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Speak With a Geek

Innovation

Recruiting and Retaining Women in Tech

Three phases and challenges

Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 14:09

(Speak With a Geek: San Francisco) -- Technical recruiter Speak With a Geek (SWAG) is using its voice in the industry to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by women in technology. The Bay Area agency hopes to educate and provide a deeper analysis into the topic of a lack of female representation in technology.

“Beginning almost at birth, girls receive subtle messaging that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are for not for them,” says Sarah Noyes, director of diversity and inclusion at SWAG. “Everything from gendered toys, stereotypical advertisements, and even the subtle suggestions by parents and teachers can steer girls in directions outside of STEM subjects.” 

On average, only 18 percent of computer-science degree holders are women. Recent studies by U.S. researchers analyzed nearly 1.4 million Github users and found that code-change suggestions made by women are more likely to be accepted on the open-source code-sharing platform than those made by men, but only if their gender is hidden. When their gender is identifiable, there is a decrease in acceptance rate by 16.1 percent, demonstrating a bias against the perceived ability of women in tech. Concerns about pregnancy, maternity leave, and childcare factor into the hiring decisions of many employers, leaving women at an even further disadvantage.

“For those women who do manage to overcome these obstacles to find employment in the industry, the challenges don’t end there,” says Noyes. “Women entering the technology space are 45-percent more likely than their male peers to leave the field within a year,” she notes, quoting a study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2014.

Noyes says that micro-aggressions—often in the form of sexist language or jokes—is pervasive in technology. Other factors influencing exit from the industry by women include lack of accommodations for nursing mothers, nonflexible work schedules, and an extreme shortage of female mentors.

SWAG notes that these biases keep women from technology in three phases: As young girls, they’re pushed toward non-STEM subjects; as young women entering the tech workforce, they face heightened scrutiny and bias from hiring managers; and then once employed in the sector, they’re driven out due to a noninclusive work environment. Each subsequent phase leaves fewer women in the industry.

“Awareness is the first step toward enacting change,” says Noyes. “By bringing attention to these three phases of bias, we hope to inspire solutions in the industry.”

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About The Author

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Speak With a Geek

Founded in 1999, Speak With a Geek (SWAG) has evolved into a leading technical recruiter that provides top employers with access to millions of fully vetted candidates. SWAG works closely with businesses and enterprises to help them meet their diversity goals. Fifty-six percent of the SWAG community is made up of diverse candidates. For more information on SWAG's platform and how it will revolutionize the technology hiring space, visit speakwithageek.com.