Why women in tech matter to us
“How to de-bias job ads for Women in Tech & Digital” - This was the title of the workshop I attended at Witty Works GmbH in Zurich. My reasons: I wanted to understand why there are so few women in technology and how I can make a contribution to our team at WONDROUS to improve this situation.
The importance of job ads
Specifically, this morning is about removing the first hurdle that prevents women from applying for jobs in the tech industry.
The tech world is currently dominated by men - in Switzerland only 15% of women work in this sector.
The welcome is sensational - I immediately feel at home in the bright, inviting and open rooms at Witty www.witty.works, the coffee is delicious, the two workshop leaders likable and full of energy. If I feel so welcome here, I am sure that I am definitely dealing with professionals who are working to break down barriers for women in tech. But I am also sure that attractive premises and a warm welcome are not all that's needed - well, I'm here to find out more.
Attractive job ads
My first lesson about the subject: Women read and interpret job offers differently than men. Both the language and content are perceived differently. Indeed, what is attractive for men can even prevent women from applying for the job. Generally speaking, in predominantly male-dominated industries, male language is used.
I learn that many women conclude from this that there are very few or even no women in this company, do not feel they belong or do not find the job offered attractively. My take-away: open your eyes when choosing a word.
Further: Most women are deterred by long job requirement lists: as the statistic shows, they are reluctant to apply if they do not see at least 90% of themselves in the job offer. Men, on the other hand, send applications with a 40% match.
Witty can confirm both points from many conversations with women in tech. This situation is additionally proven by scientific studies (Gaucher, Danielle, Justin Friesen, and Aaron C. Key “Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101.1(2011)).
The impression lasts
The workshop flies by and I am fascinated by the many new findings. On the way back in the train, I decided to look deeper into the subject of diversity - because job advertisements that appeal to women certainly aren't enough.
About the need for women in tech
Of course, I enthusiastically share the news about the workshop with everyone, my family, my team and friends and generally share my enthusiasm for the topic in many places. In fact, the question arises why more women are needed in tech? Why is it so important that more women co-develop and co-work in tech teams? I believe that dealing with this issue strengthens the initiatives.
On the one hand, it is necessary because it is desirable that digital transformation brings advantages for the whole of society so that women also profit from it and don't have to be afraid that they will be worse off in the future due to the change in comparison to now. On top of this, artificial intelligence will create new job profiles, women and men will be expected to have the appropriate skills, be mobile and have technological knowledge. Men with roots in the tech industry still have a head start here.
On the other hand, it is important because women will also use the newly emerging technologies and that is why they should ideally also satisfy the needs of women.
It therefore makes no sense for them to be developed mainly by men without any women involved in co-creation. Examples from the past show that a purely male perspective in product development can even be harmful to women and other user groups - as the example of accident injuries to women and adolescents caused by airbags shows. These were tested exclusively with dummies that had the measurements of an average man…
It is likely that a purely female team would also have made this mistake and created an unsuitable design for men, so it does not make much sense to challenge female teams. Rather it is about promoting women in tech, so that more, or even as much diversity as possible is created with regard to different perspectives, ideas and points of view.
An epic fail
The ePad Femme - "the world's first tablet made exclusively for women" became a flop. In my opinion this failure is a typical example of the lack of women in development.
The "ePad Femme" uses old clichés (instead of role clichés); it is pink, contains pre-installed apps for cooking, pregnancy and weight reduction etc. and was developed by purely male teams. The target group - women - took a very negative view of the product and rejected it - too cliché, not enough quality. The female perspective is not reflected in this product and no consideration is given to the fact that there can be different needs, preferences and levels of knowledge within the target group "women". - This is not only sexist but more than that it is ignorant. One or better ten female perspectives in the team would have definitely helped in the development here…
Obviously, women in tech are needed - but how to attract and keep them?
I am sure by now I have convinced all of you that women in tech are a necessity. And I've learned how to open the door a little with attractive job ads for women, but what else is needed? How can I open the door further and what do we have to do to make women want to stay?
We have to develop a corporate culture in which women are not excluded, because in a male-dominated system, equals like to surround themselves with equals. A culture that is characterized by support, cooperation and care and that is desired and anchored especially in leadership.
Women need role models because role models provide necessary orientation and you can learn from them and be inspired by them. Generations of women grew up with role models that were restricted to the household and raising children. That is why visible women, who represent new models showing that a fulfilling professional life can also play a role, are needed now. We should empower women and help them gain visibility so that they can attract others.
Family and career under one roof
Especially when it comes to reconciling family and working life, women receive support primarily when they are surrounded by female managers and colleagues. Working conditions must be family-friendly as women still make the biggest contribution in this area. If we support women in reconciling the two more easily, we will have gained a lot.
Open door at WONDROUS
To my delight we at WONDROUS have already realized many things:
Our corporate culture is diverse, cooperative and open to women - in the Leadership Team it's already 40% showing that the supporting framework has been created. To increase the proportion of women in other areas as well, we are actively looking for female specialists. And we take direct care of junior staff and offer apprenticeships and internships - we have currently reached 50/50 for trainees.
We also have a few goodies that support women: a further education budget that promotes learning and competence expansion, flexible working hours, part-time work and home office - for more room for family organization. Importantly, there are no salary differences between women and men here.
WONDROUS Women next steps
Nevertheless, our proportion of women is still far too low and we still have a long way to go before we reach our 50/50 target.
That's why we're motivated to work on realizing further ideas such as a women-friendly recruiting process, extended parental leave for mothers and fathers and the promotion of female presence, in which we support our women in becoming visible and, for example, look for more female speakers for our DX Meetup as role models.
I am very grateful for the workshop at Witty and the insights and perspectives gained. It was a morning among active, committed women, very well prepared input on the topic, and an inspiration to delve deeper into the topic. For me it was the starting signal for "Welcome Women@WONDROUS".
About the author
This is Lydia
A smile is my favourite curve.