How to Support Women and LGBTQ Individuals in Tech
The tech industry is notorious for hiring low numbers of women and LGBTQ workers. Learn 5 steps you can take to support these employees.
- Understand how we got here
- Expand your hiring pool
- Beware of bias in the hiring process
- Put better policies in place
- Admit your shortcomings
When you don’t see people like you in the career or industry you want, it can be a challenge to envision yourself succeeding in that area. This has long been the experience for women and LGBTQ individuals in the world of tech, an area that is still way behind in terms of diversity.
The 2020 Developer Survey from Stack Overflow showed that just 9.9% of professional developers identify as either bisexual, gay or lesbian, or queer, with the majority identifying as heterosexual or straight. According to Pew Research, today, women make up 25% of computer occupations, down from 32% in 1990, and they make up just 14% of engineering positions and 39% of physical science occupations. And despite Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook announcing diversity initiatives to hire more black and Latino workers in 2014, Wired found that large tech companies had increased minority representation by less than 1% five years later — a period of massive workforce expansion at all four companies.
There is clearly still substantial underrepresentation in the tech fields, even with more organizations focusing on diversity and inclusion initiatives in recent years. When you are trying to close this gap in your company and support women and LGBTQ workers, here are five good places to start.
Understand how we got here
Before anything can really change in tech, we have to understand how we got here. A big part of the solution is recognizing that there simply have not been many women or LGBTQ people in tech historically, which leads to new talent choosing other industries where they see more representation.
Another part of the problem has been tech companies’ and their managers’ desire to maintain the status quo and unwillingness to reach beyond what they know. The tech and business industries have long depended on marginalization and oppression to create their products, deliver their services, and create their teams. The industries are where they are because they have been this way for so long that business leaders don’t know what anything else would look like. In short: Fear often gets in the way of change, and it has gotten in the way of diversity in tech.
Modern companies need to show a commitment to change and constant improvement. This can be accomplished by working with racial equity advocates to review policies and uncover roadblocks, and then implementing new procedures and initiatives that prioritize inclusion.
Expand your hiring pool
One way to support and hire more women and LGTBQ individuals is to expand the sources you use to hire. This requires creative thinking and flexibility. If you notice a lack of diversity when searching for candidates on big job posting sites, for example, it may be time to narrow your focus. Find job boards that are reserved for your industry or try social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn.
LinkedIn can be effective because it allows you to browse people based on job title or experience in addition to the candidates who apply to your positions. This way, you can take matters into your own hands and recruit impressive candidates who you think would be valuable additions to your team.
Beware of bias in the hiring process
Another important component is the unconscious bias that exists in the hiring process, regardless of whether our intentions are good. For example, because of our various backgrounds and perceptions about society, we automatically make certain assumptions when reviewing a resume about a person’s age, gender, sexual orientation, or where they went to college.
This kind of bias can quickly lead to companies hiring the same type of candidate over and over again. Unfortunately, this approach disregards that the best person for the job may not have the “perfect” resume checklist or may not be a traditional hire. The right person may be more of a cultural and personality fit, which can often lead to better work environments, increased employee engagement, and even improved productivity.
Recognizing these biases, questioning them, and fighting against them are all important steps in hiring a more diverse team with an inclusive mindset.
Put better policies in place
We may have the best intentions about prioritizing diversity and inclusion. It can be a challenge, however, to actualize the goals without the blueprints to do it.
This is where working with a diversity and equity firm can be helpful if you’re not sure where your policies are going wrong. Professionals can assess where you are now and help you put concrete steps in place to get where you want to be.
Changes will include updates to recruiting and hiring, but also to the employee handbook and perhaps the types of benefits packages you offer. For example, offering employee-first policies like paid family leave and flexible work arrangement options can attract a wider range of candidates, including those who have familial obligations outside of work.
Admit your shortcomings
There is a sometimes-harmful emphasis on perfection for company leaders. But diversity and inclusion concepts are relatively new to many industries, and we still have a long way to go. It’s ok to admit that you’re not where you’d like to be. Admitting mistakes will help people trust you and your company and give you an opportunity to showcase plans for change.
It’s ok to be flawed and to admit those flaws. This is how we all learn from one another to create better work environments for everyone. It is also how we can question the status quo and make meaningful changes based on what we’ve learned.
Just make sure that you are always working to improve, whether researching industry statistics or asking for direct feedback from the women and LGBTQ workers on your team. The latter approach is a great way to give a voice to people who may feel overlooked or underrepresented, and you can quickly learn ways to prioritize them.
How Mobilize prioritizes women and LGBTQ in the tech workplace
Mobilize is committed to fighting the status quo with our own representation and hiring practices. Along with prioritizing the customer experience, we put our core values of authenticity, integrity, and excellence in place so that we can create a positive, supportive culture.
We also believe in paid family leave for everyone and increasing the minimum wage. We are committed to taking care of people and acknowledging that not everyone has an easy “in” to technology. We thus hire people who are committed to getting into the industry but may not have experience yet. We give them their first opportunities, after which they can move laterally while training and learning. The result? Women make up 75% of our team.
Mobilize is run by CEO Jade Baranski (they/them) who founded the Queer Business Alliance, a network to lift up LGBTQ voices and mentor young entrepreneurs to help them find successful business ventures. The purpose of the alliance is to amplify LGBTQ voices and focus more on representation.
To learn more about what we do at Mobilize, get in touch with our team.