Geek Feminism Wiki

Why care about hiring women?

Why hire women? Why would you want a diverse workplace? We live in a diverse world. Women make up slightly more than half the population. They make decisions about most consumer purchases. There's a good chance they are your customers. By having women on your team, you can better target your products for their intended audience.

Diversity makes your team stronger. By bringing together different points of view, different personalities and life experiences, you build better teams. Studies show that teams with more women perform better [1]

HOWTO find women to interview for a position[]


"But women never even respond to our ads!" The first question you should be asking is how many women saw your ad. Advertise where tech women look! There are ample mailing lists and forums that women subscribe for specifically to see job ads. These include Linuxchix jobs lists (global and chapter), Systers jobs list, various GirlGeekDinner lists, and local Women in Tech group lists. Yes, go out of your way to make sure women see your ads! Which brings us to the next point: (todo: add links to these lists)

Some useful links include:

Search out women[]

Use your network to find women. When advertising a job, tell your employees to spread the word far and wide. Offer bounties for employee referrals that end up resulting in hires. Encourage your female employees to spread the news on their own networks, both formal and otherwise. Go to conferences, tell people about job opportunities, hand out business cards with contact details - but don't be creepy.

Make your ads inclusive for women[]

Think about what your ad says about your company's culture. Although promises of endless cold beer, pool tables, and gaming consoles may appeal to very young, predominantly male, potential employees, they don't sound particularly welcoming to someone who has young children or is planning on starting a family. There's nothing wrong with having a fun, friendly and casual atmosphere, but unless your company policies extend beyond skittles and Wiimotes, you're cutting out a significant portion of your potential employee base.

Another thing to think about is the technical skills you have listed in the "essential requirements" section of your ad. Do you need someone skilled in a particular, perhaps obscure programming language or technology--won't a good programmer be able to pick up the language in a few days anyway? Think skills, not technologies, because someone with skills can pick up technologies quickly. By making your ad less specific, you may attract a more diverse set of candidates. As mentioned elsewhere, men are more likely to dismiss a particularly requirement as silly, or as easy to learn - and apply anyway, whereas women are more likely to be put off from actually applying upon seeing such a requirement.

Words to avoid using in your job description include "expert", "ninja", "rockstar" and the like. Women are far less likely to consider themselves an expert at a skill, even if they are far better at it than most of their colleagues. For more information on this matter, see Impostor syndrome.

A diversity statement can help highlight your commitment to an equal employment opportunity workplace. It is however, insufficient on its own. Use your company website to illustrate how you have created a happy and diverse team, and the programs you have in place that make your company a particularly nice place for women to work.

Create a pipeline[]

Industry cadetships and internships are a great way to attract bright female students to your company. If they have a good experience when they're working there over summer, there's a good chance that not only they'll come back after they graduate, but that they'll also tell their friends about it.

Internships and cadetships are not the only way to encourage women to join your company after they graduate. Consider sponsoring a prize for the best female student in a course directly relevant to your work, or providing scholarships to women who choose to enroll in courses that would lead to a career in your field. Women are often hesitant to enroll in the more advanced courses, not due to lack of skill, but due to lack of confidence. Encourage them to do so by offering recognition for women who excel in feeder courses, and scholarships for those who do well in the higher level.

Collaborate with universities, training centres and local user groups: organising talks, seminars and conferences. Get your company's name in front of local students. Find out if your local university computing department or Engineering school has a women's group. Sponsor them. Shout them a free lunch. Talk at their events, and let them know what they need to do in order to take up a job with you.

Hire with the intention to train new employees in skills you need[]

It's often tempting to create a shopping list of requirements, purpose fit for the role you want to fill. Listing all the skills of the employee you're intending to replace can backfire though. Many technical skills can be picked up in a short period of time by people with the right experience and education. Narrowing down your candidate pool to those who happen to have been doing the exact same job beforehand can mean you will miss out on a very bright candidate with broad experience that may not necessarily be in your niche field.Advertising education opportunities can also encourage keen learners to apply. People who are keen to learn new skills are always an asset in a rapidly changing field.

HOWTO make your workplace inviting to women[]

Woman-friendly workplaces are nice places for everyone to work. Like men, women like being valued as people, respected personally and professionally and being part of a happy, healthy team. Both men and women dislike condescending, micro-managing superiors, unreasonable deadlines and stressful work environments. Most employees appreciate flexible working hours, and the ability to deal with urgent personal and family situations while at work. As such, family friendly policies are good for all employees, regardless of gender. These include but are not limited to:

  • Flexible start and finish times (to work around outside commitments, such as picking up and dropping off children for school/daycare)
  • Ability to work from home for a portion of the work week
  • Personal/Carer's leave for when an employee's family need to be cared for
  • Nearby or onsite childcare facilities
  • Generous leave entitlements, including an ability to have reduced pay in exchange for more holidays
  • Ability to change working hours from part time to full time and vice versa

Furthermore, woman-friendly tech workplaces have women in technical roles. Most women appreciate having female colleagues. Being the only woman in a workplace, or even one of 2 or 3 in a large workplace can be a very isolating experience. Having an opportunity to socialise with other women, and to be mentored by more senior women is very important. Making an effort to recruit, train and promote women will result in your workplace being more desirable to new women coming in. Other initiatives that you can take to encourage women in your workplaces include:

  • Sponsoring internal social events for women so they can network together
  • Inviting female speakers
  • Sponsoring external social events aimed at tech women, these can include GirlGeekDinners, Linuxchix events and other technical get togethers.
  • Encouraging women to attend conferences, both technical (scientific confs, industry confs) and women-specific confs such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing.
  • Encouraging women to take part in training courses, and guiding them towards getting skills necessary for promotion.
  • Organising workplace-wide mentoring initiatives, particularly for women.

