Many people ask me and many other women that are active in tech how to hire and maintain “a diverse workforce”. I find it strange that we are asked this since we are experts at…. Tech. We are not experts in HR. Previously I had told people that I had no idea how to attract other women to work somewhere, but in the last year (since the inception of WoSEC) I have learned quite a lot and for the first time I feel I might have a bit of useful advice on this topic. Although I am going to preface this article by reminding you that I am not an expert in this area (and I do not speak for all women!), I do hope these ideas help tech companies attract more women and other people from under-represented groups to our industry.
- Hire an expert on the subject, such as Jane Frankland, to help you. And then pay her, because her work has value. It is frustrating it is to have companies ask women in the industry to work for free to help them “solve this problem”, as though their time is not valuable, and as though we all magically understand this complex topic. Hiring an expert is a good way to go when you don’t already know the answer to any problem.
- Talk to your current female, LGBT, NB, POC and disabled employees. Make sure any issues they have are addressed (not dismissed or ignored). Make sure they are being paid fairly, that they are being promoted at the same rate as everyone else, that they are getting training and other opportunities that they need to succeed. Make sure they are happy. If they are having problems that they feel are due to discrimination, they will not tell people to come work there. It is those people who will be your best, or worst, advertisement for people to come work for you. Ensuring you actually have a welcoming, safe and fair environment is the number one most important thing to attract and KEEP good candidates. This goes for everyone, not just people from underrepresented groups.
- Offer to host women-in-tech style meetups (such as WoSEC!). Shopify has been hosting the OWASP Ottawa meetup for years, and it has not only proven very convenient for their employees to be able to attend and learn from our events, they have also recruited more than one member of their AppSec team from our membership. Win-win!
- Sponsor women-in-tech activities, such as WISP’s “DEF CON SCHOLARSHIP INITIATIVE 2019” yearly campaign.
- Read Tarah Wheeler’s book on the topic, “Women in Tech”, and buy a copy for your office library if you have one.
- If you work at a start-up read Elissa Shevinsky’s book on the topic, “Lean Out”.
- Before planning an event that includes alcohol realize that many women are less comfortable in situations that involve alcohol.
- Listen. When someone brings up an issue to you it probably took them a lot of courage to do so. Speaking up is hard, and women especially are taught “not to rock the boat”. Asking for a raise is HARD. Reporting an inappropriate incident is HARD. Don’t make it more difficult by not taking them seriously.
There are many other things companies can do, such as offering reproductive and trans-related health benefits, publishing your pay scales so each employee knows where they are, flexible work hours, parental leave, and so much more. Like I said, I’m not an expert in this area, I just have a couple of ideas and hope you find them helpful.
Thank you for reading, and thank you so very much for being interested in making Information Technology a more inclusive, safe and fair industry to work in.