Written by Jenny Briant, Academy Operations Director at Ten10
Diversity has been a constant struggle for businesses, particularly in the tech industry and it comes simply just comes down to the lack of accessibility. We know that diverse teams can offer businesses so much, but outdated practices have made creating a diverse team challenging. Recruitment practices that aren’t always accommodating for women, particularly mothers, mean hiring teams are deterring a large population of potential talent.
Your job description is your first point of contact with a candidate. As such, it plays a central role in their perception of the company, the job role itself and the work environment. Bias language can seem subtle but makes an impression on a potential female candidate. I’ve previously seen words used such as ‘dominant’, ‘assertive’ or even something like ‘rockstar programmer’ – these can be so off-putting and daunting. These are words that are largely associated with men and often, albeit perhaps unintentionally, reflect traditional gender roles and stereotypes that can deter a female applicant.
Soft skills are increasingly becoming more important, especially in the tech industry; an industry that has historically placed emphasis on hard technical skills. One of the things I have recognised when I talk to female candidates is their hesitancy when they think they don’t have the right qualifications for a role despite clearly having demonstrable soft skills that are transferable to a lot of roles. Soft skills can mean anything from influencing others to emotional intelligence to resiliency, and all are hugely valuable to companies. And this is the case more so now than ever before as automation of technological skills increases, the need for soft skills, critical and creative thinking, as well as people management will become ever more important. There are also more roles in technology than ever before and roles beyond these super-technical skills.
How to change the workplace to accommodate them?
Imposter syndrome is a massive problem for women throughout the workforce, and disproportionality affects them, over their male colleagues. Essentially, imposter syndrome describes the feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt in your ability at your job. Mothers in particular, are more likely to experience this when returning to work, feeling that they need to work harder to prove themselves among their male counterparts, and the drive to prove they’re ‘unburdened’ by their childcare responsibilities.
Fortunately, the tech industry especially can now can very easily offer flexibility. Remote and hybrid working has been a game changer for many working mothers and gives them a chance to continue their careers as well as be there for their children. Despite this, frustratingly some companies still seem stuck on the rigid structure of the 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in the office. If businesses were open to changing work structures, this would accommodate a larger proportion of women.
Mentorship programmes are also vitally important to changing the narrative of women in the world of tech. Companies need to ensure they have a strong team of women who help to break down stereotypes and barriers that typically discourage women from a career in the tech They can inspire women to set higher career goals and pursue opportunities they might not have considered otherwise and offer real-life, practical advice based on their own experiences. Whether that’s through outreach programmes or internally, women need to see what is possible from inspiring role models who have been through the process.
Why is it important?
It seems ridiculous that in 2023, we still have an industry where women are severely underrepresented. I must acknowledge that this has changed a lot over the last 20 years or so and it is going in the right direction, but we can’t ever get complacent. At the moment, we aren’t tapping into and harnessing such a large proportion of potential talent, largely due to stereotypes and subliminal messaging throughout education and the workplace. Recruitment is the first hurdle, and we’re still often failing.
One of the things I have seen more times than I should have are women interviewing for a job and having strong feelings of doubt that they can’t do this. Given how disproportionately imposter syndrome affects women, my team and I have added a question at the end of our interview process for female applicants: “Do you think you can do this?” If the response is uncertain, we will spend time reviewing their CV and highlighting exactly why they would be a good fit and why their skills are important. Taking that time to reassure women that they have just as much right and capability to be in the tech arena as a man, has made a massive difference to our recruitment process and I like to think, is helping to move towards an equal opportunity in the industry. The UK has set its sight on becoming a ‘tech superpower’ but if we’re not opening our doors to women and providing the right opportunities, we simply won’t get there.