Four ways companies avoid hiring women IT workers

There are still organizations that don't feel they need diversity in their IT staff. Here's tongue-in-cheek advice for companies that don't want to attract women, and practical, real advice for companies that do.

Are you the head of a tech company with a now-traditional “boys will be boys” culture? Does it concern you that Uber’s aggressive, anything goes, winner-takes-all culture may have resulted in the eventual resignation of its CEO? Is your HR department hinting that getting a few women in the office may actually be a good idea for both your company and your clients?

You’re not alone. Sure, it’s been difficult to avoid the wealth of articles touting the idea of diversifying your IT staff. According to research from journals such as the Harvard Business Review, teams that include women and people from diverse backgrounds are actually good for businesses; those organizations are more careful about decisions, more innovative, and more conscious of what their customer base may need. And a 2015 McKinsey & Co. report, "Diversity Matters," found that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

However, you may still feel that bringing in IT talent from a variety of backgrounds—and both genders—isn’t really, well, necessary. Perhaps you are comfortable hanging out with people who look, think, and act the same. Perhaps you think, as did the writer of that now-infamous Google screed, that women are by nature unsuited to IT work. (In other words, girls have cooties.) Or perhaps you simply want to maintain the fun, anything goes, Peter Pan atmosphere aspect of your workplace. After all, aren’t ping-pong tables and nights out at bars more important than a businesslike atmosphere and family leave?

Well, take heart: There is a way to have your foosball and eat—sorry, play—it too. It is possible for a company to act as though it's dedicated to diversifying its staff while making sure that things stay just the way they are. These four tips can help companies that want to look like they’re trying to hire and keep female employees—without actually having to do so.

And perhaps this information can help companies truly looking to change their culture so they can find and retain the best employees they can.

1. Pitch your ads and websites toward the kind of people you really want to attract.

You don’t want the workplace to just be a place to work. You want it to be a place for people without lives outside their laptop screens to do fun things like play Skee-Ball, have access to all the free beer they want, and make sure everybody knows how incredibly smart they are. One good way to attract those types of employees is by writing job ads that call for “rock stars,” “people who like to work and play hard,” and “dedicated coders who will stay up all hours when necessary.” Prospective hires who have families, or friends, or interests outside the workplace—in other words, adults—will know to steer clear.

When Ari Rapkin Blenkhorn, a graphics software engineer, researches prospective workplaces, she knows what to avoid. “I look at their website. I see more photos of young-single-folks kind of events than of anything core to the job,” she says. “I'm glad you have a foosball table and weekly volleyball games for those who desire them, but let's focus on the stuff that you're actually hiring me to do. If they're going to show me social photos, I want to see a broad range of employees in a broad range of activities.”

2. Make sure no women—or just one woman at most—take part in the interview process.

For the past few years, there have been reports that interviewers are not necessarily objective when it comes to judging job applicants, among those a study from Corinne Moss-Racusin, who examined subtle biases by faculty recruiting for science positions. So a good way to make sure you avoid attracting a diverse staff is to not have any women on the team doing the job interviews. If you want to make it look as though you’re going to be fair and objective in your job interview process, you can always draft your only female IT employee.

“Some companies may bring in a 'token' woman to the interview to make it seem as if she’s on the team,” explains Arbell Noach, director of employer branding for PowerToFly, a diversity hiring platform. “While it’s certainly nice to know a company is making an effort to make you feel comfortable, it’s OK to ask questions about how many other women can be found on your team and what the company’s culture is like.” If staff sidestep these questions, it may be a sign that this is a company to avoid.

3. Maintain a culture that emphasizes long hours over effectiveness, and male bonding rituals over inclusiveness.

It’s become a well-known trope: The startup hires a bunch of 20-somethings for long hours of coding in return for perks such as food, booze, and game rooms. Women who “don’t get it” are free to leave. And they do.

IT worker Jessica Rather is familiar with that atmosphere. She remembers a previous job where “the guys had all sorts of inappropriate things on their desks. They would watch and share videos that should not have been shared in any work environment. The team leads and managers weren't any better, so no one bothered to complain.” She didn’t stay.

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However, the tide may be turning. Jennifer Doskow is principal recruiter for Edge Connection, a national sales recruiting firm. She sees a possible shift happening in Silicon Valley. “The old culture in Silicon Valley was to get everyone in the office and create a culture where people never want to leave,” says Doskow. “But there comes a point where people want more than drinking, games, and ping pong. The people who were in technology when it was really hot, they loved those perks, but now they're married and have kids.”

Doskow adds, “My two newest SaaS clients aren't offering booze, ping pong, gongs, kegs of Red Bull, or live bands on Fridays. Instead, they are hiring really smart sales professionals who want to work hard, set their own schedules, and go home to their families instead of the bars.”

4. Don’t do anything to change your business culture in order to recruit new talent.

Companies that really want to attract a diverse staff can do it, according to Sherice Avant, account manager for Women Who Code, which offers resources for women in IT such as job boards, free technical events, scholarship opportunities, and events where companies and potential recruits can meet. “There are a lot of things you can do,” she says. “All aspects of your culture are important. Look at your benefits, your flexibility, whether you offer paid leave. What are your teams like? Do people have opportunities to give feedback? And an opportunity to work remotely is important in tech today for anyone—not just women—who has a busy schedule.”

There are even organizations out there whose main business is to advise companies on the appropriate way to diversify their staff.

But don’t worry. You can, if you want, remain old-fashioned and emphasize play over productivity. Just don’t be surprised if your employees—especially the women—don’t stick around once they hit the grand old age of 30.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.