How scaling companies can nurture female employees

8 March 2021

We’re in the middle of a tech skills shortage. Across the world, employers ranging from tech startups and scaleups to larger, established names are fighting for the brightest tech talent on the market to help them embrace the demands of the digital era. In a survey by The Tech Partnership, nearly 75% of large tech companies and 49% of smaller businesses admitted to a divide between the skills needed and their existing staff. It’s estimated that British companies alone are collectively losing £63 billion every year because of a lack of digital skills and expertise, and this is a problem that spans the entire globe.

Another issue that many tech businesses face is the gender imbalance, with women accounting for less than a fifth of the UK IT workforce. Could these two issues come together to create a solution? It’s thought that women could be the answer to fixing the tech skills gap once and for all.

What employers need to remember, though, is that building a diverse and inclusive workplace goes far beyond hiring. If fixing the tech industries diversity problem was as simple as hiring more women; then the issue would have been resolved a long time ago. Instead, it’s an issue of attracting women to an industry where there is little representation and retaining female tech talent in male-dominated businesses. It’s not that women don’t want to work in tech roles but feel it’s harder for them to succeed; this is why it’s becoming even more vital that female employees working in the STEM sector feel supported., nurtured and encouraged to grow.

Tech businesses must work to create equal workspaces so that women in tech can become the role models of tomorrow and close this gender skills gap once and for all. In return, they’ll receive passionate and dedicated tech talent in a time where competition is highest.

This International Women’s Day, we’re looking at how tech businesses can support their female employees, improve retention rates and pave the way for future hires.

Provide Opportunities

Hiring is an excellent solution to improving diversity, but employers cannot simply rely on having these names on their payroll to become a diverse organisation. Many people have written about the need to get more women involved in tech, us included, but the truth is the first step to attracting and retaining female tech talent is making them feel supported and not just as though they’re being hired to fill a diversity quota. Instead, talent from all backgrounds and genders must be nurtured, providing opportunities for development and progression. All employees should feel like opportunities for promotion are accessible regardless of their differences; the same goes for chances to learn new skills and improve their offering. This will enhance your employer brand and position you as a caring employer.

You also need to ensure that employees needs are met where possible and their voices are heard, so they feel a part of your organisation. This may mean having a more flexible attitude to work to accommodate care responsibilities or updating both maternity and paternity packages. However, most importantly, it’s about creating a company culture where all employees feel comfortable to voice their concerns. Allowing employees to contribute to your EVP development will positively impact your employer brand, building a committed and loyal tech workforce who value you as an employer.

Give chances to develop skills

Over 12 months have not only accelerated demand for tech roles but have motivated many employees from a range of industries to retrain and reskill. Meaning that soon, there will be more people than ever embracing careers in tech. With more employees wanting to upskill, it’s the perfect chance for employers to offer their female team members opportunities to develop new tech skills, whether it’s coding, digital marketing or online sales. Offer these chances to female employees in your tech business, and they’ll feel just as valued as their male counterparts; it’s great for employees to know they can contribute to the company. It’s easy to think that tech roles mean coding and coding alone, which means it’s also easy to say you don’t need a developer right now or can’t find a suitable female coder. However, upskilling in a range of digital skills will help your female employees improve their career prospects while also expanding your business skillset.

Think small benefits

Ever heard the expression, the little things mean a lot? Well, in the case of nurturing talent, they do. The smaller aspects of your business that you may take for granted could make all of the difference to female tech talent. Say you offer childcare vouchers or let them leave earlier on days where they have to pick up their kids from school; these could improve their work-life balance and mean a lot to working mums. These things may have become standard in your business, but you must show them in your employer brand communications and make them clear at the interview stage as they could be the little perks that set you apart from your competitors.

If you currently don’t have any small perks in place, conduct some research. Talk to your employees or external focus groups about what smaller elements could make your workplace better, and no unlimited holidays or a fridge full of beer don’t count. These benefits are all about making life easier and more manageable for employees, especially females, who may have other commitments. It shows you support their lifestyle outside of the business and make sacrifices to stick with the company.

Mentor them to become leaders of tomorrow

One of the most talked-about hurdles to attracting women in tech in the lack of female role models and STEM industry leaders. Again, this is not a problem that can be solved overnight; it’s hard enough to hire senior tech roles right now, never mind trying to find females who have the necessary skills, experience, and cultural fit. In scaling businesses, especially, senior hires hold a lot of influence and responsibility, which means that promoting just to meet diversity quotas could halt business growth. However, what leaders can do is provide opportunities for female tech talent to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Through mentoring schemes and courses in soft skills and management, you can ensure your business will have a more diverse leadership team in time if it’s not possible instantly. This level of commitment to employees of all backgrounds will build employee loyalty and positively reinforce your employer brand. If female employees (and others) can see a future in your business and feel you believe in their potential, they’re far more likely to grow with you.

Show the pandemic doesn’t define them

While tech talent has been one of the groups least affected by COVID-19, in fact, it could have worked in favour of many; research proves that female employees have seen a considerable impact on their career prospects in recent months. Research has revealed that women were more likely to be put on furlough or face redundancy over the last year. These statistics act as a reminder that women are still having to adjust, adapt and build upon skills they already have to stay ahead and prove themselves in a heavily competitive work landscape. The tech industry is no exception. 

On top of this, 57% of women believe that managing childcare during COVID-19 has hindered their career prospects. When attempting to find balance, a staggering 78% of working mums have found it challenging to manage their careers and childcare, with employers showing no flexibility.

To really promote equality this International Women’s Day, tech businesses must show women that they are valued members of the team and consider their needs. The last 12 months have been tough for companies, but employers must make their intentions clear for the future of work and how they will help employees. They must also make it clear that team members who were furloughed and may feel less valued as a result are still very much part of the team upon welcoming them back. Show the vital role that female employees play in your organisation and men and give them confidence in the future of their career. This reassurance is sure to boost your employer brand and help your female employees go into a new era of work.

At Talent Works, we are committed to helping tech organisations scale, and this often means helping them to attract and retain talent outside of their stereotypical candidate pool. We recently wrote about how digital attraction can attract more women to tech roles and are experts in crafting employer brand messages that connect with segmented audiences of talent.

If you’d like to learn more about our agile talent attraction services and flexible approach to RPO, get in touch with our team and let’s start a conversation about how we can help you.

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