Sponsorship isn’t enough: Why Tech Companies Are Failing To Attract Female Engineers

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk at the 2015 Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco on how tech companies could attract more software engineers. It was well received and illustrated how perceptions and strategies can be embraced to not only fill more tech jobs on the market but create a workplace that is attractive to men, women and all genders.

This talk is the first in a three part series on attracting developers, how startups can be more strategic and effective in their hiring process and why it’s essential to curate tech culture in the workplace to reduce developer churn.

Highlights from the talk include:

  • What developers want at work
  • The massive developer shortage in the United States (or not?)
  • Growing personal awareness of professional impact and contributions
  • Landing top quality tech talent is much harder than simply posting a job on the Internet
  • Pay equity for all people at tech companies
  • We all carry bias into the workplace and it affects our decisions
  • Pay inequality is exacerbated when intersectional traits are compared
  • Attracting the shy, “deer-like” developer to your company
  • Why it’s important to offer developer focused content on your blog
  • Have open source projects tied to your company product
  • Sponsoring gender focused tech events does not ensure a transfer of trust
  • Job descriptions should not look like a “boyfriend list”
  • Consider collaborative vs competitive terms in job descriptions
  • False equivalent that women developers are all be new to tech
  • Reciprocal mentoring is a value focused perk for developers
  • Promote from within by identifying staff in non-technical roles for potential and aptitude
  • All genders find company values to be highly important
  • Health benefits for everyone: all genders, transgender employees and same sex partners
  • Consider gender neutral job perks: offer training to level up and conference budgets

A few interesting studies and findings I came across while researching my talk:

Being a scientist doesn’t reduce your gender bias – In a study I cite, both male and female professors were asked to rate students applying for a potential job within the lab. The findings were significant that both genders of professors rated the male student as more competent and deserving a higher starting pay than the female student. The disappointing thing is that the genders of the students were part of the study’s variables so the ratings were most likely based on gender stereotypes

Millennials are changing workplace values – In the past, self sacrifice by staying at a job you didn’t like was the norm. Getting ahead was the end game in the workplace. Now, having a sense of purpose and contributing to value based initiatives are driving employment choices for the younger generations.

Pervasive assumptions about women’s work goals still exist (and are still wrong) – While the talk was themed for the conference, my research uncovered an interesting fact: Both men and women want similar things in the workplace. This goes against assumptions made by both sexes that women value family over career. In fact, it turns out this same study was conducted 20 years ago and still, both men and women assume women’s minds are elsewhere when they’re on the job.

The speaker lineup for LWT was pretty phenomenal and in the upcoming weeks I will share my thoughts on some of the other talks from the conference.

Slides have been posted to SlideShare:

This entry was posted in About Adria, Employment, Get a Job, Race + Awareness, Race + Technology, Startup Fever, Women + Technology on by .

About Adria Richards

Adria Richards is a developer and entrepreneur focused on digital equality. She has worked in the tech industry since 1998 solving big problems for companies of all sizes. Embracing her inner nerd, Adria moved moved to San Francisco in 2010 to pursue her passion for technology. Previously she has worked in technical and training roles for enterprise, nonprofits and startups; from Apple to Zendesk. Adria is a popular speaker and gives talks about culture, communication and diversity. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, yoga and bacon; not necessarily at that order. Her Twitter account is followed by President @BarackObama.