NASA recently claimed a woman is more likely to be the first to step on Mars but no all female group has ever been in outer space. There are still so few women in top management positions and the number of girls and women pursuing STEM is dramatically low. Only a handful of women works in IT companies compared to their male counterparts. People still consider a person as a male or female, but not as a human being. Why is that? Let’s check several triggers of gender discrimination in IT.
- Let’s expand diversity by adding a woman to the team
Even avid protectors of equality in IT companies still utter such phrases from time to time. Such phrases humiliate both a woman agreeing to a job just for being a woman and a man who cannot compete for such a position by default. In this case, the hiring criterion is not skills or level of professionalism, but gender. Tolerance challenges and problems also emerge at the stage of an employee performance review. Let’s suppose that the employer is asked for feedback. What do we often hear in response? By reviewing male programmer, the employer is more likely to point out pluses and minuses, to give constructive remarks and advice. And what about women? “She’s adorable,” is the frequent client’s response.
- Only a man can do this
There are still jobs traditionally considered as a “man’s job.” It is particularly true about leadership positions that imply business trips, negotiations, informal meetings, etc. It’s not for women! Women can’t handle that! Really? The law of most countries forbidden making recruitment decisions based on gender. However, we still see job descriptions like, “we consider only male candidates.”
- Like a girl…technical profession not for me
The stereotype about women’s lack of logical thinking and worse performance on technical tasks such as code scripting is as old as the hills. A company’s technical director often reject female resumes at the initial stage of recruitment just based on gender. However, a huge problem is women’s acceptance of this stereotype. The internal misogyny (negativism toward one’s gender) prevents women from achieving success and emancipation no less than the discrimination from men’s side does. Women consciously decide not to join IT because of their own beliefs that it’s a male profession. For this exact reason, such initiatives as Women in Tech, Women Who Code, STEM Girls, He for She are so popular and active all over the world. They help to expand the discussion about women in the tech out of offices’ walls to the public social sphere. In such a way, women are getting access to more information, create communities to help women in terms of leadership, coaching, and motivation. I want to believe that initiatives supporting women in technology will cause systemic changes instead of ending like a short-term trend or hype.
- Diversity programs: we tried our best, you know the rest
Corporations are bending over backward to avoid accusations of racism, sexism, ageism, or whatever “-ism.” Diversity programs are the new tool for addressing discrimination problem in the workplace. However, the existing instruments of its integration don’t work as they should. No matter how Google tries, it messed up with the sexual harassment incident last year. The company drowned in lawsuits from former employees. This case openly showed that Google went over the top with tolerance. In response to accusations about employing only white and Asian males, the company started hiring women, African Americans, Latin Americans exclusively. It leads to yet another professional dead end – recruitment based on age, gender, skin colour, and social status, but not on expertise and professionalism.
What Has HR to Do with It?
At companies’ HR department recruiters perform as a primary filter through which future employees pass. And here is the dissonance. While the company may generally position itself as a progressive protector of human rights, a socially active entity, and may invest many resources, and money into social programs, outraging sexism and ageism may flourish at the level of HR. This brings all effort to naught.
A recruiter is the starting position in HR. It is usually occupied by a fresh university graduate or an intern. He/she does not possess full information about the company’s internal processes and positions, key values, thus the lack of an ability to evaluate people adequately. He/she is thrown overboard and instructed to swim, while the direction is unclear.
With this inconsistency in mind, the company has to invest time and effort into education, motivation, and explanation. Many businesses forget about the recruiter’s strategic importance and ignore the significance of the first stage of staff recruitment. An illustrative example of a constructive approach is the globally famous online shop Zappos. Here every new employee regardless of the occupied position takes a similar monthly training session. It includes all aspects of work, even interaction with clients in the call centre, to get a full grasp of the business atmosphere, workflow, and the company’s values.
What Should Everyone Do?
- Gender-neutral resumes
Show neutral resumes without the indication of name, gender, age, and family status. Pay attention only to skills and experience. In Qubit Labs, clients never know the gender of candidates before the job interview. Such an approach removes unnecessary gender stereotyping from the recruitment process. When we hear phrases like “she’s cute,” we explain to clients how inappropriate, such remarks are. It is essential to let the client know that such commentaries to an employee are unacceptable. Don’t be afraid to express your attitude to such words and don’t ignore it.
- Reconsider requirements
If your vacancy descriptions for top positions indicate the condition of 15 and more years of leadership experience, maybe you should think if it is important? Such over-exacting requirement looks unrealistic and scares potential employees off and. Perhaps more important for this position will be an impressive portfolio instead of the number of years?
- Think over your job interview questions
Analyse your job interview. Do you express yourself tolerantly? Are there any stereotypical phrases in your survey? For instance, questions like, “how much time are you ready to spend on something” or “are you ready to work overtime?” are most often asked to women. Make the interview identical for men and women.
- Expand your employee search
Not only new people may come to work at your company. Think of those who had to leave on family circumstances, on maternity leave, or because of the need to provide full-time care for the elderly or sick relatives. Maybe they are ready to get back to their position?
- Promote, motivate, and educate equally
Removing the gender gap in salaries is critical. Create equal opportunities for men and women in career promotion. Conduct a general performance review with the same criteria. Give equal access to mentorship and education for all employees regardless of gender. If you see that strategic meetings are attended only by men, while women have zero access, think of it carefully – something may be wrong.
- Respect boundaries
Give men and women an equal opportunity to take a maternity/paternity leave or a caregiver leave.
Women Love Tech would like to thank Iva Kozlovskaya, CEO at Qubit Labs, leader Women in Tech Ukraine for her article.