The tech industry has an image problem – this is a well-known fact. It also has a massive recruitment problem, with the shortage of suitably-skilled IT workers reaching something of a crisis. The discrepancy between the jobs available and the skills needed for them is costing the UK economy an estimated £63bn a year.
The image of a homogenous male industry is not helped by the massive gender bias when it comes to all things computing, highlighted by the fact that just over one-quarter of undergraduate computer science degrees and computing jobs are held by women. This gender bias in all things computer-related is evident from an early age – just 9.8 per cent of those obtaining an A-level in computing were female. This reduces the talent pool substantially when it comes to recruitment.
How can this image and diversity problem be tackled?
This is a key way in which diversity can be increased. Hiring based on skills that have been learnt – no matter whether qualifications have been gained – helps to eliminate some of the bias that exists in the qualification sphere.
Just because a female has learnt her computing skills either ‘on the job’ or in her own time does not mean that she will make an inferior employee compared with a male with a computing A-level. This means recruitment departments need to do away with the arbitrary ‘filtering’ based on qualification and education.
Combat hiring bias
Combating unconscious bias is also a way to boost diversity. This can be done through a number of methods, including writing recruitment materials specifically to attract the widest pool of candidates possible.
Structured interviews, scorecards and skills test are all proven to more effectively reduce hiring bias than non-structured interviews. Judging an interviewee on a work sample rather than a CV will also help to reduce bias.
Mobile technology means that children are becoming exposed to digital technology and computers at an increasingly early age. Perhaps computer-based lessons need to be rolled-out earlier in the curriculum before children become accustomed to the gender bias in the tech industry? At GCSE level, perhaps computer science should become compulsory?
Higher up the chain, perhaps bursaries or other incentives could be offered to attract more females into the computing world?
Breaking the cycle
The cycle of seeing a stereotype and following it is hard to break; however, it can be done. Organisations in the tech industry need to use their female employees as ambassadors and send them to recruitment fairs and school talks. They also need to use them more in promotional material so that it becomes less unusual to see a female in the tech industry.
Start at the top and it filters down
Companies in the industry, especially those with higher profiles, need to be seen to be hiring more females generally but also appointing and promoting them to senior IT roles. Appointing females as the IT experts on non-executive boards will also be seen as a shift in culture and show other females in the industry that the glass ceiling is slowly being broken.
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