You’re probably well aware that women remain underrepresented in tech company positions. Improvements are ongoing, but it’ll take a while to get closer to true gender equality—according to the 2021 Techopedia Women in Tech survey, people in the industry expect it will be 32 years before gender parity is reached in the tech fields. While that may feel disheartening to those looking to close the gap, there are things that can be done that will make a difference now.
Here are five excellent ways to start at your tech company.
1. Support Ongoing Learning To Close Skills Gaps
Getting women into tech positions is only half the battle. Companies also must encourage them to stay. One practical option is to offer ongoing learning programs that give females the skills they need to get the most out of their work.
A 2019 survey polled women in tech who had stayed in their roles for at least eight years and achieved senior positions to see what made them remain. Most (56%) said it was because they were good at the work.
However, it’s easy to see how someone might conclude that the work is not the right fit for them if they lack the skills to do it well and lack the opportunity to change that. Offering women the training they need to address existing skills gaps could also target a broader issue with tech shortages. If companies have larger pools of competent internal staff members, they can hire from within more often.
Another great option is to assist women who previously held tech roles and want to return to the industry after long breaks. For example, Ireland has a program called Women ReBOOT that involves dozens of partner companies giving jobs to people after they receive training to refresh their knowledge. (Read also: The Best Paying Jobs in Tech for Women.)
2. Recruit Women for Leadership Positions
Hiring women for lower-level positions is a starting point but should not be your main goal. If females in tech don’t see peers in leadership roles, they’ll likely conclude that it’s only possible to progress to a certain level; one lower than what male counterparts could achieve.
A 2020 study found that only 42% of tech startups in the United States have at least one woman in an executive position. Then, just 40% had women serving on the board of directors. However, a more positive statistic was that 30% of the companies polled had started programs to increase female leadership opportunities. Company representatives are also becoming more aware of gender quotas on boards, as evidenced by a California Senate bill passed to introduce them several years ago.
If you’re trying to raise awareness and stimulate progress, too, remember that leadership does not only extend to the C-Suite. It’s great if your company has females represented there, of course. However, you can also begin by assigning women to departmental or project-based leadership roles. (Read Also: The Women Who Shaped the Tech World.)
It’s also a good idea to set benchmarks and timelines. Besides committing to hire more women for leadership roles, how many will you try to bring on board, and in what timeframe? Laying out those specifics makes it easier to focus on how to meet the goals.
3. Offer Flexible Schedules for Employees Who Are Caregivers
Females have historically filled most informal caregiving roles, such as those involving children or older parents. More specifically, research indicates that women and girls contribute more than 70% of caregiving hours around the world. Additionally, of the people participating in such roles, 21% said they’d negatively impacted their careers. (Also read: 5 Key Things Holding Women in Tech Back – and What Can Be Done.)
It’s certainly not easy for people to balance caregiving and involvement in the workplace. However, one thing you can do to make it more manageable is to provide more flexibility.
For example, if a woman worked at your tech company during non-traditional hours, it might be easier for her to fit everything into the day. That’s especially true if she can segment her day into hours set aside for caregiving and formal employment.
Other possibilities might be to allow working from home on certain days of the week or try a system where the person is at home for a week and in the office the next. When commuting is out of the equation, handling the caregiving-workplace load seems more manageable.
4. Use Inclusive Language
Job ads have a long history of featuring language that could make women feel shut out of possibilities. If a description mentions something like “manpower” or “mankind” or says “he” instead of “they,” females could get the impression that they should look elsewhere for work.
You may be surprised that a recent study showed only 38% of job advertisements use gender-neutral language. However, deciding to do that paid off by attracting more applicants and bringing a lower cost per application.
Scrutinize all your current and past job postings for non-inclusive language. One of the easiest approaches is to steer clear of gender altogether by referring to “humans,” “people” or “customers.”
Maybe your tech company sells a product that you expect females to use more than males or vice versa. Even in that case, try to speak about your company’s work as inclusively as possible. (Also read: AI in the Workplace: What it Means to the Gender Wage Gap.)
5. Hire Women for Technical Positions
There’s a pervasive problem of females working in tech companies but not in technical roles. Research showed that women only fill 1 in 4 technical positions at America’s largest tech businesses, when brands track such metrics.
If female applicants tour your company and see all their peers working in receptionist or office management positions, they’ll likely feel discouraged. That scenario fuels the perception that the company personnel may not value their technical prowess.
Start by looking in your hiring records and see what percentage of women have technical positions at the company. You may come across distressing findings, but acknowledgment is the first step to solving the issue.
If you confirm that a problem exists, think about effective ways to address it. For example, launching a female mentoring program could help women feel more confident about taking and thriving in those roles, anticipating the ongoing support available. (Read also: 12 Top Women in Tech Right Now.)
Start Supporting Women Strategically
Some company representatives make the mistake of trying to implement too many changes at once to support women in tech. The ideal approach is to see where the most significant issues lie. Then, use the tips here to make meaningful changes.