How to get more women in tech?
Technology roles are widespread, offering continuous learning, leadership opportunities, and long careers. But gender balance in the sector remains heavily skewed towards men. Sylvia Blockx, Nicole Gorton and Dee Robertson from Robert Half explain how getting more women in tech could help businesses, and candidates, to flourish.
What are the key trends in technology employment and how did the pandemic impact these trends?
Nicole Gorton At the start of the pandemic, businesses parked technology projects amid the uncertainty, which impacted development and business transformation teams. In 2021, these projects restarted, but businesses were short of the skills they needed. What followed was a hiring frenzy, in a market where the supply couldn’t keep up with demand, especially for roles with niche skills. We’ve had to educate clients to hire on potential, and train people up, which is an ongoing process.
Sylvia Blockx Technology is a fast-paced industry. People move roles more often, especially contractors: the technology is changing all the time and they see opportunities to gain experience elsewhere. They need to keep themselves up to date all the time. The pandemic made the world go even more digital and meant those profiles were in even more demand. Businesses can hire long-term on potential, because a willingness to learn is as important as having the skills today.
Dee Robertson The pandemic has not really dented the important long-term trend of increasing diversity within the tech sector, but it has fast tracked the importance of needing to upskill people quickly in cloud technologies to aid the way businesses were forced to adapt. DE&I initiatives such as the AWS re/Start programme provide this upskilling and offer an accessible platform for businesses to incorporate this within their recruitment processes. The flexible, virtual ways working that were created as a result of the pandemic have led to positive economic, as well as cultural change.
Why is it important to talk about ‘women in technology’ now?
Dee Businesses are crying out for female talent and are seeking to correct the gender imbalance. In the UK, there is a disproportionate number of men in technology roles; so we see the critical importance for women to discover the rich opportunities available in all parts of tech.
Nicole In Australia, there are more opportunities for women in tech to come to the sector. They are often bringing change or project management experience, rather than niche a technology specialism, but they can progress into leadership roles. There is a big appetite to have female leaders.
What makes female candidates suitable for technology roles?
Nicole They have important skills, including emotional intelligence, collaboration, and leading people through change, for example. These skills aren’t just associated with women, but they help to translate and communicate technology for others. In addition, customers will be gender diverse, and businesses will do better if they can mirror their customer base. They will come up short without women in leadership and customer-facing roles.
Sylvia Since the pandemic, a lot of businesses have realised they need to give people more ownership and flexibility in how they work. This mindset shift is helping women to combine family life with a full-time job and build in flexibility.
The fact that women think differently than man and vice versa, I do believe in the complementarity leverage you can find in having an equality of gender in the domain of technology. Both bring their assets to the table.
How can technology companies improve diversity?
Dee Businesses can help themselves by making simple adjustments: If a technology business is hiring, it needs to make the job advert clear and exciting to the audience they’re trying to attract; I believe the often-forgotten task of the job spec is to bring the role to life, to show the importance and vitality of the role to attract the finest applicant. So often a job ad will overstate the requirements needed for the role and in turn deter individuals from applying. If a business values diversity, equity and inclusion, make that understood. A common issue I encounter when companies are looking to hire entry level talent is overinflating the number of years required to do the job, thus dissuading candidates from making an application; if your aim is to increase diversity within your business, encourage people to apply by make them feel welcome at the first point of engagement.
Nicole Number one, they need to have a diverse interview panel; number two, look at the criteria used to measure diversity (which will help number one); and number three, if businesses are going to hire on people’s potential, then support them. When new starters are mentored, and given the skills to succeed, they are more likely to stay.
Dee A diverse interview panel is important. I’ve seen businesses do it well, and businesses do it badly. Having a panel that reflects the demographic of those interviewing naturally leads to more positive outcomes.
There’s a lot of women on the AWS re/Start programme coming back to work after having a career break to raise their family. They are hugely passionate, smart, driven individuals, but are now battling against the gap on their CV. Businesses can send the right message by doing more to support women coming back into the workforce; we know a supportive and diverse working environment makes for more productive teams and a stronger culture. So just acknowledging that your business welcomes applications from women in that life-stage gives the green light to producing a broad and high-quality applicant list for your role.
Sylvia In Belgium, we encourage clients to tell a story to attract a diverse range of candidates. The job description does not give a good view on what the job is about. Candidates are also encouraged to share their story as well. Would a client themselves liked to be selected based on a CV; or would they like to share their story first? This approach has a lot of potential and will help in getting more women in tech.
What’s your advice to women interested in the technology sector?
Nicole Find allies and mentors. If women are coming back to the workplace and juggling childcare, for example, then a support network to help them grow and develop will be so valuable.
Sylvia If you are passionate about something you just need to go for it and not let prejudgement let you be afraid to go into technology. In Belgium, Data News has an ICT Lady of the Year award that has been ongoing for a few years. They have started this to create awareness around women in tech. It was great to be present and it is so good to see more and more women having a great career in tech. Just go for it. We as recruitment agency have an important role to play in raising awareness as we meet a lot of candidates who might be interested but do not know enough about what the possibilities are.
Dee Continuous learning, especially in the technology sector, is important. There are many ways to access funded training and certifications. Doing a course doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will get the first role you interview for, so my advice is to stay hungry, stay tenacious, continue upskilling yourself, and keep knocking on doors until one opens. Training programmes such as AWS re/Start are designed to help underrepresented groups make the leap into the tech; and I’m proud to say we’ve seen our collaboration with this Amazon-led initiative to impact candidates and businesses in only positive ways!
Short Bios Experts
Sylvia Blockx is a managing director at Robert Half in Belgium, and leads the firm’s technology practice across Belux – Interim management and SA Benelux
Nicole Gorton is a director at Robert Half in Sydney and looks after strategic accounts and technology in the Asia-Pacific region.
Dee Robertson is a senior talent solutions manager at Robert Half in the UK. She works closely with Amazon on the AWS re/Start programme, which helps underrepresented groups to enter the technology sector.