Open up the role to anyone — no matter how little money they are asking for
It is amazing how many times I have seen people flinch when they have been told a candidate is asking for dramatically less than the going rate, and they will often ask the inevitable question — ‘so what’s wrong with them?’. In my experience, for both men and women, salary expectation and true ability bear very little relation to each other. Just as much as confidence and competence correlate — they don’t.
The issue of salary expectation, like all the issues discussed here, is not a female-only issue, rather that some women may be affected a little more as a group. I have also noticed that candidates from less privileged backgrounds can sometimes ask for less than market rate, simply because they have a much lower expectation of what a ‘good’ salary is.
“Removing these cultural biases is key to getting the best candidates for the job & given the right environment all sorts of people and personalities can thrive.”
And although I shouldn’t have to say it: always offer your candidates the appropriate value for the job they are doing. We benchmark our salaries to ensure that when I recruit I must give a fair salary to anyone I offer to.
Meet the basic criteria
In a similar vein to the above, insist on having all CVs sent to you that meet the basic criteria of capabilities. This is a Telegraph tech policy and it enables you to make a true call on abilities, and stops CVs being filtered out before they get to you, that may have some great but modest women in the ranks.
The key to this is to keep mentioning it to your HR or recruitment agency, explaining the motivation. These things can get hidden in HR policies and forgotten about; make sure it is a key part of the conversations you have when briefing in the role.
Recruit more than one level at a time
If on a large recruitment drive, try wherever possible to open positions up to more than one level. Women do tend to apply for (or be put forward for) the less senior roles, but, more than once, I have interviewed a woman for a lower role and, after tech testing and assessment, we have found them to be at the more senior level and given them the more senior position and salary.
Competence vs confidence
For me, some of my best employees over the years have truly been great, partly because they haven’t really realised how good they are. With this modest desire to do better can come great things.
Yes, we really need confident people in our organisation and those people can lead us and drive us through to success. But it is important for me to keep in mind that men are generally socialised into being slightly more dominant and outwardly confident in their communication style. It’s all about being a man, ‘manning up’ not being a ‘sissy’ etc etc.
On top of this, a lot of female coders may have experienced a lifetime of odd comments and surprised faces when saying that apparently bizarre statement of ‘I code’. You can quickly imagine how women in tech might not be so forthcoming with their confident techy side.
It is easy in an interview to see confidence as a reflection of ability. Don’t. Be mindful that given the right environment all sorts of people and personalities can thrive. And those teams are better, they work better together, they give each other that wonderful ‘psychological safety’ that Google has made so famous.
Be mindful of this and try and break through this initial veneer in an interview situation. Dig into what each candidate is saying and concentrate on the content.
Work closely with your recruitment agent (if you use one)
This seems to be an obvious one, but worth keeping in mind. This is all about working together to make sure you can do everything possible to open your roles up to people who might not otherwise have been considered.
The end result
If you follow these ideas and keep in mind that you need to keep a more open mind, I do think you can have more success in recruiting female engineers.
Now, be wary — do not give anyone a free pass because they tick a gender diversity checkbox. This is about finding great talent by including the great candidates that may have otherwise been overlooked. In my experience this approach can really make your team better, but only if it is done with good objective consideration and care.