Lately, I’ve seen an increase in companies specifically looking for women for their technical roles. Many efforts are made to build diverse teams, but as some have mentioned on Twitter, isn’t this discriminatory?
Let’s try to answer this question by taking a look at the data.
Diversity in Tech
I’ve been working in tech for 12 years. It’s been a long, wild ride. During this time, a majority of teams I’ve been a part of were mostly composed of men. But my perception of the tech industry doesn’t equal facts; yours doesn’t either. As tech workers, we value research and metrics. So, I searched and here is what I found:
For example, in 2017, women hires in tech positions rose to 24.5% at Google. The tech giant is making efforts toward gender diversity, but in 2018, Google’s technical workforce is only 21.4% female and 78.6% male.
Why fight for diversity?
The tech industry values the “thinking outside the box” mentality that helps solve problems. When we hire people who are and think like us, we limit our ability to reach for novel ideas.
“Diversity gives you access to a greater range of talent, not just the talent that belongs to a particular world-view or ethnicity or some other restricting definition. It helps provide insight into the needs and motivations of all of your client or customer base, rather than just a small part of it.” — Forbes
More than that, studies have shown that having women in leadership positions helps companies perform better. But if women aren’t given a chance to get in the company, it’s impossible for them to climb the ladder and provide more value.
“Companies that put a priority on innovation are worth more when women hold top leadership positions. These companies are $44 million more valuable, on average, according to a multiyear academic study of Standard and Poor’s top 1,500 firms.” — The Washington Post
How do potential candidates find job listings?
Back to our initial issue. We’ve recently seen more technical roles advertised to women. When companies are actively looking for women, aren’t they discriminating against men? Probably not, let’s see why.
1. The job opening is posted on a job board
Most jobs are posted on the company’s website and different job boards. Nothing crazy there but you might not know that men and women have different behaviors when looking for a job.
According to the Harvard Business Review:
While men are likely to apply to jobs for which they meet only 60% of the qualifications, women are much more likely to hesitate unless they meet 100% of the listed requirements.
This dramatically reduces diversity in the pool of applicants. If we write a long list of requirements, we might see more men than women applying.
Something else is interesting about job descriptions:
Job ads in male-dominated fields (like software programming) tend to use masculine-coded words (…) Research confirmed such words made those job listings less appealing to women.
As a result, fewer women are interested in the role, and for those who are, many don’t meet all of the listed requirements. Remember, men are likely to apply when they meet 60% of the qualifications, but women don’t.
💡What can be done?
To make job listings more appealing, companies can reduce their list of requirements, or at least be more honest about which ones actually matter and choose carefully the words they use.
As for women, knowing these statistics, they can apply even if they don’t meet all of the requirements like men do.
2. The company directly contacts candidates
When a new role opens in a company, we often try to recommend past coworkers or friends. And if our company has a referral program, we’re more than happy to do so. 💸
If the current team is male-dominated, the referrals will probably be too. It’s normal, nothing wrong with recommending people we know but we should be aware that this doesn’t help diversity.
The same goes for in-house recruiters. When given the task of hiring for a specific role, they will often reach out to people with similar profiles to current employees… who happen to be men.
💡What can be done?
Companies can train their team to be aware of existing biases. It’d also be interesting to update referral programs to promote more diversity.
3. The job listing is shared on social media
Because we want to reach a maximum of talented candidates, we decide to share our open roles on social media. But who see those posts?
When we’re tweeting from our company or personal accounts, we should remember that we’re not advertising our open roles to a diverse audience. And this cannot result in a diverse pool of candidates. Extra steps must be taken to increase the number of applications from women and minorities.
So, what do we do?
The reasons I’ve listed are partly why we see companies go out of their way to recruit women. It doesn’t mean the roles aren’t open to men. It simply means that to have a diversified pool of candidates, we have to work harder to reach people who come from different backgrounds, gender or ethnicity.
To reach them, we post on dedicated job boards, or we address them directly on social media. And that’s why you’re seeing companies promoting roles for women.
But don’t think these efforts are going to be enough to achieve equality (or that it’s already too much, depending on your perspective), because even when a company succeeds at having a diversified pool of candidates, there are still many obstacles for women to overcome.
Stanford researchers observed more than 75 recruiting sessions held by more than 60 companies and identified countless seemingly obvious ways the recruiters might be alienating female recruits, from sexist jokes to presentations displaying only slides of men.
And to answer the initial question: I don’t think asking for women to apply for a role is discriminatory against men. The tech industry, as it is today, has proven to be biased against women. It may seem like it but giving opportunities to minorities doesn’t mean stealing from the majority. And remember, there are tens of thousand startups currently hiring, there is plenty of room for more people with fresh ideas.