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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.

The national non-profit Girls Who Code, for example, last October announced a partnership with 26 tech companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft, which promised to give hiring consideration to that program's alumnae.

The annual Grace Hopper conference, the largest gathering of female technologists in the country, has become a fertile feeding ground for talent. Cisco, for example, interviewed 1,000 female candidates at last November's 2015 conference, and, a first for the company, made many offers on the spot, says Cisco's Centoni.

Sadaf Tayefeh, a software engineer who started with GoDaddy last summer right out of the University of Illinois, was introduced to the firm at the 2014 Grace Hopper conference and was back the next year doing her part for recruitment. "It felt amazing to be talking to people when I was in their place last year," notes Tayefeh, who says GoDaddy's emphasis on making the workplace more women-friendly was a big factor in her coming onboard.

Slow but steady progress

While these initiatives are making headway in closing the gender gap, it's still early on, and not every program will be an outright success, industry-watchers say.

Some companies, like PROS, believe that the effort can't be driven from the top -- instead, there needs to be a groundswell of support for gender diversity at the grassroots level or programs will stall. Others, like GoDaddy, maintain having the CEO's active participation and support will go a long way in helping the initiatives gain traction.

At Cisco, advancing the ball on gender diversity is an imperative that comes from the C-suite, with backing all the way through the rank and file, says Centoni, who underscores that it's too early to rule out or characterize anything as not working.

"I wish there was an easy button to accelerate things or a magic wand to wave and say we're done," Centoni says. "We will continue with the initiatives underway and add more as we see fit. This is a commitment, not a campaign, and a commitment is for a long time."


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