Gender diversity is important for every organization, but there’s one industry that is consistently in the news for being the least diverse of them all: the information technology (IT) industry, or, more commonly, the “tech industry.”
Research reveals that there are roughly 3.5 million computing-related tech jobs across the United States, yet only 26% of these jobs are filled by women. When you break this 26% down by race, the numbers are even more staggering!
Only 6% of Asian females, 3% of Black females, and 2% of Hispanic females currently work in computing-related tech jobs. With this lack of diversity, it’s no wonder we’re constantly hearing about tech giants discriminating against female employees. The proof can be found here, here, and here.
Furthermore, we’ve now got digitally native Gen Z talent entering the workforce, and these workers expect to work in an environment that’s as diverse as their entire generation is.
Gen Zs enter the workforce with a major skill set, which makes members of this generation clear assets to any company. Gen Zs are valuable assets based on just their tech skills alone, and with the growing skills gap among workers nationwide, employers should get ahead of securing Gen Z talent—and better yet, female Gen Z talent.
3 Tips for Gen Z Tech Talent Looking to Enter the Field
This new perspective also brings a fresh opportunity to diversify a male-dominated industry. How can this generation of women make an impact from the get-go? Christine Phan, Marketing Associate at RackWare, provides these tips below.
1. Look for an organization where you can grow. “When searching for their first job in IT, women should look for an organization with a culture that offers a place to learn and grow,” says Phan. “By finding a company that guides and mentors their employees, women can ensure that they won’t be stuck in one position for long.”
Phan also offers this tip for employers: “Gen Z is a technologically-driven generation. We are comfortable using the latest devices, but we need industry experience. An organization that invests in its employees will offer major growth opportunities for women, especially Gen Z.”
2. Find a mentor. “A mentor is a key ingredient for success. By finding someone who supports them, women can take advantage of a wealth of knowledge,” says Phan. “Mentors can offer valuable guidance throughout one’s career, especially if it’s a multi-generational relationship.”
“Every generation brings their own insights,” Phan adds. “From passing down technical knowledge to sharing avoidable mistakes, mentors can provide years’ worth of information in one day, giving their mentees a competitive edge in the industry.”
3. Be confident. “Entering the tech space can be scary. But, by knowing one’s worth and role, women in IT can be confident in what they bring to the table,” says Phan. “As older generations transition out of the workforce, Gen Z women will have to step up to the plate.”
“In order to prepare themselves for leadership roles, women need to begin investigating new opportunities and engage in strategic experiments to drive business outcomes,” Phan concludes.
For female Gen Zs, keep these tips in mind when starting your career in the tech industry, and for female tech workers looking to move to a more diverse company, keep reading.
General Tips for ALL Women in the Tech Industry
Meike Jordan, head of HR at Productsup, reminds us that women have always been a part of the tech industry. “There are a lot of people that say women cannot succeed in tech because it’s a male domain, but the first programmer was actually a woman,” Jordan says.
“Don’t let the tech industry’s reputation intimidate you from going after your dream job. Great companies exist out there; you just need to know how to find them,” she adds. In order to identify a gender-inclusive company culture, Jordan offers these three tips for female tech talent of all generations.
1. Look at who makes up leadership teams. “It’s easy for hiring managers to say diversity is important to their company. But to know if their culture truly reflects an inclusive environment with people from different backgrounds, find out who is represented in their leadership team,” advises Jordan.
“Look at the company’s social channels, like LinkedIn, to identify the directors and managers at the organization. If you’re finding most of the faces in leadership positions are male, that’s a red flag,” she says. “Most men tend to have other men in their networks, and today’s hiring landscape usually revolves around who you know. Being aware of who will be making the hiring and promoting decisions will allow you to anticipate what your opportunities are to grow at the company as a woman.”
“Strong diversity at the top tends to trickle down through the rest of the company, so be on the lookout for organizations that make a visible effort to fill leadership roles with women,” adds Jordan.
2. Attend industry events. “While the Internet is a great resource to search for companies and learn about who they are and what they do, there’s nothing like interacting with them in person,” Jordan says. “Hundreds of companies send representatives to industry events and conferences, which gives you exposure to what they’re like beyond the cookie-cutter version they put up on their website.”
Jordan provides examples of what you should be looking for. “First, pay attention to any female keynote or session speakers,” she says. “The companies they belong to probably encourage their female employees to present at industry events. These could be great prospects to look for job openings at.”
“And second, network with other female attendees,” she adds. “Learning perspectives from women in the industry about their experiences at previous jobs and current roles can help identify good workplaces and weed out bad ones.”
3. Ask the right questions. “When interviewing with a company or having an introductory conversation with someone from the team, prepare questions ahead of time that specifically ask about the company’s opportunities and accommodations for female associates,” advises Jordan.
“Great questions to consider are: Is there a company group for female employees to mentor and support each other? Do any employees attend ‘local women in tech’ meetups together? What kind of benefits do mothers get?” she says, adding, “Even if you don’t plan on having a family or starting one for several years, asking about a mother’s room and their maternity leave policy can reveal how much the company is willing to support you as a woman.”
“Companies that successfully foster an inclusive culture will have dozens of examples of how they support women,” Jordan says.
She also offers this example of how her company demonstrates its inclusive culture: “At Productsup, we name our meeting rooms after historical tech women with a short description of what they did to raise awareness. We offer flexible working hours and child sick days. We also have ‘Women Power,’ a Slack channel dedicated to sharing inspirational stories and advice.”
Jordan’s tips are great for female talent looking to work at diverse companies, and for employers, these tips are even more valuable when trying to create a more inclusive culture. And, if you’re trying recruit female tech talent to your company, keep reading some more!
How Can You Recruit Female Tech Talent?
For employers and HR professionals looking to recruit female tech workers, Julia Kanouse, CEO of the Illinois Technology Association, says it’s important to get workers interested in tech careers at an early age. Employers can do this by partnering with schools and organizations to show young women how exciting careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are and what it’s like to work in those fields.
Kanouse adds that we need programs that are designed to reach women in the summer or fall of their senior year of high school. Additionally, certain programs need to be in place to reach prospective candidates at different points throughout their life. Kanouse provides a few examples:
“There are a wide variety of programs that help young women and girls get exposure to STEM education and careers, ranging from clubs and activities like Girls Who Code, that offer after-school programs, summer camps, etc. to programs like our City-Wide Job Shadow Day,” Kanouse says.
Kanouse explains how her company helped young females become interested in tech careers, saying, “This year on International Day of the Women (March 8th) we brought together almost 100 young women from Chicago Public Schools with about 20 of our member companies to facilitate a job shadow day. The students were matched up with local tech companies and spent the day learning about what it’s like to work in the industry.”
“They spent time not only in the engineering/tech department but also learning about human resources, marketing, sales, and other key functions within a fast-growing tech environment,” she adds.
Whether you’re trying to recruit female tech talent or you yourself are a female tech worker, keep these tips in mind for a successful career!