Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce: Practical strategies from European tech companies

From recruitment processes to company culture, here's how companies in the continent are encouraging diversity  

The digital revolution shows no sign of slowing down. With a growing number of innovations comes an even greater need to acquire and retain the best talent.

Companies are aware that mastering their approach to diversity and inclusivity (D&I) will not only give you access to a bigger range of applicants but can potentially increase the quality of your hires. It will also make you stand out as a more attractive proposition at a time when businesses are fighting it out to secure the best talent on the market.

Many companies have seen that encouraging applications from underrepresented talent pools can be an effective way to address the skills shortage, and there are many actionable changes they are making that have had a beneficial impact on women in tech. 

 

Leadership

Female representation across all STEM positions is poor worldwide, but it drops even further when you move up into management positions. This number is even lower when it comes to people of colour. A lack of progression is one of the most common reasons professionals leave their jobs, which would go some way to then explaining why the quit rate in technology remains significantly higher amongst females than with their male counterparts. At Intel, they have focused on increasing the opportunities for progression for women and have also pledged to reach full representation of all groups by 2020. Having female role models in place at a senior level will also hopefully help encourage younger women to see technology as a viable career option.

Across Europe, several companies have set specific targets to the European Round Table of Industrialists that they wish to reach in terms of female representation at senior level. While not exclusive to STEM organisations, industry giants such as Siemens and SAP have signed up and made their businesses more inclusive as a result.

Even if you aren’t setting yourself specific targets, make sure there’s a clear pathway that is inclusive and visible to all employees. Recruiting in the middle of a skills shortage is difficult enough without giving your existing staff cause to look elsewhere. The best professionals want to work for a company with clear routes of progression and mentoring can provide both a foot on the ladder towards this as well as establishing a necessary support system to get there.

 

Hiring

One common explanation for the lack of representation is that when hiring, it’s likely that you will lean towards someone on a personal level. That means when straight white men make up the majority of senior management, this can be reflected in hiring decisions below them, without any intention of that being the case. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle, and it can be challenging figuring out how to break it. It’s certainly not down to a lack of interest; in the UK, a whopping 70% of women have said they would be interested in jobs in the tech sector according to research from HP. 

There’s much to be done to convert that interest into applications, and that still requires work all the way up the corporate chain. Many companies have committed to the Tech Talent Charter, which certainly suggests that they are taking responsibility for driving this.

Another effective change has been the implementation of the NFL’s Rooney Rule into companies, something that both Amazon and Facebook have quite publicly introduced to their own staffing policies. The rule means that at least one female and person of colour is interviewed for each position. There are arguments as to how effectively this is policed, with neither company saying if there are any penalties for missing those targets, but it’s definitely a healthy start to trying to break previous bad hiring habits.

Even just aiming to interview a more diverse range of candidates will hopefully mean reviewing things like the job ads themselves, to make the language more gender-neutral, which will, in turn, attract applications from a much broader background. And if this is a success, then hopefully, the long-term impact will also be positive.

 

Culture

Some companies, such as Slack, have had enviable success with the diverse makeup of their workforce. That's without the appointment of a Diversity Officer, as Facebook and Amazon have, in a conscious effort to improve. Instead, they point to a company culture that celebrates and promotes inclusivity resulting in a successful trickle-down effect throughout their workforce.

Your organisation should provide clear statements on diversity, which are used both during the recruitment and onboarding processes. Being vocal about your support will make you an attractive proposition to the more socially-conscious employee, and the more you attract that type of professional, the better an environment you will provide for everyone to flourish within.

The skills shortage is predicted to reach crisis point by the end of the decade and ignoring half of the world’s population as a solution is not the way to solve it. There are many simple steps you can make both in terms of the policy, as well as a simple shift in the attitude of your employees, that can go some way to remedy it.

Getting on top of it now will put you and your business in the best possible position to ensure you have the best digital talent not only working for you but wanting to stay there too.

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Zoe Morris is President of Nelson Frank. A vocal advocate for women in the workplace, she has almost 20 years of experience in the recruitment industry.


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