The demand for digital talent is currently very high and growing rapidly, so much so that companies are embarking on a desperate race to recruit the best talent. However, they are missing a great opportunity by not reaching women more effectively. Women make up 36% of university graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, but they represent only 25% of the STEM workforce and only 9% of the leadership profiles in companies that recruit STEM profiles.

Adding more women to the digital workforce will do more than just meet a growing need for talent. BCG’s research has shown that there are real benefits, both operational and financial, in building more gender-balanced teams and leadership teams. Companies where women are equally represented are more innovative, and women working in them have higher levels of commitment.

As part of Boston Consulting Group’s research, reflected in the article Winning the Race for Women in Digital, a framework for analysing gender diversity issues has been developed that looks at different stages of career paths: recruitment, retention, promotion and representation of women in leadership positions. These four stages are interrelated: companies are unlikely to hire more women for digital roles if they cannot retain and promote those already in the organisation. Furthermore, it will be more difficult to retain talent if there are no female roles in leadership positions within companies. Therefore, companies need an approach that addresses all four stages, starting with a clear statement of intent that gender diversity is a priority.

The good news is that digital technology is at a turning point in terms of growth, which means there is time for companies to catch up. Companies that actively seek out the right talent and launch specific initiatives to attract those candidates will improve the company’s talent pool. And those that succeed in keeping and promoting women to higher positions will truly win the race for digital talent.

WOMEN, CRUCIAL IN DIGITAL

Digitisation is transforming businesses in all industries, and companies are investing heavily to implement new systems and tools. However, talent remains a limiting factor for many organizations. The US Department of Labor estimates that there will be more than 1.1 million technology-related job openings in the US by 2024, but more than two-thirds of these positions could become vacant given the insufficient number of university graduates with industry-related degrees.

Women could help meet this demand, but cultural and social influences have kept them away from STEM-related jobs in the past. Since the group of women graduates is smaller in this area, it is not surprising that they are under-represented in enterprises.

Some of the women who have the necessary education often choose to work outside traditional companies. Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, CEO and editor of the MIT Technology Review, says: “Even when women graduate with a technology-related degree, they are more likely to engage in research or apply their skills to a personal project.

In addition, women who are hired by companies often don’t stay. They are few in number and have no role models in companies, so they often feel isolated. For this reason, simply focusing on recruiting does not work.

“Many large technology companies focus on diversity in hiring women, but once they’re in the company, the culture still sets in for men in a privileged way,” says Ryan Clarke, director of research and evaluation for Girls Who Code, an organization that teaches programming to school girls. Cultures are difficult to change, he says, and have a disproportionate impact because they not only affect current employees, but also affect the company’s reputation with potential candidates. Women who hear about these corporate cultures simply choose to go out and look for work elsewhere.

In essence, all companies will soon be technology companies, there is a greater variety of end products and services that incorporate the digital, which means that women have a vital perspective to offer. Companies need programmers and designers who think about the different types of offers, from online shopping to the development of websites and mobile applications for personalised medical care. Companies also need diverse perspectives on how to channel and use artificial intelligence and the vast amount of data in a fair and equitable way, rather than simply perpetuating existing biases.

 

HOW TO WIN: ADDRESSING THE EMPLOYEE CYCLE COMPREHENSIVELY

For companies to win the competition for women in digital format, they must not only recruit more effectively, but also address the entire life cycle of employees, including retention and promotion.

Seeking talent

Firstly, companies must ensure that they are looking for as many talented women as possible.

To that end, companies create advertising and marketing campaigns with the message that they are actively seeking candidates. LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms are valuable tools for launching more targeted outreach. There is a strong networking effect among women millennials in technology. “When you find one, you find many, because they all follow each other on social networks,” says Bramson-Boudreau of MIT Technology Review. Companies can also target schools or women-only organizations. When using head-hunters for positions, short lists of candidates are required to include equal proportions of men and women.

Companies that cannot find enough qualified women candidates can expand the pool by offering training programmes on the skills they need. For example, the craft site Etsy could not find enough programming candidates through the traditional channels, so it launched a 12-week program with free courses on open source software and coding. The company ended up hiring more than a third of the first group of attendees.

On a broader scale, they may become advocates for attracting more school girls to STEM programmes, and possibly even sponsor or fund such programmes.

 

 

To fight this trend, there is software that helps eliminate bias in job offers. Examine candidates by looking at resumes where names and other identifying details have been removed so that all candidates can be evaluated based on merit alone. Conduct first-round interviews using IA software AND use game-playing, asking candidates to play a number of neuroscience-related games and applying the results through Deep Learning algorithms for candidates to apply to the offers.

Retention and promotion

All recruiting initiatives around the world will not help if companies cannot support women once they are hired. Consequently, once women are in the company, leaders must implement appropriate measures to retain them and give them the same fair opportunity for promotion as men. These measures must be based on data. In particular, companies should focus on the following initiatives.

 

The challenges facing women at work are discussed more openly than in the past. At the same time, technology is prevailing in all industries. These two aspects are creating an imperative for companies to hire more women in digital roles and create the kind of equitable corporate culture that will allow women to prosper and move forward.