Businesses with more women in the C-suite are more profitable, have better stock performance, and faster growing revenue. Yet as we celebrated International Women's Day 2021 yesterday, women are still underrepresented in one of the most important organizational department functions -- IT.
Women have made strides in just about every other corporate department from HR to finance to marketing. But IT departments have remained largely the domain of men. Gartner estimates that women make up only 31% of IT employees.
Given the better performance of organizations with more equal gender representation, is there anything that CIOs can do to help create better gender balance among their staff?
There are a number of tactics available to top level IT leaders who are committed to creating a gender balanced workforce, according to Gartner VP Christie Struckman, who spoke with InformationWeek about measures CIOs could take to improve female representation in IT.
"In terms of functions across the enterprise, IT is towards the bottom of the departments in terms of representation of women," Struckman said. But there are a number of tactics that CIOs can employ to both hire and retain more women and thus improve the gender balance of the IT department.
Don't filter out qualified candidates
First, organizations should look at their job requirements and their job advertisements. Requiring a 4-year degree today may not make as much sense as it has in the past. For instance, if you have a candidate who has a 2-year degree and who worked in Amazon's IT deparment for 8 years, that person may be more qualified for a position than the candidate with the 4-year degree. But if you make the 4-year degree an actual requirement and feed that into your algorithm for vetting candidates, you exclude that candidate with the 8 years of experience at Amazon.
Another big factor in considering the credentials of candidates is that skills today are evolving at a faster pace than they ever have before.
"The half-life of skills is decreasing and very probably technology organizations are constantly having to train and retrain their employees anyway," Struckman said. In some cases, organizations may be better off considering candidates with 2-year degrees and several other micro-credentials. Someone who has completed a whole series of micro-credentials may actually be more qualified for a particular position than someone with a 4-year degree.
There may be resistance to this idea from IT veterans who have sweated their way through their BS degrees and think everyone else needs to do the same. But organizations may be missing out on qualified talent, both male and female, if they take this approach.
Take advantage of internships
Another excellent way to recruit women candidates is by recruiting them to summer internship programs, Struckman said. Here's why. In 2019, 66.4% of paid interns were offered and accepted positions with the companies they interned with, according to Struckman.
"If I were trying to increase female representation, I'd be trying to get a whole bunch of female interns," she said. "I think that's a more comfortable space for a woman to say that I worked there, I enjoyed my experience, I'm happy to take a job there. We underutilize the internship program."
Stay in touch with former employees
There are times when employees leave for new opportunities. Maybe their spouse gets a new job across the country and the family has to move. Or maybe they are just ready for a move up and there's nothing available right now in their current organization. These former employees can become great advocates and recruiters. Struckman recommends keeping that relationship warm.
"When a woman exits a company, we kind of just let them go," she said. "Why not treat them like alumni? If I had a great experience at a company, I could be your best recruiter."
Struckman recommends creating alumni groups for your company on LinkedIn. Post jobs there and encourage networking. These employees can recruit new employees for you. Or, in some instances, they may come back, often with new skills.
What do women want?
Maybe your company is not already on Fortune's list for being the best to work for, or a top company for women to work for, but that doesn't mean those lists can't be useful to you as an IT leader looking to recruit more women.
Look at the criteria that those publications are using to judge companies that make the list. Then take a list of those criteria to your HR team and foster a conversation about what you can improve on in your offers to employees.
This is table stakes, according to Struckman. Make sure you have pay equity in place at your organization, and be sure to also advertise that your company is committed to pay equity.
If your company is showing up on Glass Door reviews and women are complaining about the lack of pay equity, that will not bode well for your recruitment efforts.
Finally, it's not just women who are looking for work flexibility options. But when you offer these options your candidate pool does expand.
"It's not a gender thing, it's not a generational thing," Struckman said. "Most employees would like some semblance of work flexibility. But different people need different things."
How are we doing?
"The representation of women in IT has been improving slowly over the years," Struckman said. More organizations are reaching out for help in designing programs, measuring their progress, and making a commitment.
"It's a journey," she said.
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