By Orange Grove Consulting
Question—Why are there still so few women and minorities in the workforce?
Answer—The “pipeline”—there just aren’t any women or minorities with the right skills available for hire.
The truth is the “pipeline” is full of highly trained workers eager and ready to be hired. Top universities churn out African American and Hispanic computer science and engineering graduates at twice the rate that leading tech companies hire them. And while women hold nearly 20% of the computer science and information technology degrees, industry averages suggest women are hired for only 11-15% of technical jobs*.
Part of the problem is that recruitment tends to be self-fulfilling. Companies use the same recruiters to pull the same people into the same interviews. And we tend to hire people who remind us of ourselves. And when we only hire people who mirror us, we create a backlog of capable, intelligent workers who just can’t catch a break. Additionally, in many fields, training with an expert is critical. Whether you are directing a movie or an advertising agency, your mentor is your way in—one study found that in research laboratories, men were 90% more likely than women to have a Nobel laureate, 95% of whom are male, for an advisor. Again like with like.
What can we do?
1. Re-examine hiring criteria.
The language of job postings can be biased. If your job advertisement asks applicants “to bro down and crush code,” chances are you are dissuading women from even submitting a resume in the first place. Also, many include a “wish list”—here’s what a perfect applicant will look like—but research shows women, unlike men, will hang back from applying unless they meet 100% of the criteria. It is important therefore to ensure the wording of the job posting is carefully selected to appeal to a broad range of applicants.
2. Seek experts outside your industry.
Sheryl Sandberg is often championed as the most powerful woman in Silicon Valley. But she is not an engineer or a computer scientist. Her background is in business and economics. Tech companies are not composed entirely of techies. Ad agencies are not staffed entirely by folks who write copy. If an organization is truly committed to diversity, it can hire women and minorities throughout the company. Marketing, finance, legal, and strategy teams are all ripe for non-traditional leadership.
3. Promote women.
It seems obvious, but one of the best ways to attract more female applicants is to already have female leadership. Most organizations employ plenty of women in entry-level positions. But those same women might need help with career advancement. Studies have demonstrated that women ask for promotions less often than men. And when women do defy convention and ask for a raise or more responsibility, those women are perceived more negatively than men who ask for the same things. Managers who wish to level the playing field can put out a call.
4. Redefine diversity.
All too often, diversity is broken down into false binaries—men and women, black and white, young and old. But a diverse workplace encompasses so much more than these limited definitions. Look at women who are returning to the workforce after having young children. Does your employee base include grandparents, disabled people, immigrants or members of the LGBT community? When you expand the definition of diversity, hiring becomes less about quotas and more about creating a vibrant organization.
5. Take a lesson from the symphony.
In the 1970s and 80s, the top orchestras in the U.S. were almost entirely male. 90-95% of the musicians were men. When symphonies instituted a screen to be placed in front of players for auditions—guaranteeing that listeners did not know whether the gender of the player—women were hired anywhere from 25-50% more often. If your company is still struggling to hire and promote women, consider instituting more gender-blind hiring tactics and start by removing the names from applicants’ resumes.
Orange Grove Consulting specializes in research-based women’s leadership training and organizational change that improves recruitment, retention and promotion of women across an organization.