Currently only 17% of people working in tech are women. Pair that with the fact that the UK is already experiencing a digital skills gap that is forecasted to reach 745,000 workers by 2017 and one million by 2020, it's clear that this isn't just a diversity issue, but a pressing economic one.
The difficulty with these stats though is that they define and weigh up the problem, but don't do much in the way of combatting it. In fact, from my experience, there aren't many companies out there who are against hiring women or who consciously discriminate against them. From startups to big corporates the cry often comes in the form of "We want women! We are desperate for anyone with the digital skills we're after". So how have we found ourselves in a place where we know there's an issue, people are wanting to implement change, but not a lot is happening? Surely an industry that is founded on disruption and innovation can evolve?
It seems the problem lies in the fact that companies know what they're aiming for, but are unclear on how to get there. Small start-ups have limited resources, bigger corporates find it harder to swerve the red tape of their entrenched recruitment processes. And while many can look at their work force and see the repercussions of the stats at play, many don't know what to do in order to turn the tide.
Stats do have a role to play as they make people sit up and listen, but the impact of them has reached saturation point. The tech industry knows that they need to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, but are unsure the steps they should be taking. Cue the 'The Tech Talent Charter', an initiative set-up up by the recruitment platform Monster. The aim of the Charter is to gather signatories to commit to seven points that will, in theory, lead to an increased ratio of women in tech.
The beauty of it is that these seven points are actionable, measurable and fully address the problem of the digital skills gap that companies are feeling the pinch of. They cover how to build a pipeline of talent, recruit the right employees and then retain them. You can read the full seven points here, but for me two really stand out as being something that can be implemented easily with immediate effect.
Firstly there's the Rooney Rule. This rule is named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, which required every NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for the head coaching vacancy. The Charter has adapted this, outlining that each interviewee panel must include at least one female. By committing to this, businesses are under no obligation to choose the allocated female, as the job is still ultimately awarded on merit. However it has proven it's worth over in the States and immediately it counteracts any unconscious sexism, whilst also ensuring the job specifications are getting under the noses of women.
Which brings me to The Charter's second commitment that resonated with me; best practise guidelines to writing job adverts. Here interestingly they show how many job posts are written with gender coded-terms and sports analogies. Language, pictures of the office space and how their companies brand is communicated are skewed to a male audience. Flexible working hours, caring about personal development and differentiating between necessary skills and nice-to-haves also encourage more women to apply. Just look at this job spec versus this job spec to see some of these factors coming into play.
The Rooney Rule and how you advertise a job are two practical examples of how you can begin to create a more diverse workforce without throwing huge resources at it. Any company, whether they are a part of the tech industry or not, can start addressing the problem which we have all been aware of for a while.
To sign up to the Tech Talent Charter please click here..