Recruiting and retaining female IT talent: 8 concrete steps

With organizations now struggling to fill critical IT roles, the need to close the IT gender gap has never been more vital.

Recruiting female tech talent
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Recruiting female tech talent

Steve Ostrowski, director, corporate communications at CompTIA, says to establish a more representative IT industry, we need to understand what’s impeding women from pursuing IT careers and what can be done to encourage and embolden them. In the summer of 2016, CompTIA launched a study to answer these questions. Through dialogues with girls in middle and high school, the study found that girls’ interest in tech careers diminishes as they get older – largely due to a dearth of outside encouragement and a lack awareness about what IT work involves.

 

While the push for women in IT begins at home and in the classroom, it should extend to the enterprise sector. Based on the findings from CompTIA’s study, here are eight ways companies can more effectively recruit and retain female tech talent.

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Establish a job shadowing program for girls in middle and high school

The study found that the most common reason girls don’t pursue tech careers – cited by nearly 70% of respondents – is because they don’t know what these roles involve. By offering IT job shadowing opportunities for girls, companies can provide them with confidence-boosting, on-the-ground experience.

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Forge partnerships with programs that support women in technology

Companies can build on their shadowing program by establishing alliances with organizations devoted to women in tech. These programs – including FUSE, a Northwestern University-based organization that runs STEAM challenges; Spark, which coordinates mentoring sessions with local business leaders and middle schoolers; and the tech empowerment non-profit TechGirlz – provide girls with a greater sense of inclusion in IT, and companies allied with these organizations reflect this inclusive spirit.

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Provide informational interviews for girls

By holding informational interviews with girls in middle and high school and women in college, companies can further promote an awareness that fuels career interest.

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Prioritize diversity in the hiring process

Many companies talk about diversifying their workforce, but fewer organizations take proactive measures. Companies can better prioritize diversity by examining and questioning their own assumptions and unintentional biases in the hiring process. This starts by taking a better look at the employee recruitment pool to make sure it’s representative. From there, businesses should look to expand their base of recruits, reaching out to a more diverse range of institutions and communities.

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Provide diversity training for all employees

Without proper training, some employees will engage in behavior that actively undermines an enterprise’s attempt to create an equitable working environment, and this behavior can create hostile subcultures. Company-wide diversity training can help preempt this otherwise pervasive issue.

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Increase the visibility of your organization’s female leaders

As CompTIA’s survey found, many girls don’t imagine women working in IT roles and are therefore discouraged from pursuing tech careers themselves. Companies can combat this perception by making sure their female tech leaders are externally visible – whether that’s being quoted as a thought leader in an article or leading informational interviews.

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Send your female leaders to schools

Better yet, have your most qualified female tech leaders go directly to classrooms to show young girls that there aren’t just job opportunities available to them – there’s opportunity to flourish as well.

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Improve the messaging of job postings

Many of the girls CompTIA spoke to imagine tech jobs as solitary careers spent in windowless rooms. That’s a pretty bleak picture – and it’s something companies should address in their tech job postings by emphasizing the ways in which tech jobs are interactive and engaged with the rest of the organization.