Want to increase diversity? It starts with the job ad

Tom Allen
clock • 5 min read

Language like 'coding ninja' can turn women off of applying for tech roles

Where would you first look to improve tech sector diversity? You might start with education and the uptake of STEM subjects - or perhaps you'd go straight to the top and encourage leading women to take on mentorship roles. You probably wouldn't turn to an online job board.

Dominic Harvey, Director at CWJobs, tells us that working in recruitment is actually the perfect way to get an insight into diversity - and to start improving it.

"We consistently commission new research insights and reports in order to highlight the current imbalance in the sector, which...favours men. It is important to learn and uncover these issues to get the tech community talking. Opening this discussion is half the battle when trying to encourage and retain tech talent."

As a specialist site dedicated to IT professionals, CWJobs is well-informed about the growing importance of technical skills like coding, programming and data manipulation. Candidates with these abilities can expect a much easier time when it comes to finding work. 

Technology and technical skills are now critical for businesses to work securely and efficiently, as well as helping them to reach new audiences. This means the IT department is no longer banished to a forgotten corner of the building - their work touches every part of a modern organisation.

As part of its recent Coding Beyond IT campaign, CWJobs found the eight out of 10 UK businesses said that having a tech specialism is a key factor in their future hiring decisions, no matter what sector they are in.

"Technology can lead to so many careers beyond pure IT and it's exciting to witness and showcase this shift, as businesses invest in their current and future workforce to ensure employees have the tech skills needed," says Harvey.

It is up to companies to dedicate time and patience to those who may be intimidated by new practices or have simply lost confidence

Investing in staff is a great way to attract female and minority candidates. Offering apprenticeships and on-the-job training can be a significant motivator, as can returner programmes for both women and men coming back from career breaks. "It is up to companies to dedicate time and patience to those who may be intimidated by new practices or have simply lost confidence. These [programmes] need to be in place and rolled out now in order for the UK to collectively build the future talent pool base."

Expanding your potential talent pool goes beyond offering training, though. It can even start with the job ad.

Job adverts, especially those for technical roles, often contain language that unconsciously aims them at men: phrases like ‘coding ninja' or ‘join our fight'. According to CWJobs' research, even words like ‘adventurous', ‘decisive' and ‘independent' appeal more to men, while women react better to language like ‘considerate', ‘communal' and ‘support'.

It is important for recruitment teams to get female workers involved in the hiring process

CWJobs has developed its own tool to address this issue, called the the Totaljobs Gender Bias Decoder. "[This] is a free...tool for companies to use to uncover and identify hidden gender-biased words in emails, job descriptions or any other text, which affects how candidates and people respond," says Harvey.

He adds, "It is important for recruitment teams to get female workers involved in the hiring process. This could be promoting them into an interview role and/or analysing job specifications and descriptions from their perspective. They will be able to evaluate what is potentially putting female candidates off applying for these positions. This does take a large dose of humility from the tech team and their company."

Mentorship programmes are another way to involve women. CWJobs has its own Women in Tech network, and holds focus groups to understand and address the biggest pain points for women in the company. At the same time, coaching is available from senior female co-workers.

"Formalised workplace mentorship programs can both engage management in diversity efforts and help retain under-represented employees and groups in the tech industry,'' says Harvey. "When successful, mentorship programs encourage mentors to sponsor their protégés for key training and assignments, regardless of their gender or ethnicity, which can lead to increased representation of women and minorities in management roles."

Promoting female role models is a key aim for the Women in IT Excellence Awards, giving women a platform to share their experiences and inspire others to do the same.

"Positively promoting women who have worked their way up the ladder and carved successful careers within the industry is just the start of normalising the core value of women and their significant impact within tech departments and wider businesses throughout the UK," says Harvey, whose company is sponsoring the Role Model of the Year category at the 2019 event.

Having a role model plays a crucial role in helping people define their career

"Role Model of the Year is a fantastic category to sponsor for CWJobs, as we are passionate about promoting individuals in the industry who are truly leading the way in order to inspire others.

"Earlier this year we released research addressing the lack of role models and recognisable women in STEM, whereby young girls are without role models to inspire them into maths and science-led careers… Having a role model plays a crucial role in helping people define their career, with 64 per cent of women respondents in tech claiming to have been motivated by an inspirational figure to pursue their career."

Are you a finalist in the Women in IT Awards? Remember to book your place - we can't wait to see you there.

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