Throughout my career and now as the Founder and CEO of a tech company, I've seen hundreds of teams implement diversity and inclusion initiatives with the aim of increasing gender diversity. Not all diversity and inclusion initiatives are created equally though. Some are a huge waste of time, and others are so simple you wish you would have done them sooner.
Below I've compiled 11 of the best practices I've found most helpful for hiring and retaining women on engineering teams.
Simplify job descriptions.
Research shows that most women only apply to jobs when they meet 100 percent of the criteria, whereas men take the plunge at 60 percent. To get more women to apply, whittle down your job descriptions and eliminate any requirements that aren't 'must-haves'.
Use gender-neutral language in job descriptions.
I've personally seen a job description see an uptick from 10 percent women applicants to 50 percent women applicants after changing only a few words. Use a language analysis tool such as Text.io to analyze the words and phrases used in your job descriptions.
Include a written commitment to diversity on your website.
Candidates want to see that you prioritize and take seriously the issues they care about. Make it clear that diversity and inclusion are a top priority for your company by writing a letter about the commitment you make to it and share that letter on your website.
Check your website images.
Do your website photos feature a bunch of middle aged guys playing frisbee or hanging out around the office keg? Make sure the pictures that represent your team, both on your website as well as all external websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, include a variety of inclusive photos or photos highlighting a greater variety of aspects of your company culture.
Offer as generous paid family leave as you can afford.
61 percent of women in tech say they wouldn't work for a company without paid family leave, yet many startups offer no maternity benefits. Provide paid benefits to new parents to limit turnover due to childbirth. If you can currently afford less than you'd like, revisit this and other benefits annually and make small increases as you go. Also take note of benefits your state provides that can be added on top of any that your company provides.
Support groups dedicated to diversity.
Show you're committed beyond surface-level action. Whether you choose to mentor female engineers, offer to help with networking and interviewing, or simply donate your space for events, supporting groups focused on diversity shows you're invested in a more equal future. Sponsor events at your office to expand your network of women in tech. Focus on anything you want, from networking to mentorship to a specific skill set. Market the events on job boards geared toward diverse candidates. Get to know event attendees so that if one of them seems like she might be a good addition to your team, you can offer her the chance to apply.
Speak out on issues you care about.
Be vocal in voicing your opinion on subjects related to gender equality. Not every article you write will be a masterpiece or go viral, and that's ok. The important thing is to make yourself heard. If you do get attention, it'll help your recruiting efforts. And even if you don't, you'll still have shared your perspectives with others.
Conduct "blind" interviews.
It's impossible to conduct an entire interview process without knowing the candidate's gender, but aim to have at least one step in the process that can be blind, meaning the person reviewing the candidate is not shown the candidate's identity in any way.
Uncover bias by sending through false positives.
Once in a while, advance a female candidate to the next step of the interview, even after she has failed the current step. Collect feedback from the subsequent interview step and assess if perhaps there was bias responsible for her having been rejected at the previous step. If the candidate satisfies the subsequent interview step, you'll have learned you might have bias in your interview process. And if you find she's still not qualified or not the right fit, you'll simply have confirmed your vetting process is effective.
One of the best ways to learn is to have a mentor. Likewise, one of the best ways to develop empathy for someone different from yourself is to be a mentor. Encourage employees to seek mentors, whether within or outside of your company.
These are just some of the many tactics you can employ to build a more gender-diverse company. I'm passionate about creating a future where it's commonplace to see women thriving in tech, and I welcome any additions to the above list. Reach out to me if you want to continue the conversation!