How to get women into tech (and keep them there)

A list of (seemingly) simple measures

Oh well, oh well. Here we are. It has finally become necessary: THE article about how to get women in tech — and, more importantly, how to keep them there.

I could write lengthy pieces about the kind of frustrations we women go through. I could quote the many exchanges I have had with allies of all genders on what to do, when to do it and how to loop everyone in. I will not do that. I will list the measures of my current state of knowledge and let things take their course.

This list has been highly requested and practically-tested throughout, with amazing results.

Please note that for every statement in the introductory text there are sources and insights to back it up.

The challenge

It could be so straightforward. Alas, it isn’t. Most of the measures I will list here are, theoretically, low-hanging fruits. Easy to implement. But people are people. And that means that they resist change, i. e. the unknown. It takes time to get used to different ways of thinking and even more time to adapt to them. Calculate in even more time to realize the newly-adapted measures.

In the conversations I have on DEI and belonging I am positively shocked about how revolutionary some of these seemingly easy measures are portrayed. I get a thousand arguments on why they will never work or why they will lead to bad results. Oftentimes, without any proof or sources. Anecdotal evidence has always worked, right?

Nothing is perfect and I am very open to feedback and even more curious about insights on trials. But this is not witchcraft and time is up.

Why you should care

Working in a monolithic environment is comfortable. It feels goooood. Less conflict, more make-do. Or so it seems.

Diverse companies have better bottom lines. Diverse teams cater to a wider audience, thus unlocking innovative potential. Diversity creates a better atmosphere for all, as in higher levels of mutual respect and more possibilities to unearth hidden treasures.

Leaving the important work of advocacy to people of underrepresented groups leaves them with emotional load and, ultimately, burnout. Tiring out also means less innovative potential. Of course it is easy to think freely if you feel safe.

The commitment

A word of caution: only implement those measures if you are truly willing to change the system and, with it, also a bit yourself. Throwing resources at a problem will not make it go away unless the systemic root causes can and will change.

So, let’s get to it. These measures are not exhaustive and will be updated in case I learn more.

What you can do to get women in tech

Strategy

  • Have a DEI & Belonging strategy for all employees
  • Have a Code of Conduct for all employees, including leadership
  • Consistently analyze and question your numbers

Hiring

  • Look into options on how you can establish self-identification in the process
  • Hire women into (technical) leadership positions
  • Pay recruiters a premium
  • Pay internal and external referrers a premium on their bonus
  • Ask the women in the org to refer women. Ask the men to refer women. As all genders.
  • Consistently review and adapt your interview process
  • Coach interviewers on being aware of and removing systemic bias
  • Add paragraphs to the job descriptions that show that you don’t expect a 100% fit
  • Strip job descriptions down to the bare minimum
  • Rethink whether you need a coding challenge or whiteboard interview
  • Set a hiring quota
  • Scout at the universities, at bootcamps and in open source communities

Impact

  • Get engaged in the DEI tech communities (events, sponsorship, speaking, hosting, etc.)
  • Have an honest representation of your current state of diversity in the interview process
  • Be honest to candidates about your current numbers
  • Establish trainee and mentorship programs
  • Hire juniors
  • Avoid generic masculine in your communication and train interviewers on it
  • Introduce yourself with your pronouns
  • Hire women into (technical) leadership positions
  • Offer well-paid internships

Feedback

  • Collect, analyze and implement feedback from diverse candidates

What you can do to keep women in tech

Strategy

  • Have a DEI & Belonging strategy for all employees
  • Have a Code of Conduct for all employees, including leadership
  • Consistently analyze and question your numbers

Frameworks

  • Have a salary committee with equal representation
  • Check if you pay women less on average and why, then fix it
  • Consistently review and adapt your promotion process
  • Have equal representation reviewers
  • Introduce standardized frameworks (e. g. seniority) and career ladders
  • Introduce progression plans for everyone
  • Set a promotion quota
  • Don’t introduce women’s programs without equally educating decision-makers

Progression

  • Educate and coach decision-makers
  • Measure managers’ success based on retaining women
  • Establish allyship as a core competency and a criterion people will be assessed on

Environment

  • Enable fathers to take parental leave. Make it possible for them in a way that it’s equal to the time women take leave. Encourage everyone to take personal leaves, no matter the category.
  • Recognize, acknowledge and tackle systemic bias in the organization
  • Acknowledge emotional load
  • Believe people of underrepresented groups when they detail something that you haven’t experienced
  • Create and encourage CoPs, groups and bottom-up initiatives
  • Avoid generic masculine in your communication and train everyone on it

Feedback

  • Do exit interviews and implement the feedback mentioned there

There are many, many more things possible. I might expand on some of them in the near or far future. For now, having read this, you have gotten some established and newer, maybe unknown, ideas.

You know what to do ;)

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Franziska Hauck

Franziska Hauck

Franziska Hauck is Principal People Lead in Engineering, coach and certified mediator. tech (people) {code} is her hub for all things human in tech.