Minister of Justice Peter McKay has taken flack for saying women aren’t applying for jobs on the Supreme Court of Canada— which, it turns out, isn’t true. But it got me thinking, could that be part of the reason why we don’t have more women leaders in technology? I’ve heard from clients in the SME ecosystem in Toronto that women haven’t been applying.
As is the case with the Supreme Court, “applying” is only one part of the story — and in the technology sector, do we know if it’s true that women aren’t applying? Is anyone keeping track? Please comment and share if you have more information on women applying for technology jobs.
We do know there are fewer women educated in math, computer science and engineering and the numbers seem to be stagnating at 27 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. So certainly the pool of women is not as large. And yet, some of these Toronto tech leaders have expressed genuine concern about not being able to bring more women into their teams. They believe it’s important for their organizations to be more diverse, and not just ethnically, but also in terms of gender. And it’s also personal for some of them as fathers of daughters, who are aware of creating opportunities for girls to build careers in tech.
If women are not applying to SME tech companies, then why? Are they being recruited by the larger tech players? Perhaps. Beyond the high profile women like Sheryl Sandberg & Marissa Mayer, I’ve seen more women at Dell, Cisco, Ingram Micro and in senior IT roles in businesses. It would seem logical that the larger companies are hiring more of the women in the tech sector. These larger tech organizations have better recruiting processes in general, and will more likely be engaged in actively diversifying their work-force.
Large tech companies are also getting better at creating women & family-friendly workplaces. For example, at Dell there is an active commitment to diversity and many supports in place for women and families in their workforces such as job sharing, flexible hours ans work from home options. According to Bobbi Dangerfield, vice-president and chief of staff for sales operations, Dell also engages 8,000 women employees in their Women in Search of Excellence employee resource group (WISE) which supports professional development.
Beyond the limited number of qualified women, and competition for those candidates, what are some of the mechanisms to enable SME technology companies to hire more women?
Here are some thoughts:
1. Hold an open and full conversation at the leadership level in your company about your commitment to adding women to the organization.
2. Look at your company recruiting & hiring practices, perhaps with some external guidance by women, to see how you might inadvertently be excluding female candidates. Maybe you need to publicize openings differently? Cast a wider net?
3. Consider your company’s public profile to see how it might or might not be appealing to young women — ask some women and update accordingly.
4. Participate in and support professional organizations that support women in tech careers, like Ontario Celebration of Women In Computing, Atlantic CCWIC or CANWIT. You’ll expand your network there.
5. Engage with organizations, like Ladies Learning Code, that are supporting young women to engage in technology — and become part of the emerging ecosystem.
These ideas are a starting point — let’s have a conversation about how to engage more women in SME tech companies so that technology companies no longer echo Peter McKay’s words that women just aren’t applying!