November 22, 2018

Move the Dial: How to hire more women in tech

A key focus at the inaugural Move the Dial Global Summit was how to get more women through the door. Here are the key takeaways and best practices from a panel of leaders including WealthSimple’s Michael Katchen, Wattpad’s Allan Lau, and Capital One Canada’s Jennifer Jackson.

Move the Dial’s mission is to increase participation and leadership of all women in tech. So, it makes sense that a main narrative thread throughout the day at the inaugural Move the Dial Global Summit, held last week in Toronto, was how to hire and retain more women.

A morning panel focused on the former – how companies can get more women through the door. The panel was moderated by Report on Business senior editor Claire Neary, and featured WealthSimple co-founder and CEO Michael Katchen, AutoDesk Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion Daniel Guillory, Wattpad co-founder and CEO Allan Lau, Capital One Canada president Jennifer Jackson, and Conference Board of Canada Director of Inclusive Leadership and Behaviour Design Sarah Reid.

Here are some key takeaways and best practices:

Form long-term relationships

Autodesk’s Guillory talked about the importance of building long-term relationships with different universities as an important part of recruiting diverse talent. He noted that these relationships go beyond the typical on-site recruiting visits, but extend to providing content-driven training to help potential talent learn different software products. This provides extra value to and helps form a connection with potential top talent.

Be transparent with company data

WealthSimple’s Katchen shared that when the robo-advisory company was only 10 employees, it had a 50/50 split between men and women. But since it has grown, the ratio is unbalanced – at 185 employees, it’s a 65/35 split, a slight improvement from the 71/29 split when it was 100 employees.

While the company is making moves to even out the numbers, Katchen said there’s still a way to go. He said to hold the company and senior leadership accountable to its team and to the public, WealthSimple published its data both internally and publicly. This way, it’s “not just a verbal tribute,” he said.

Build more inclusive products

Katchen also shared how organizations can hone their own products to bolster diversity and inclusion. For example, he said that WealthSimple’s client data showed that women aren’t investing as much as men, so the company is working to build a more inclusive product, which in turn could bring in more diverse talent – like product managers who want to work at WealthSimple because they love their product. “We want to build a product that is more inclusive as a front door for the long-term,” Katchen added.

Make purposeful design decisions

“Women are not a homogeneous group,” Reid said, of the need for employers to be thoughtful and aware of intersectionality best practices. She said that the conversation about getting people in the door is really about the signals companies send out to people telling them that they belong – or they don’t.

“The messages we send out are design decisions that say you’re included or excluded. The words we say matter.” She highlighted gendered language – phrases like “coding ninja” or “social media rock star” that increasingly appear in job ads. “Check yourself for gendered language to make sure you’re having a conversation with all possible candidates,” she said.

Understand diversity and inclusion are ongoing, not a “project”

The recruiting numbers don’t tell the whole story when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Wattpad’s Lau said – employers have to look at the whole employee lifecycle, not just the recruiting piece.. He shared some of Wattpad’s current practices – for example, addressing unconscious bias in the interview screening process by removing candidate names, building a gender-neutral bathroom, and using a Slack tool that corrects the phrase, “Hi guys” to “Hi guys and girls,” which he says is powerful from a cultural perspective.

His final piece of advice for senior leaders was to recognize the importance of an committing to diversity and inclusion as a way of being. “Pay attention to all the details – not just the big strategy or budget. Diversity and inclusion is not a project with an end-date – it is never-ending.”

Recognize one size doesn’t fit all

Capital One’s Jackson picked up Reid’s earlier point about intersectionality to emphasize the importance of tailoring strategies and actions. “We make a lot of efforts around gender, but gender and people of color is an intersection that gets lost,” she said.

Encourage leaders to recognize that there are burdens others face, she suggested, and think about how they engage and give back in terms of mentorship and advocacy. And, look at your own company data and how it changes between groups. As two examples, she said that CapitalOne dives deep into its data from the interviewing funnel to better understand where women drop out versus men, and also tailors its recruiting strategies to focus on different subgroups.

Reid added that it’s important for all employers to experiment early and often with their strategies, which in many cases could be more beneficial than building a full-formed program and releasing it to tepid results. Instead of this “waterfall” method, she said, “Try and test.”

Danielle Ng-See-Quan

Dani is the Senior Manager, Content Marketing at Ceridian.

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