What are some tips for recruiting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Rebekah Rombom, VP of Career Services & Business Development at Flatiron School, on Quora:

What are some tips for recruiting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce? Building a diverse and inclusive workforce is something the Flatiron School community - from our COO Kristi Riordan to grads who have come back to speak on our campus - spends a lot of time thinking about.

I'll draw from some of what we've seen at Flatiron School, from our students, graduates, and company partners, and also inside our own company.


In Kristi's interviews with our own graduates, we identified a few clear factors that had kept women from pursuing tech roles earlier in their careers. These are not all of the factors that can affect how a company recruits a diverse workforce, but what we heard from our own grads includes:

  1. Career perception. Misconceptions around programming careers abound, and women may not see the purpose-filled career available to them in tech. Google found in a 2014 study that women are drawn to technical careers based on their "familiarity with, and perception of, Computer Science as a career with diverse applications and a broad potential for positive societal impact." It's important for women to know that programming doesn't have to mean finding a new passion - it can be a tool that empowers them to achieve their goals, effect change, or make a bigger impact with an existing passion. Companies (along with universities and coding bootcamps) need to work together to shed light on the wide range of careers that use coding. When women learn that code can open up doors into virtually any field, they may be more likely to consider pursuing programming and finding their way into a company's recruiting pipeline.
  2. Confidence. This is critical to taking the leap to invest in a new set of skills or to pursue a new career. But studies show women lose their confidence more often than men. We talk to many extremely capable women who come to Flatiron School who say they wished they had gotten started earlier -- but didn't because they doubted their own abilities. Some of this is fueled by the fact that women are more likely to enter education programs with less technical experience than their male counterparts; and when it comes time to apply for jobs, reports have found that women often only apply when they feel they meet 100% of the qualifications (compared to 60% for men). One way for companies to address this is to rethink the ways they present their requirements for a given position, and consider how a candidate with less or different experience may be able to make up for a lack of years in the industry or experience with their specific tech stack by demonstrating potential and a hunger to learn.
  3. Risk aversion. Investing in your education, pursuing a significant career change, or jumping to an unproven company requires a high degree of risk tolerance. On average, women spend two times the amount of time on caregiving than men; more than 80% of single parent families were headed by single mothers in 2015. And women in these life situations may be hesitant to seek out a role at a company they perceive as risky - which is a lot of early tech startups (where investing in a diverse workforce early on is especially important!). If you're looking to recruit women and mitigate that risk aversion, look for ways to counter the tendency to shy away from risk: How long you've existed, that you earn revenue, and that you're taking on big problems in a market that needs those solutions -- that you're serving a customer who's ready to buy.


The best way to retain a diverse workforce is to not just get women and other minorities in the door, but to help them thrive there. I discuss this in depth in this Quora answer - that is, helping women develop social capital in an organization, and working with women to build and project confidence.

But perhaps one of the most important aspects of helping women thrive in a company is ensuring that they earn fair compensation. Comp is important to everyone, and can be a determinant of job satisfaction. On average, though, women still make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men.

To retain women in the long haul, first, make sure they come into your company at the market value for their role. Given women overall are earning less than men, starting your compensation discussion with a new female employee based on prior compensation -- not market compensation for her level and role -- she's statistically more likely to end up underpaid. Especially if a new employee is making a significant career change -- as we so often see with our students at Flatiron School -- prior compensation may have no bearing on what your new recruit should be earning now.

To ensure women stay in correct compensation band as they move up, structure an ongoing compensation review process that rewards contributions and value added - not an employee's negotiation abilities.

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