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5 ways to attract and retain female technologists

Beth Stackpole | March 8, 2016
Companies are stepping up to increase gender diversity in their tech workforce because it’s smart business. Top firms share advice on how they’re making headway.

GoDaddy has made similar modifications. Where previously programming candidates were asked to demonstrate their coding skills solo, standing up at a white board, they now can explain and diagram their thinking in a more collaborative, sit-down environment that is more akin to females' more social style of working.

The company is using an online software tool that employs machine learning and statistical techniques to analyze and rate job descriptions for gender tone. In one example for a senior software development manager, the software flagged language that was absolute, such as "experience managing multiple customer projects" and "providing world-class customer service," says Andrew Carges, the firm's vice president of talent acquisition.

The more gender-friendly descriptions were rewritten as "the ability to juggle several projects at once without dropping the ball on details," and "being 100% comfortable picking up the phone and speaking directly to customers," he says.

Blake Irving, CEO of the 5,000-employee company, has also been known to pick up the phone to try to close the deal with high-potential female candidates. "I'm not sure many companies are going to that extreme," Carges says.

Build communities

Cultivating communities where women tech employees can share experiences, exchange ideas, network and even commiserate about challenges is fast becoming a key pillar of companies' gender diversity plans -- whether it's an internal group or participation in external women's technology organizations, or both.

PROS, which markets cloud-based analytics software, launched its Blaze women's organization last year, started organically by two employees who got interested in gender diversity issues after reading the book Lean In.

What started out as informal discussion using the firm's Yammer social networking tool grew into an in-person discussion group of a couple dozen women and eventually, a 100-person-and-growing group, complete with a mission statement, an executive sponsor and its own reception at last year's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

"There are a lot of gender issues and we really wanted to make sure women here feel supported and have avenues to help facilitate their professional development," says Jennifer Plummer, application lead, who's been at PROS for 10 years.

While Plummer says it's too soon to have measurable results, she maintains the fast-paced growth of the group and its better-than-expected turnout at the Grace Hopper reception is an indicator that the Blaze community has struck a chord.

Do your part to prime the pipeline

The lack of women in STEM has been well publicized, and companies are exploring numerous ways to coax more women into the workforce. Companies like Cisco, LinkedIn and American Express are starting at the earliest stages, partnering with grade schools, high schools, universities and STEM-oriented girls' groups to promote competitions, hands-on learning and mentoring opportunities, even internships to get girls more exposure to computer science.


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