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Don’t blame Facebook, blame industry bias

Don’t blame Facebook, blame industry bias

Why the tech industry must tackle gender diversity at the point of recruitment.

News revealing that numerous organisations are reportedly exploiting Facebook’s job ads platform to select ads targeting men only, shines a critical light on the ongoing issue of gender bias in hiring processes.

With women making up just 27.8 per cent of the Australian IT industry, which is significantly lower than the industry average of 47 per cent, more needs to be done to attract female talent across all industries, and the tech sector in particular. While there is a plenty of debate about some of the other factors contributing to a lack of women in the industry, such as societal stereotyping and educational issues – there’s an abundance of opportunities for tech companies to correct this gender imbalance through the recruitment process.

Attracting the best talent

The first question companies need to ask themselves when searching for candidates is whether the perception of a job matches the expectation. It’s not often communicated where a tech career can lead women and what can be pursued as a woman in tech. For instance, if a job description is for an analyst – it’s not all about having analytical skills.

The role could focus on leveraging strengths and experience in the area of specialisation, which could be marketing or tech for instance – and it should also be focused on the impact, not just the skill. Job ads need to focus more on what the company wants the outcomes of the role to be, rather than just having a list of skills and experience the company thinks it needs.

It's important to also focus on the values fit not just existing expertise – even if a candidate doesn’t have the exact technical background, they can be upskilled if they have high learning agility/growth mindset.

The recruitment process must focus on an individual’s values and learning agility first and their experience after that. It is also important not to advertise roles in both full-time and part-time categories, to ensure no group of potential talent is excluded.

Organisations also need to pay more attention to unconscious bias during hiring practices. Leaders can unconsciously hire people that are just like them.

One way to avoid this is to roll out an unconscious bias assessment, followed by education on how this shows up to ensure people are reminded to be aware of this, particularly when they are recruiting.

Inspiring more women to apply

A common misconception seen from women who either work in tech or are looking to pursue a career, is the lack of opportunity for growth options in the industry. There is a diversity of careers and opportunities in tech - not just cutting code!

Female talent may believe their career is heading done a particular specialisation, when in reality, a role in technology can lead to a variety of interesting avenues for women to pursue – but this isn’t always apparent.

 You can’t be what you can’t see, and there unfortunately aren’t enough role models in the tech industry to give a powerful voice to the opportunities and experience other women can aspire to. 

Women often thrive within environments that cultivate innovation, rapid change and high levels of complexity, as females have the ability to understand and express significant emotional intelligence to face intricacy, which resonates immensely with the technology industry. However, this isn’t communicated as much as it should be to women at all levels of their career. 

So how do we communicate the benefits to women? Shift from the use of traditional platforms to advertise positions, developed a presence across relevant job boards, targeted national and regional events for women in business/technology and increased collaboration with female tech-centric groups and associations.

A key driver for female talent is working with a business whose purpose aligns with their own values. Businesses need to be clear on what their purpose is and be able to communicate how a role will have an impact on that purpose. This helps candidates understand whether they have a connection with an organisation and are excited about the opportunity.

While taking an extensive approach to targeting females at the career level, planting the seed from the very beginning of any woman’s career can be the stepping stone needed to develop what’s a mere interest in technology, to giving the industry a strong, intelligent and dedicated female thought leader.

The Australian STEM landscape has been making great efforts to target females at the secondary and higher education stage – and companies should be working to provide a platform for young female talent to have a taste of what a career in technology could be.

It’s the combined effort of governments, business leaders, HR departments and optimised levels of communication that can change the entire technology landscape to be more inclusive, diverse and supportive of strong female talent. Times are changing, companies are evolving and the tech industry has been making leaps and bounds – but without diversity at its foundation, companies will never truly be able to reach their highest potential.

Simon Noonan is chief information officer and technology director at Sportsbet.

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