It’s time to encourage diversity in tech freelancing

It’s time to encourage diversity in tech freelancing
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Companies need to hire diverse tech freelancers if they want to perform at their best

It’s no secret the tech industry has a diversity problem. Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Pinterest are among the companies that have publicly shared how few of their tech positions are filled by women and minorities.

This lack of diversity is a big problem for these companies, affecting their innovation and damaging their culture. One study found that companies with racially diverse leadership teams financially outperform their peers by 35 percent. Diversity boosts the bottom line.

Diverse teams make better decisions. Teams that accept and elevate diversity of thought and varied experience end up with the best ideas, so it is no surprise that companies such as Google and Facebook have undertaken a slew of diversity initiatives to increase the diversity in their ranks. There are also many independent initiatives, such as Project Include, tackling the problem.  

These programs build up diversity in full-time tech jobs. But what is being done to encourage diversity in freelancers? How can companies build diversity among their tech freelancers?

Tackling freelancer diversity in IT

American freelancers are a varied group. They are slightly more racially diverse than American workers overall, and a majority of them are women. They come from a variety of educational backgrounds and live in urban and rural settings.

However, tech is a major exception to this diversity. Even though women make up almost 50 percent of the workplace, they make up only 23 percent of all tech jobs.

Our research on the blended workforce showed nearly half of top-performing companies expect to increase their freelance hiring by 30 percent or more. As companies hire more and more freelancers, they need to hire diverse freelancers if they want to perform at their best.

Freelancers provide a fresh perspective that injects innovation into corporate projects, and they may feel comfortable suggesting ideas full-time employees would not offer because they are removed from office politics. The more varied their perspectives and backgrounds are from your in-house team, the more value they will add.

This means embracing diversity and making the effort to find tech freelancers who are women and minorities may take more effort, but it will be worth it, even if it requires a bit more effort than simply hiring the first candidate who comes across your desk.

Know your team

You must know your team before you can hire freelancers who add to its diversity. Crunch the numbers on women and minorities on your teams. Identify how many freelancers you worked with in the last year came from different backgrounds than your employees. You may find gaps you didn’t know existed.

Services such as RoundPegg help reveal shared values among your employees and can help identify areas where your company could benefit from freelancers who have different perspectives.

Gear your job ads toward diverse freelancers

Want more diverse freelancers to bid on your contracts? Tell them you want them. It has become commonplace for job openings to include a line encouraging women and minorities to apply for the position. Include a similar line in your requests for proposals from freelancers.

You can also test your job ads to see if they are implicitly biased toward men or women. Hire More Women in Tech recommends taking a look at your job descriptions and evaluating whether they are unintentionally biased against hiring diverse applicants. Startup Buffer found that changing just one word in its job descriptions helped increase the diversity of those applying. The Gender Decoder for Job Ads can help you write ads for freelancers that will better appeal to diverse applicants.

Target your search

If you have done the work to get to know your team better, you will have found certain gaps. Once you’ve made that realization, that may be enough for your hiring manager to identify freelancers you could work with, but it’s possible you may need to dig a little deeper and target your search.

There are many business networks and tech associations geared toward women and minority groups. Connect with them to find freelancers and independent contractors who have the skills you need.

Some professional associations to consider:

Check out this list of more than 30 organizations for women in technology to find even more businesses that could lead you to your next tech-savvy woman freelancer. Investigate what tech associations for women and minorities exist in your city and state.

It’s also worth tapping into universities and colleges. Student groups and alumni associations, such as the Black Ivy Alumni League, can provide valuable sources of talent.

Partner with organizations that encourage diversity

Many organizations are working to move the needle when it comes to tech and diversity. Groups such as Project Include and Code2040 provide training and resources for companies to build diverse teams, while others such as Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code encourage girls and minorities to develop an interest and skills in tech. These organizations and programs are important players in the effort to encourage more diverse tech workers and freelancers.

If companies sincerely want to see more diversity on their tech teams and in their IT freelancers, they must support such initiatives. To invest in a more diverse tech future, Field Nation recently partnered with Girls Who Code. These types of partnerships benefit both companies looking for more diversity among their freelancers, as well as women and minorities who want support starting their tech careers.

There’s no question it takes time and energy to ensure the freelancers your company hires come from diverse backgrounds and have varied experiences. There’s also no question it’s worth the effort. Take steps to encourage diversity in your tech freelancers—you won’t regret it.

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