For some time now, technology companies have acknowledged that women are underrepresented in their companies in technology and leadership positions. Both large and small companies in Silicon Valley have publicly announced their intentions to increase the representation of women and minorities in their ranks, yet not much progress has been made. Katharine Zaleski, the cofounder of a company that helps clients diversify their workforces, writes in the New York Times that a big part of the solution could come from making changes in the interview process. She maintains that often well-intentioned, but clueless, men send clear messages to women during the interview process that they are not welcome or valued. But sometimes these interviewers are not well-intentioned. In one example, Zaleski set up an interview with a tech company for an African American woman software engineer. Zaleski recounts, “after meeting with the hiring panel, she [the applicant] withdrew her application, telling us she felt demeaned by the all-white male group that failed to ask her any questions about her coding skills.” In fact, one of the men told her that because she wasn’t a “cultural fit,” there was no need to proceed with technical questions. But what does it mean to be a “cultural fit?” Zaleski suggests that the template for “fit” is based on young white men. What can companies do to be successful in hiring diverse candidates? Zaleski offers these tips:
- Include women in the hiring process by intentionally forming diverse interview panels.
- Make current female employees available to speak to candidates about their experience in the company.
- Make themselves appealing to female candidates by telling them not only about their ping pong tables and retreats but also about their parental leave policies, childcare programs, and breast-pumping rooms. Emphasizing these policies demonstrates that the company has a culture that values and includes women.
- Hold webinars for potential candidates led by female employees who talk about how the organization is working to become more inclusive. There is a lot of negative press about tech companies that makes women skeptical about whether they will be valued, and companies need to address these concerns directly.