With growing evidence that diverse and inclusive teams are more financially successful, businesses are increasingly investing in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I). Whilst attracting candidates from a variety of backgrounds is a challenge for many industries, IT departments across sectors are in particular struggling to recruit different types of applicants.
IT departments have traditionally been under-representative of society as a whole and the rest of their businesses. Recent research from Women in Digital and the Woman Tech Network shows that despite making up half the population, only 17% of ICT specialists in Europe are women. Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals account for 18% of tech roles in the UK, and this number has only grown by 2% over the last five years.
Here are seven ways that tech leaders can engage and recruit diverse IT staff.
How to Attract Diverse Candidates into Tech Jobs
1. Understand Barriers to Diverse Talent – Feedback from Existing Workforce
Whilst 34% of STEM graduates are women, only half of these women go on to have careers in the technology sector. The discrepancies between the numbers of minority groups who work in their chosen field of study and their peers' evidence that people from all backgrounds are interested in tech careers – and have the ability to obtain technical degrees – but leave the sector due to various barriers.
Common Diversity & Inclusion barriers include a lack of role models at a senior level, underrepresentation at all levels, lack of D&I awareness or support from management, unwelcoming cultures, bullying and negative experiences with colleagues. However, the best way to attract diverse IT staff into your company is to understand your own company culture and the experiences of the diverse IT staff who already work there. Conduct anonymous surveys, speak face-to-face and ask for manager feedback on what female, BAME, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) and IT professionals with disabilities think and feel about their work.
Ask your employees how they would describe the culture as a whole, what they most value about the company and their job, and which aspects of their job make their work most difficult. Question them on their positive and negative experiences at work and during their hiring process, and what they would do to make the company more engaging to minority groups. Not only will this information help to improve your offering as an employer, but will also help to improve the working lives and career path of your existing diverse talent, serving to better engage, retain and develop them.
2. Build a Positive Employer Brand
Creating a positive image of your company in the eyes of the talent you want to attract will significantly improve applications from these groups. When your HR departments and managerial teams have implemented improvements based on feedback from diverse employees, use these initiatives to promote your inclusiveness. Shout about the actions your company is taking to improve D&I and communicate across the specific channels that your audience is already engaged with. For example, do your ideal candidates use certain social media channels, are they active in online publications or networking groups, or do they attend particular events or webinar series?
Place your diverse employees at the heart of your brand promotion. Promote the achievements of your female, BAME, LGBT and disabled workforces on your website, social media and these external channels to cement your company as a diversity champion. Play an active role in external online networking groups to understand the policies and brand values that appeal to diverse tech professionals and incorporate these into your employer's brand strategy.
3. Revamp Hiring Strategies
Many companies have used the dramatic changes delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic to take a step back and analyse their organisation. Assess the likely success of your current hiring strategy by looking at it from your candidate’s point of view. What kind of person are you trying to attract to your roles, and how are you conveying that you would be an ideal employer? Are you communicating your employer brand and proposition positively and consistently across job adverts, interviews, follow-up conversations and the onboarding process?
Even for large global household name brands, job adverts are usually the first impression a candidate will have of your organisation, at least from a jobseeking perspective. The language of a job advert is incredibly powerful in attracting candidates from minority groups, and both specific requirements and individual words used can make all the difference. Words focused on ‘ambition’, ‘competition’ and ‘aggression’ are perceived by jobseekers as ‘masculine’ qualities, which deter female applicants, and words about ‘commitment’ and ‘communication’ are seen to appeal more to women.
Female IT professionals are also historically more likely to apply only for jobs they believe they are fully qualified for, whereas male candidates will be more confident in their abilities to stretch themselves in a new role, evidencing the importance of specific requirements. Using the right language in job adverts has been proven to increase the number of applications from female candidates by up to 500%.
Social mobility is often overlooked but can provide a powerful new approach to recruiting from diverse backgrounds. Groups who are excluded from society and those from socioeconomically disadvantaged households are more likely to face challenges in the first stage of their careers. Apprenticeships can eliminate the barriers of expensive degree qualifications and help younger people who need to provide for their families.