By helping women socialise with other tech women, both inside and outside the company you extend their network. This means that you are more likely to get referrals for technical positions from women your employees meet at such events.As mentioned before, senior women in your company attract more women to your ranks. Having clear promotion paths and criteria helps women prepare for promotions, and having fair and transparent promotion panels avoids feelings of preferential treatment and unfairness. Women are less likely to ask or apply for a promotion than their male colleagues, so supportive management is fundamental.

See also: Diversity Flags

HOWTO hire[]

Gender differences in interviewing[]

Men and women tend to perform differently at interviews. Often men will make the skills they lack seem insignificant to the job, playing up their own strengths. Women on the other hand, tend to play down their proficiency at skills they do have, and make a big point of skills they may lack. Furthermore, women who at an interview come across as ambitious, competitive and capable can put themselves at as much of a disadvantage as those who present themselves as competent yet modest in their abilities [2]. In order to interview candidates fairly, we must first overcome our own social biases, and recognise the differences in acceptable behaviour in people of different genders.

Conducting a fair interview[]

In order to find the best person for the job, you need to conduct a fair interview that effectively assesses your candidates. Having a fair and consistent interview process in place will help you reduce your biases and to choose the best candidate for the job.

  • Have a pool of interview questions, and choose ones relevant for the particular candidate before starting the interview.
  • Ask your colleagues to answer these questions and to help weed out vague questions, or ones that are hard to understand.
  • When choosing questions to evaluate how a candidate deals with particular situations, be sure to also ask about situations which involve teamwork and cooperation.
  • Avoid questions that are irrelevant to the job.
  • Avoid trying to get a free consulting session out of your candidate. It's easy to see through, and doesn't put you in good light
  • If you have a panel style interview, try to get a gender balance on the panel.
  • Do not put more than about 6 people on a panel, it can be overwhelming for candidates.

Remember, when interviewing a candidate, you are not the only party who is evaluating the situation. Good candidates often have multiple competing offers, and are trying to work out if they would like to work with you. Make a good impression, backed up by having a great workplace.

HOWTO retain women you've recruited[]

Having women applicants for your job ads, interviewing and finally hiring them is not very useful if they leave soon after they join your organisation. The following tips can help you retain the women you have recruited.

Mentoring and advancement[]

Women often don't have access to the same informal mentoring opportunities as their male colleagues. By providing formal mentoring programs for all employees, but especially for women, you can help bridge this gap. Mentors not only help guide mentees through difficult situations, but can also provide valuable opportunities for taking up new projects and roles a mentee would otherwise not have access to.

By pairing up senior employees with those more junior in rank, senior employees can also gain access to talent they might have not noticed due to the constraints of the management hierarchy. Mentoring helps build collaborations and camaraderie.

For women in a male-dominated industry, the path ahead can seem very unclear. By consulting with a mentor, women can find out what opportunities are out there, and what they need to do in order to get promotions and advance in their career.

Anti-bullying culture and policies[]

Being a very visible minority can make women a vulnerable target to bullying and harassment. Bullying is one of the main reasons employees leave a workplace. Having a workplace culture that is intolerant of bullying is the most important step to prevent it from happening.

Some ways to help prevent bullying include:

  • Having a clearly stated anti-bullying policy that also addresses passive harassment (such as sexist language and jokes)
  • Appointing a workplace bullying officer
  • Listening to what is occurring in the workplace and encouraging employees to report acts of bullying and harassment.
  • Keeping records of all incidents and subsequent actions taken. Following up with victims and recording final outcomes.
  • Ensuring that reports of bullying or harassment are treated with respect and weight. (Further reading: see especially Victim blaming.)
  • Ensuring that those who report bullying don't get victimised further as a result of their actions.

Appropriate remuneration[]

In most countries, women are paid significantly less than men for doing the same job. By ensuring that you provide equal pay for equal work in your organisation, you promote a sense of equity amongst your employees. You will also prevent loss of talent when employees find other jobs with higher pay.

  • Survey employee pay frequently in order to detect discrepancies between job level/skills and pay.
  • Have clear procedures for promotions and advancement applications
  • If you have a promotions committee, make their actions transparent
  • Followup rejected promotions cases with clear reasons for why the application was rejected, and what the employee would have to do in order to be successful next time they apply.
  • Avoid having policies, either formal or informal, which discriminate against women who take maternity leave. For example a policy that states the candidate must show superior performance for 2 consecutive years is clearly discriminatory to a woman who has been away from work due to child-rearing responsibilities.
  • Understand that men and women negotiate differently, and women are more likely to be modest when stating their achievements.

Training and development[]

Training and development opportunities help employees constantly renew their skill-set. By offering educational opportunities as well as chances to work on projects that extend them, you will keep your employees in challenging and rewarding roles. Training can often lead to new opportunities for advancement and promotion. Educational courses also provide networking opportunities, exposing your company and your employees to new ideas and people.

Feedback mechanisms[]

You may think that your company is meeting the needs of all its employees, but the only way to find out is to ask them. It is important to consult your employees regularly to find out how they feel about their jobs. Running surveys, panels, and informal networking events can help management put their finger on the pulse of the employees.Running surveys is not enough though. Management must be open to change, and take leadership in executing these changes. Simply finding out what's wrong and not doing anything about it, or trying to justify it just makes the resentment grow.


External links[]

  • [[1]The Myth of the Ideal Worker: Does Doing All the Right Things Really Get Women Ahead?]