Only 3% of females say a career in technology is their first choice while just 5% of leadership positions in the technical industry are held by a woman. As you can see, the underrepresentation of women is a real problem in the tech industry. I remember an interview I had almost seven years ago for a technical leadership role. During the interview, I discovered the company was looking to hire a woman to reduce the gender gap in technical roles. It made me question whether they selected me for my credentials and expertise or my gender.
I didn’t take that job, as I decided to start my company. But a few years later, I faced a similar challenge when hiring for my own company: how to attract the most talented candidates while maintaining a diversified team. I sought the help of internal and external recruiting partners, but women made up just 20% of applicants.
Why don’t we have more women applying for tech jobs or starting tech companies? Here’s how we can change that.
1. Introduce STEM at a younger age
When shopping for a birthday gift, I was shocked to see the girls’ toy aisle full of dolls and kitchen toys while boys were pictured on boxes of Lego sets, cars, and athletic toys. We need to change these gender stereotypes to reduce the influence they have on young girls.
By the time students get to undergrad and graduate programs, females are under-represented in STEM courses. We must encourage girls to pursue STEM while in middle and high school and be strong role models to inspire them to pursue technical careers.
2. Write better job descriptions
Data shows that women are 27% more likely than men to not apply for a job unless it’s a perfect match for their experience. Women don’t like rejection, a trait that comes from girls generally scoring higher on exams than their male classmates. Young boys become comfortable with not getting a perfect score, yet girls are not exposed to failure or criticism.
While women need to change their mindset, employers have a role to play, too. Companies can include more optional skills and fewer mandatory requirements in job descriptions to attract women applicants.
3. Challenge unconscious biases
Unconscious biases against women are prevalent in the workplace. Bias says that female developers are not great coders, women in leadership roles will micromanage, and woman executives are “a bitch” or too timid to be effective.
We can challenge these biases with counterexamples by sharing success stories of female developers, rock stars, executives, and entrepreneurs. And remember: if you meet a woman who confirms an unconscious bias, it is one woman, not the gender, that lacks those skills.
4. Change gender-based flexible work options
Many companies advertise flexible and remote work options to attract female employees. I recognize their good intentions, but flexible work options put more pressure on women in the workplace.
There’s a fundamental flaw in the system that says women must perform at their professional job while also assuming a primary caregiver’s role. Instead, why not change the social structure and perception by offering flexible benefits to male employees, too? It would allow men to go home early or work remotely to support their working wives.
5. Provide training programs for women to re-enter the workforce
I have seen women struggle to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to raise children. Most companies look to recent experience instead of considering an applicant’s skills and learning capabilities.
During my venture at CloudFountain Inc., I developed a program to help women get back to work, and I hope other companies see the value in offering a similar program. Female talent is scarce in the tech industry. Training programs are an excellent way to expand our pool and pipeline to include more women.
Studies show that diverse companies have better performance, employment retention, and quality products. Yet women are under-represented in technical careers and leadership roles. Diversity is not a problem, but a necessity for a company to succeed.
By Dipali Trivedi
Dipali Trivedi is an MIT graduate and a serial entrepreneur. She is currently working as Co-founder and Executive at Everyday Life, a FinTech startup that serves middle-income families with innovative insurance products and financial planning. Prior to Everyday Life, she founded CloudFountain Inc., a consulting firm focused on big data and Salesforce CRM consulting. Dipali has 10+ years of corporate leadership experience prior to entrepreneurship. She is an avid supporter and mentor of women in Technology. She is connected with various nonprofit organizations in USA, India, and Africa. She lives in Belmont MA with her husband and her kids, she loves to run, dance, hike, and travel.