How can you hire more women engineers? “Show off your community spirit”
Why do most IT companies have so few female engineers? How can they hire more women engineers? If only we knew the answers to these questions….We talked to Tracy Miranda, cofounder of Kichwa Coders, a software consultancy specializing in Eclipse tools for science and embedded software, about how employers can persuade female engineers to join their companies.
Diverse teams make better decisions; this is what a plethora of studies have concluded. Yet, there are a lot of IT companies still struggling to hire female engineers. Changing the ratio is not an easy thing to do, especially in teams that are highly technical, but it can be done.
We talked to Tracy Miranda, cofounder of Kichwa Coders, a software consultancy specializing in Eclipse tools for science and embedded software, about how employers can persuade female engineers to join their companies.
JAXenter: Are colleges a good place to start looking for female engineers, since they are actively trying to close the computer science gender gap?
Tracy Miranda: Yes, but your company would need to be set up to take in new college graduates, which normally involves having plenty of experienced mentors available.
JAXenter: What’s your take on coding bootcamps? Can they make female engineers more appealing to prospective employers?
Tracy Miranda: I’ll answer this from the engineer’s perspective. For technical interviews you need to be aware of the nature and style of the test. This is best done by networking: talk to other people doing interviews and compare notes. One time, a fellow engineer told me I would need to be up-to-speed on the topics covered by the book ‘Design Patterns’ to ace an interview at one particular company. In that case a bootcamp would not have helped or would have been overkill.
Assuming they have their financial packages competitive, employers need to be better than the competition at packaging their company in terms women generally care about: community, learning, innovation & family-friendliness.
For non-technical interviews, it is about telling great stories about yourself so you can differentiate yourself from others and connect with the interviewers. So if you do decide to do a bootcamp you need to say why you are different from everyone else who did the bootcamp — frame it in the context of a good story: what did you learn or what problems did you overcome to succeed in the course of the camp. In general for interviewing you should have one or more stories that show you are smart, determined, proactive and a good team player. My sense is that coding bootcamps might be good for the first two but not necessarily the last two. But if you can use a coding bootcamp to tell this story then great. There are lots of other ways to do this, for instance, contributing to an open source project — that would likely instantly tell me that a candidate demonstrates all four of those qualities.
JAXenter: What should potential employers do to convince female engineers to join their companies and not others?
Tracy Miranda: When I was looking for my first job, I did a lot of interviews and had a few offers to choose from. There was not a lot to decide between the tech companies: similar work in my field, equivalent perks and each were prepared to match the highest offer. I chose the company with the badminton and squash leagues. I was looking for evidence of a community spirit and co-workers who enjoyed spending time with each other outside work. Assuming they have their financial packages competitive, employers need to be better than the competition at packaging their company in terms women generally care about: community, learning, innovation & family-friendliness.
JAXenter: Where do recruiters go wrong during the hiring process? What are the possible deal-breakers?
Tracy Miranda: I’ve had one hiring manager try to ask when I planned to have kids. Any such questions related to pregnancy, having kids etc, besides being potentially illegal, are instant deal-breakers. They generally demonstrate such short-term thinking that I would recommend steering clear of such companies.
JAXenter: What is the most important step that recruiters sometimes forget when hiring female engineers?
Tracy Miranda: Recruiters need to assume nothing about gender, and in fact assume nothing about the candidate. Not making assumptions about people, is at the core, about respecting people as individuals. The most important thing for recruiters is to remember to always seek to get to know candidates as the unique individuals they are.
Thank you very much!