3 Actionable Steps Towards Addressing Gender Bias in Your Recruitment Process

In 2012, Credit Suisse published a global analysis of 21,000 companies and found that companies with at least one woman on their board outperformed their peer group who had no female board members by 26%. In 2015, McKinsey published a report on 366 companies. When looking specifically at gender, they found that companies with the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have higher returns than industry average. However, women make up less than 5% of tech startup founders and are about 20% of all roles in tech companies. If we look at women in computing roles within the tech industry, the numbers are even smaller.

Here are three actionable steps your company can implement to address gender bias in your recruitment process.

Examine Your Word Choice in Job Ads

At HustleCon 2017 in San Francisco, Tucker Max gave a twenty-minute speech on recruitment, specifically focusing on job ads. Tucker Max is best known for his books on becoming a pickup artist and overall “bro culture”. His company, Book in a Box, averages 60% female applicants per posting including technical roles. While Max’s reputation as an author would lead you to believe women would be uninterested in working for him, his job ads tell a different story. By using Texio, a system that analyzes word choice impact on readers, Max was able to change keywords in his ad to be more appealing to women. Mainly programmer listings from tech startups use words that signify “bro culture” which is associated with the tech space. More importantly, word choice in tech ads generally appeal to “fixed mindsets” rather than “growth mindsets”. Due to socialization, men generally view themselves in fixed ways such as high achiever, doer and amazing. Women, on the other hand, generally view themselves in transformative ways such as determined, thinker, learner.

Just like in sales, in order to reach a potential applicant you have to speak their language.

Examine Your Referral System

The organization Women In Tech in partnership with the National Center for Women in Information Technology produced a 2016 report that analyzed the state of women in tech. They found that women were less likely to be referred for technical roles than men. This isn’t surprising. A 2013 Federal Reserve World Bank of New York report found that 64% of employees recommend candidates of the same gender and 72% the same race or ethnicity. Given that the majority in tech firms are white men, the question of “Where are all the women?” is answered. Knowing this implicit bias, it is imperative that companies take a critical look at applicants, especially women, who do not come with an in-house or personal referral. This is may be hard to implement given that referrals do help in selecting qualified candidates who are already knowledgeable about the company’s culture. However, what if company culture is problematic as well?

Examine Your Company Culture

Former CEO of 500 Startups, Dave McClure, resigned in 2017 amidst direct sexual harassment allegations. This same year former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was released by Uber’s board due to high profile cases of ongoing, unfettered sexual harassment inside Uber. Sexual harassment of women has become normalized in many company cultures. Women aren’t at fault for this. If women do not feel safe and supported in their work environment, why would they apply for a position in the first place? Adjacent to the normalization of harassment, many tech companies boost perks such as free beer, after-work drinks and gaming. Often looking for potential applicants who would enjoy this kind of atmosphere. These things are heavily geared towards male interests. Instead, companies should focus on what kinds of growth come with employment. Steelhouse, for example, boasts, a $2,000 annual vacation stipend and weekly fitness classes. Perks everyone loves regardless of gender. Examining company culture is never easy because it means shining light into places you presumed weren’t in the dark.

Bonus – Hire A Consulting Company

As CEO or senior executive at a tech startup or established company, you have a lot on your plate. Leave it to the experts to not only find you highly qualified programming candidates but also work with you on finding gender blind spots within your tech teams.

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