as they might not have initially realised that tech could be a career for them. These people tend to be very versatile, bringing in transferable skills not easily found in our sector. They are incredibly valuable – are you excluding them by a demand for formal qualifications?
And does you advertisement boast of good work life balance? Excellent market leading companies are proud to provide this. The truth is, you, as an employer, have to now compete to get the diversity you need in your teams. If you are competing for a small pool of people, which is still unfortunately what women in technology are, you need to start offering better than your competitors.
Don’t hire the finished product
Leave room for growth. Hire with the intention to train new employees in the skills you need. Also, provide jobs for juniors. Junior developer posts are a great pathway for a company to develop employees to the needs of the company and provides those without experience to gain some valuable insight.
Go to the community
To really focus on a part of society you’re under-recruiting for, get involved in their communities. Expand your networking and get members of your company, who recruit, involved in events such as Women In Tech, Code First Girls, etc. You can find female developers in their communities!
And if you can’t find a community, invest in your local tech scene and create one. Start a forum for them to meet, share ideas, encourage each other and then learn more about your company.
Got them? Retain them.
Once you have female developers in your team, you need to be able to keep them, so look at your office environment and question it: Do you treat your employees well? Not just female developers but all genders. Have you built a safe culture? Are there traces of sexism, racism or any other horrible-ism? Provide a feedback mechanism where issues can be reported and handled appropriately. All in the team need to be able to feel safe.
We have a responsibility
The stereotype that technology is not an industry for females is still quite pervasive and it has kept many from even trying. We have to change this perception and make them feel welcome, whether it’s their first career choice or if they’re transferring from a different industry. We have to give them confidence that they will be valued when they bravely step forward. Because it is still a very brave act, stepping into a male-dominated industry, old prejudices can still run rife. But without those brave individuals, nothing will change. And we can’t risk our technological future on that.