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At least 1 woman should be interviewed for every IT job opening, advocacy group says

Anita Borg Institute report says this would spur more diverse hiring

By , Network World
March 06, 2012 08:04 PM ET

Network World - A not-for-profit group advocating there be more women working in information technology has just published a report that says recruiters for high-tech jobs should make sure there is at least one woman candidate for every job opening in IT.

"Require that every open technical position has a viable female candidate," states the report, "Solutions to Recruit Technical Women," published by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. While this may strike some as a radical idea fueled by political correctness, the authors of the latest Anita Borg Institute report say this kind of extra effort by recruiters, who often look to universities for candidates, will raise the chances that the high-tech industry, whose workforce in the U.S. is overwhelmingly male today, will begin to see growing numbers of female technical specialists and managers.

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While hard numbers related to the number of women who work in high-tech as technical support or managers in the private and public sectors in the U.S. today are hard to come by, some studies estimate women constitute 15% to 25% of the ranks at most, and about 8% of managers.

Denise Gammal, co-author with Caroline Simard of "Solutions to Recruit Technical Women," says research by Anita Borg Institute shows there are "blind spots" in how recruitment largely takes place today that can be overcome with specific effort to bring about greater diversity in terms of women in IT.

The greater abundance of capable technical women would benefit IT overall by widening the labor pool. According to a survey by staffing firm Robert Half Technology, for instance, 73% of 1,400 CIOs polled said finding skilled IT professionals was very challenging.

If you can't get women from engineering and other technical backgrounds into the recruitment process to begin with, the situation of a largely male IT workforce and management is unlikely to change, points out Gammal. Striving to have at least one viable candidate per job opening is just one of the ideas put forward by the report. Others include:

- Build a gender-balanced internship program for technical positions.

- Use social networks strategically to increase the number of female candidates for technical positions.

- Revise job descriptions to reduce gender stereotypes.

- Institute a blind resume screening process to reduce the potential for unconscious bias.

- Implement dual-career support mechanisms when relocation is involved.

- Hold executives and managers accountable for reaching diversity goals and targets.

- Measure and evaluate your efforts to increase the representation of women.

To be sure, women in the U.S. aren't coming out of undergraduate and graduate programs in computers sciences in huge numbers. As of 2009, only 18% of graduates in computer science were women, according to the report.

"A lot of companies see the same small set of schools," says Gammal about recruiting efforts that she says can and should be widened.

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