Recruiting Female Tech Candidates Starts with the Job Description

I feel like a broken record every time we bring up the tight labor market. As talent acquisition professionals, you know the struggles of finding talent these days, so why rub salt into the wound, right? And this is especially true when it comes to hiring tech talent.


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According to contributor Mack Gelber, 65% of tech leaders say that hiring challenges are hurting the industry. Gelber says that there is an overall shortage of skilled tech workers who know how to code, whether they’re doing mobile app backend development or developing cloud-computing platforms. Because tech workers are in such high demand, these jobseekers have the upper hand, but research continues to show that men still dominate the tech space.

Additional Data on Female Tech Workers

While the tech space may still be male-dominated, new research from Handshake—a career community for college students in the United States—shows that women are still underrepresented across all Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors, not just technology.

Over a third of female applicants (35%) who are in software engineering and developer roles majored in non-STEM-related curricula. Despite some women not having a STEM degree, over half of all female applicants for software positions listed on their résumé a technical expertise such as Java, Python, SQL, and data analyses.

Even though women may be underrepresented across STEM roles, many are entering the technology space. The results show more women are applying to software engineering and developer positions than the previous year. Specifically:

  • 72% more women applied for roles as software developers and engineers;
  • 85% more women applied for roles as data scientists; and
  • 227% more women applied for roles as data engineers.

The results also identified that women were most drawn to businesses that have:

  • Aspiring leadership;
  • A supportive culture;
  • Managers who mentor and offer opportunities for professional development; and
  • Work that is impactful.

Handshake’s survey identified the top employers that are recruiting female tech talent, which include Cisco, Wayfair, Microsoft and Oracle, Dropbox, and Adobe Systems. The top cities that attracted the most female applicants to the Internet and software industry included Boston; Los Angeles; New York; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C.

“By no means have the challenges facing women entering the tech workforce disappeared, but this survey’s results suggest an encouraging trend with women remaining undeterred and persevering despite the obstacles,” says Christine Cruzvergara, Vice President of Higher Education and Student Success at Handshake, in a press release announcing the research.

Having great leadership and a supportive culture are ways to retain female talent, but getting them in the door is completely different. Fortunately, one expert is sharing her advice on how to attract female tech talent to your company.

Expert Advice for Recruiting Female Tech Talent

“Many companies are unaware that a lengthy qualifications list in a job description deters women from applying. In fact, women only apply for jobs if they feel they meet 100% of the qualifications, while men feel comfortable applying if they meet 60%,” says Whitney Bennett, Vice President of Talent and Culture at CallRail, in an e-mail to HR Daily Advisor. “Tech companies should be especially mindful of this as our industry lags in female representation at all organizational levels, with this disparity most evident in senior leadership.”

“Removing bias in the tech hiring process starts with carefully crafting job descriptions that encourage applications from talented, diverse candidates,” Bennett suggests. “Start by distinguishing between skills that are essential for the role and ‘bonus’ skills that might be preferred but aren’t necessary. Combining all essential and nonessential skills makes for a long list that will intimidate even the most qualified candidates. Be sure to list required qualifications while differentiating the ‘bonus’ skills.”

“It’s important to remember that once a woman lands a job, there’s still plenty of bias to overcome in the workplace. A study of GitHub users showed code written by women is accepted 4% more than code written by men,” Bennett adds. “However, this was true only when the coder’s gender was kept secret.”

“Removing bias in the workplace takes conscious and consistent effort from everyone on the team,” Bennett says. “Company leaders must take on the responsibility of demonstrating values they want reflected throughout the organization, because an inclusive culture begins with inclusive leadership.”

Extra Tips and Tricks

For women looking to make a career change or to get into the tech industry without a traditional computer science degree, Handshake offers these tips:

  • Learn to code. From real-life boot camps and online coding academies to completely free subreddits, there’s no shortage of ways to inspire your passion!
  • Finesse your “elevator pitch.” This should cover your skills, qualifications, and past projects and how your nontraditional academic experience can serve as an asset.
  • Try your hand at industry networking. Consider plugging in to online forums (like Reddit) or groups (like Facebook) for aspiring software engineers.
  • Enroll in computer science courses anyway. Who says you can’t learn about computer science as an HR professional or recruiter? Explore computer science in a classroom setting, and take advantage of the resources you’re given there. The professor or teacher’s assistant whom you connect with during office hours might be a useful reference down the road.
  • Earn practical experience. Volunteer your time at related charitable organizations like Social Coder, Benetech, or donate:code.

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