The tech industry has taken a whole lot of (well deserved) flak for its lack of gender diversity, particularly in technical roles. Meanwhile, some of the startup world's biggest names insist that most companies really aren't trying to intentionally discriminate against female applicants.

Here's VC Marc Andreessen in a recent interview with New York magazine's Kevin Roose, for example: "I think the critique that Silicon Valley companies are deliberately, systematically discriminatory is incorrect."

"The motivation to go find talent wherever it is unbelievably high. So what explains the numbers?" he wonders. His answer? Inequality of education--not everyone has access to the encouragement and teaching needed to acquire the right skills--and inequality of access. "The meritocracy works if you know the right people, if you have access to the networks," he says. Women often do not.

So what if your startup is facing the situation Andreessen describes--you genuinely would like, absolutely love!--to hire more diverse technical employees, including more women, but you're struggling to find them and convince them to come on board. What's the solution? Recently on Medium, Jessica Gilmartin, chief business officer of Piazza, a social learning and recruiting platform for tech students, offered a handful of suggestions for firms looking to hire more female engineers, particularly young women straight out of college. Here are a few of the best.

1. Lead with the tech

Nope, the female coders you bring in to interview aren't going to be impressed when you kick things off by raving about work-life balance at your company. As so with men who have devoted years to honing their tech skills, their career decisions are led by the actual work.

"Female engineers are engineers first and foremost, and what they love is solving the biggest challenges. If your company is solving really hard problems, showcase them as prominently as possible--just as you would for top male engineers," writes Gilmartin.

2. Show them they won't be alone

Already have a handful of female tech employees? They're a great resource for the entirety of the hiring process. "Many company recruiters remember to bring female technical employees to career fairs or on-campus recruiting events, but then forget to keep involving them throughout the process. If female candidates see nothing but men once they arrive at your office (HR personnel excluded), it's going to be hard for them to see themselves working and succeeding at your company," Gilmartin suggests.

3. Play the cheerleader

"Many women--even brilliant and capable women, from celebrated Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to the technical entrepreneur Clara Shih--have admitted to facing a confidence gap," Gilmartin explains. "Several candidates noted … they appreciated hearing honest stories from employees who admitted to initially not being experts at all elements of their jobs and even occasionally failing, but who then ultimately received the training, tools, and support necessary to succeed," she reports.

4. Explain your differentiators

"This is true for any college-level hire--female or male. College students with limited work experience don't necessarily intuitively understand why corporate culture matters or how widely it varies. Be sure not just to sell your corporate culture but also to explain why the candidate should care," writes Gilmartin.

5. Soup up your on-sites

Listening to execs and interviewing are expected parts of visiting a potential employer, but there are not many young women who find these activities super exciting. Mix up your on-site visits to offer candidates something beyond the standard speeches and questions.

"Top technical students want to speak with a number of engineers--male and female, entry-level and more experienced--to understand what kinds of problems they're solving and how their skills and careers are progressing," recommends Gilmartin. "The interviewing process should include casual, low-stress interactions with your technical team so it's easier to visualize life one or two years out of school. Bonus points for meetings with alumni from a shared alma mater."

 

Published on: Oct 30, 2014