While women make up nearly half of the global workforce, they represent only 31% of IT employees and, at the leadership level, that number drops even lower to 22%, according to CEB data.
Most IT executives would like to improve the gender balance of their teams – after all it tends to improve business performance – but it can be hard to drum up interest in IT roles, and most IT managers see retention initiatives as HR’s responsibility. There are three concrete steps they can take to increase the number of women at all levels in IT.
Reduce unconscious bias in job advertisements to increase the number of female applicants for IT roles: To increase the recruitment of women to its IT function, adidas created a “toolkit” to make job listings more female-friendly. All job advertisements feature collaborative language and inclusive pronouns. Technical jargon and language that assumes expert-level knowledge are avoided because women are more likely than men to underestimate their qualifications and not apply for stretch opportunities. Job advertisements reflect the potential for growth at adidas, and are sure to highlight mentorship and training opportunities so that female candidates know that they will be supported in the role.
Women leaders in IT are involved in all steps of the job advertisement writing process to reduce the presence of unconscious bias, and are well represented as interviewers in the hiring process. Adidas recently created a video that explains what life is like for a woman in IT at adidas: Be Bold for Change — Insights from IT Leaders in Adidas. This video is featured in many of the firm’s job advertisements to capture the attention of women and encourage them to apply to the position.
Close the gap between formal workplace policies and employees’ perceptions and actual behaviors: Most firms have put in place formal policies (e.g. flexible scheduling, remote work, family leave) to improve diversity and create a more inclusive environment for women. However, IT leaders often find that employees are hesitant use these practices because they are perceived to be costly “special benefits” and career limiting. To counteract this, one telecoms firm that CEB works with makes taking advantage of these formal retention policies the norm rather than the exception.
By setting the expectation that all employees use these benefits, senior IT managers ensure that formal policies to retain women are properly implemented. This also encourages the outlook among both men and women that all employees benefit from a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Show high-potential women how the path to a leadership role align with their personal strengths: Research has found that while men are comfortable pursuing opportunities for which they met only 60% of the stated criteria, women typically apply only when they meet all required qualifications. Men are overrepresented in management “pipelines” into IT and this imbalance only increases moving up the career ladder. To ensure IT leaders consider more women for IT positions, a medical device manufacturer in CEB, now Gartner’s networks encourages high-performing women to pursue more senior career goals.
The company’s “Leadership Presence Program” helps employees reflect on their strengths and also revise their career goals to include leadership opportunities that capitalize on these strengths. This not only enhances the visibility of leadership opportunities for high-performing female employees, but highlights how they are – or can become – qualified for more advanced positions.