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How to Change the Tech Gender Ratio

What tech companies should do to attract more women

I sat down with Jesse Wilson from the Kitchener office of Square this fall. He wanted to know how to find and hire more women in the Waterloo Region. This is challenging as there are much fewer women in the industry than there are men. What got me excited is that Jesse was the fourth person to ask me how to do this! On top of that, all the people who asked were men; men who want to make sure their companies are inclusive to women. They are looking for ways to attract more women to their companies.

It’s evident that many men in the tech industry in the Waterloo Region are not just aware of the issues, but are passionate about trying to fix it. They want to make a positive impact on diversity and are looking for ways to do it.

To those men THANK YOU! We need you.

During our lunch Jesse peppered me with questions about how to become more involved in the community, how to help the women in tech initiatives in the region, and how he could find more women to add to his talent pool for interviewing.

In this post I will share my thoughts, ideas, and learnings around how to change the gender ratio in tech.

I believe in increasing diversity in tech in the widest sense. My experience as a women in tech informs my advocacy, but I know there are many different kinds of diversity that need to be improved in Tech. I very much respect these differences and that is part of why this blog post will focus on what we can do to hire more women. I hope many of the ideas here would also apply to increase other minority groups in tech as well and would love to hear from you about your ideas for increasing diversity in tech.

Add diversity to your candidate pool

Adding diversity to the top of the recruitment funnel is a big challenge in increasing diversity in a company. But the more women you have in your candidate pool the better chance that they will get hired in your company.

Norm Malloch, Director of the Deloitte Innovation Lab at Communitech, believes that you need to build diversity into your candidate pool if you want to change the diversity in your company. He mentioned to me that he waits until he has at least 2 women out of 6 candidates before moving forward with offers for a position, instead of offering to the first candidate he interviews.

This sounds great. How do I do it?

There is no simple answer. It is hard work.

Recruitment Events

Think about the types of activities you do at your recruitment events. Does it often involve video games, golf, hockey, or other traditionally male activities? Sure some women enjoy those activities, but not the majority. Focus on events that will appeal to all. Some suggestions would be a wine and beer tasting party, curling event, trivia night, or technical talks.

Universities and Colleges

Start building relationships with the women in science, mathematics, computing, or engineering organizations at your local universities or colleges. They will often happily post your job openings with their members and alumni upon request. Not only will you get applicants from those schools, it will also show the women from these universities you are a pro diversity organization and actively looking to hire them.

Conferences

Go to women based conferences like CAN-CWiC and Grace Hopper. Show up with swag, information about your company, and what kind of talent you are looking for. If possible register to do onsite interviews. I personally found an amazing test developer this way!

Recruitment Companies

When hiring a recruitment company openly discuss with them that you are interested in diverse candidates. Ask them to target women and other ethnic minorities in their talent search. Explain that you expect them to include diverse candidates in the pool of candidates they present to you for a given position.

Host Women in Tech Events

Host the local Ladies Learning Code or Women Who Code chapters in your offices. Both organizations are not-for-profit and often rely on getting space volunteered to them to run their events. With Ladies Learning Code you will get to meet not only the women learning to code, but also the mentors that teach the course. Women Who Code is a meetup of local women developers. Hosting their meetup will allow you to meet and speak with them. In both cases hosting these events show that your company is actively supporting women in tech. This will help make you a more attractive company for women to consider working at.

Girls Who Code #HireMe

Is your company in the USA? If so you can get on the Girls Who Code #HireMe list. It is a list of companies that are actively looking to hire women. By getting on the list you will have access to over 10,000 girls who code alumni.

Support Women In Tech Peer-2-Peer Groups

Are there any Women In Tech Peer-2-Peer groups in your community? If so you should consider doing two things. First make sure the women in your company know they are encouraged to attend them. This is positive for their professional development and it will show other women in the community that you actively hire and support women in your company. Second, explore sponsorship possibilities if possible. Sponsoring these groups will allow them to bring in better speakers and run more meetups. It will also position you as a company that supports women in tech.

If there are no Women In Tech P2P groups in your community consider helping start one!

Interviews

When you have a women come into interview be sure to include a technical women as an interviewer. This helps her feel more comfortable right away. If you don’t have any technical women in your company yet, then get another female to take her for a tour of your office after the interview!

Company Leaders Need to Set the Tone

It is important that the company leaders set a positive tone for increasing diversity in their company. That means increasing diversity at all levels and in all areas of the company.

What are Waterloo Region Companies Doing?

Clearpath Robotics

The VP of Engineering at Clearpath approached me at a P2P group last spring with questions about adding more female talent to his company. I gave him much of the same advice from above and he took action. He encouraged the women in his department to attend the local WIT P2P group and this winter his company will host an event to teach girls from the local chapter of Canadian Association for Girls In Science(CAGIS) about robotics.

ISARA Corp

ISARA Corp approached me looking to increase the diversity in their pool of candidates. I shared their job postings through my female network and connected them with the Women in Math organization at the University of Waterloo. They are happy to report that they have seen an increase in female applicants to their positions.

Square Kitchener

Since our lunch, Jesse has connected with Ladies Learning Code, Year of Code WR, the Women In Tech initiative at Communitech, as well as the Women in Math organization at the University of Waterloo. Jesse was very keen to get involved in the community to promote diversity in both the region and his local office. I am excited to see what will come out of these connections.

Arctic Wolf Networks

How could I leave out the company I currently work at! From the beginning the company set a tone of inclusion. The co-founder and VP of Engineering is Kim Tremblay. She is a no nonsense leader that hires the best talent she can find. Twenty percent of our R&D department are women. This number is not fantastic, but it is better than most other companies in the Waterloo Region. Kim actively participates in the women in tech community, and has been a mentor at the think about math conference for grade 9 girls multiple years in a row.

More…

This is not an exhaustive list of what companies in the Waterloo Region are doing to promote diversity. These are just the companies I have a personal connection with. I have heard great things about what Magnet Forensics and NetSuite are doing to increase gender diversity, and both TD Bank and Deloitte have been generous sponsors to the Women In Tech P2P group at Communitech.

More and more companies are trying to make a positive impact to change the ratio! Changing the ratio means hiring the best talent you can find regardless of gender or cultural background. It means giving everyone a fair shake at your positions, it doesn’t mean hiring less qualified people to satisfy diversity quotas. I believe that many companies are missing out on talented people, because they are not making an effort to look at the whole population instead of a select few.

What is your company doing to increase diversity in tech?

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