Because Apprenticeships offer a paying salary from day one, without requiring financial commitment or several years’ investment if the Apprentice decides it’s not for them, this entry to the workforce can help encourage minority groups who may hold negative perceptions of working in tech. Apprenticeships can be vital to unlocking the next generation of tech specialists who are also carers or working parents and can help older individuals from all backgrounds transition to a new vocation without financial penalty.
4. Overhaul Pay & Benefits Package
On average, women in the ICT sector earn 19% less than their male colleagues. Alongside the lack of visible career opportunities caused by fewer role models, tech pay and benefits make IT less attractive to women than other sectors. Business leaders can create an advantage for their employer brand by implementing transparent pay structures, committing to equal pay measures and developing pay and career review systems based on SMART goals as well as manager feedback.
A 2021 benefits review can help companies enhance their offering to diverse IT candidates. Flexible and home working options can be incredibly helpful to working mothers and those with disabilities and access requirements.
Make referrals a core part of your benefits package. Whilst every successful referral will be an additional cost, the investment involved in advertising alone is likely to far outweigh referral fees. Diverse employees will be best placed to engage other diverse talent and promote your business’ employer offering in a way that appeals to them. Referrals are, therefore, more likely to present as a cultural fit and have a better understanding of the role available and their suitability to the job and the company.
5. Role Models & Career Progression
Diverse career progression is much slower, despite diverse individuals often possessing higher levels of education and experience. In 2019, only 9% of BAME IT specialists were at the director level, with 32% of BAME IT specialists working as managers or team leaders, compared to 43% of white IT professionals. The level of career success is not necessarily reflected by ability: 85% of BAME IT professionals hold a degree or higher education qualifications, compared to only 66% of their white peers.
A lack of role models is a circular problem: it is more difficult to get minority groups off the career ladder if there are no real-life examples they can aspire to. Concerted efforts to engage in the career goals and development needs of female, BAME, LGBT and disabled tech employees can help them tailor their professional development plans to their own specific situations and the challenges they face. One-to-one support from diverse mentors can provide role models and help diverse IT professionals build confidence, identify barriers and provide what they need to become the senior diverse leaders we need.
Unconscious bias is also at play in hiring and promotion opportunities. Whilst the majority of individuals and managers would not actively discriminate against applicants based on race or gender, managers are unconsciously most likely to hire someone who reflects their own image, background and personality. Unconscious biased training at all levels can help managers question and better understand their own approach to hiring and tailor both their expectations and assessment criteria to accurately reflect employee performance across demographics.
6. Partner with Diverse Initiatives & Organisations
Organisations can enhance their employer brand and reach much larger audiences of diverse talent by aligning their company with existing diversity initiatives. Public involvement in online and physical events also demonstrates your company’s commitment to diversity and positions your organisation as welcoming and inclusive. Celebrating national and international initiatives such as LGBT History Month, Black History Month, and Disability Awareness Day makes your organisation more visible to individuals who are involved in and affected by these initiatives.
Attending, speaking at and sponsoring events such as Women in STEM can help leaders speak directly to and meet with captive audiences of potential talent. Publicly placing your company’s support for a cause demonstrates that your business is truly invested in helping minority groups, adds credibility to your brand, and positively aligns your business alongside this cause in the minds of its audience. Supporting one minority group, such as BAME tech professionals, will also improve your brand image in the eyes of other minority groups.
7. Partner with Diverse Recruitment Agencies
A recruitment agency staffed by diverse recruiters will be far more effective at engaging diverse talent. Templeton & Partners are international and diverse at our heart: in the male-dominated recruitment industry, our team is 65% female, and our Founder and MD Nadeem Ahmad is BAME himself.
Our international teams – 55% of our staff originate from abroad, meaning we collectively speak 25 languages – can engage skilled tech professionals in their own language, on their own terms, and support them in their every need.
Find out more about our diverse recruitment services.