How To Recruit Technical Women

On February 28th the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology published its latest research study:  Solutions to Recruit Technical Women.  Data has shown that women are underrepresented at every level of the technology pipeline and numerous articles have asked the question – “Where are the technical women?”  This new research study provides the answer to that question through a straightforward presentation of practical solutions that are currently being successfully implemented at leading tech companies to bring more women on board.

“The report has solutions that range from simple to more resource intensive. Every manager or technical woman who reads it can make a difference by volunteering to serve on a search committee, changing how she approaches her next hire, or referring her friends and colleagues for open positions,” says Denise Gammal, Director of Corporate Partnerships and co-author of the study.

What I have found to be most interesting during the rollout of this research is the disparate reactions to the report.  The technical women who have read it are passing it on to their managers, their executives and their human resources and recruiting departments.  One technical woman sent the study to every woman in her organization’s women’s network.  Sharing the knowledge from the report is critical to moving the adoption of these practices forward.

“The reaction of the media has been very different.  One reporter said directly, “Isn’t this kind of a duh thing?” - meaning don’t we already know these solutions will work?  And yes, maybe it is a "duh thing" that if you want to hire more women you should make sure to interview at least one of them, since it is very hard to hire someone if you are not seeing them.  So if the solutions are obvious and we know they work, then the challenge becomes getting companies to implement at least some of the 19 solutions highlighted in the research.

The solutions include:

  • Hold executives and managers directly accountable for reaching diversity goals and targets.
  • Revise recruitment practices to eliminate bias, such as conducting blind resume reviews and creating gender neutral job descriptions. 
  • Build a gender-balanced internship program for technical positions, which is something IBM did and is highlighted in the report.
  • Include women in the hiring process – this shows candidates that there are women in the organization and opportunities for advancement in that organization.
  • Create clear guidelines and hold recruiting firms accountable for presenting a gender-diverse slate of candidates, as the CTO of Intuit did.

The best thing about these best practices is that many of them can be used in any industry that is looking to recruit women and other underrepresented minorities. 

The next Anita Borg Institute research study will focus on the retention of technical women, and will again highlight implemented solutions on a "real world" basis, that are achieving measureable results within technology organizations.

One solution that we know to be successful is the practice of mentoring.  Men and women agree that mentoring is critical to long-term career development.  Telle Whitney, the CEO of the Anita Borg Institute will be one of the 50 women leaders who will be mentoring women at the upcoming BlogHer Entrepreneurs March 22-23, 2012 in Santa Clara.  “My experience as a technical woman was in creating something from nothing.  It inspires me to talk to women who aspire to have an impact on the world through technology and to help their vision become more real.”

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