In the past months, I’ve worked with a number of support organizations that were overwhelmingly male. We are not talking here about a 60/40 ratio, we are talking about 90/10, sometimes with no women at all in managerial roles. Several of the leaders approached me for ideas on how to balance the organizations better, so here are some of my thoughts. I wrote them with women in mind, but many would work just as well to add other kinds of diversity.
Women are people, too. Rather than trying to craft work conditions or benefits to be attractive to women, make them attractive for everyone. In particular, good work/life balance is equally beneficial for both men and women. It is an excellent idea to offer a generous maternity leave and good childcare benefits, but by themselves they will not solve your issue of recruiting women.
Craft a positive mission for the team. There are relatively few women with STEM degrees, so it’s hard to recruit women for technology jobs. But did you know that women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation? They are more likely to work in education or healthcare. Women like to have a higher purpose for their jobs (and of course many men do, too.) Support offers a great opportunity to help customers be more successful, so present the job that way, instead of or in addition to an opportunity to grow one’s technical and troubleshooting skills.
Safety and the women’s bathroom. I don’t mean safety inside the women’s bathroom. I mean that women do care much more than men about safety, and they are also much more likely to visit the women’s bathroom. So a well-lit parking lot, an escort to the car for swing shift, and free tampons in the women’s bathroom matter. The last item is an excellent clue to whether an organization is women-friendly, in my personal experience.
Avoid tokenism. Being the only woman on a team can be lonely. Don’t just hire one woman, hire a bunch. When you create teams, try to have more than one woman on each team. (But don’t put all the women on the same team!)
Hire for talent first. Hiring a woman just because she is a woman is a terrible move. If she is incompetent, you risk convincing the team that all women are incompent. Make sure your hires are qualified.
Target women for recruiting. Tell your recruiters, whether in-house or outside, that you specifically want to consider women candidates. Post jobs with women organizations. Speak at women organizations.
Use women networks. The women already on staff probably know lots of other women. Encourage them to suggest candidates. (Note: men on staff probably know women too, but women are likely to know more women.)
Stop the frat house parties. Few women want to work in a male locker room atmosphere. If all team events take place at the bar, think about a more neutral spot. And some men need a not-too-gentle reminder that their language, behavior, and jokes must change. Sexist behavior, even low-grade, is demeaning.
Assign women for recruiting and interviews. It’s always nice to be able to identify with existing staff members.
Provide visibility, rewards, and advancement opportunities for women. Again, do not promote or recognize women because they are women, but make them more visible. Women often choose roles that are not heroic, and therefore are not as visible or recognized. Be sure to point out contributions that are under the radar, perhaps, but solid.
Are you doing anything to ensure diversity in your team? Please share.