Despite the increased focus on women’s inclusion in the technology industry, many organizations continue to face challenges in increasing the number of women they employ. It’s 2022 and the labour market gaps between genders – regarding salaries, growth paths, and managerial positions – are still staggering.
About four years ago, my company set a goal to increase the number of women in technological roles. Our data back then showed that 20% of our Israeli-based team were women, and there were very few female candidates in our talent pipeline. In collaboration with Power in Diversity, an initiative strengthening the Israeli Start-Up Nation through diversity and inclusion, we identified the gaps, set objectives, received professional training, fostered collaborations with social organizations that promote diversity in the workplace, and more.
Today more than 50% of our employees in technological-based roles in Tel Aviv are women - an extraordinary achievement we reached due to long-term planning and perseverance.
So, how do you embark on such a process?
The first and most important step is to recognize that there is a gap, to understand that the responsibility to close this existing gap lies with the company’s management team, and to commit to a journey of change backed by meaningful results.
Owning the gap
While this may seem like a seemingly unimportant step, it’s absolutely crucial in order to kickstart the change you wish to see. It is common to hear sentences like: "We recruit those who are suitable,” “There are simply no women who submit resumes,” or “The women applicants that we had, weren’t qualified." When we take a step back, we see that the responsibility to expand the candidate pool through targeted actions lies with us. It might mean appealing to wider audiences, working with organizations that specialize in diversity, retraining interviewers and using sourcing methods that contain more diverse candidate pipelines.
The responsibility for success is not only dependent on the People & Culture team but also managers. The commitment should start from the CEO and senior leadership and include all managerial levels. Leaders must understand candidate data for their area of specialization, and how that affects the talent pool and hiring process. They must encourage open conversations with diverse populations and listen intently. From there, we must commit to leading the change we wish to see by acknowledging the biases and becoming intentional, inclusive leaders.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core company value
Company values are the set of guiding principles and fundamental beliefs that guide employee behaviours. Once committed to change, management must incorporate this commitment into the company’s values. One way to do it is to create quarterly action plans that promote the new value, i.e., diversity. At my place of work, “Commit to Diversity and Inclusion” is one of our six core values. Once a quarter we present our progress to the entire company, including data and results.
This is a controversial step as it sometimes intertwines with the fear that some people will be recruited simply to meet the company's diversity goals and not because they are truly the most suitable candidates. This perception should be addressed and managed. The goals enable you to be transparent about the gaps, the progress and success, however, compromising on hiring the most qualified talent is not an option. That said, without these goals in place, managers may continue to use tried and true recruiting methods, which may not lead to diverse pipelines. Whereas managers are more likely to seek new and differentiated approaches to finding diverse candidates with this framework in mind. To ensure we are opening the door to candidates from all backgrounds we have decided that at least 50% of candidates who are interviewed per position should be from underrepresented backgrounds.
Planning with experts
We collaborated with the Power in Diversity. They helped us run employee focus groups and conversations with management, and together we formulated a plan for diversity and inclusion that matched our readiness for change. For example, we noticed a severe lack of women in front-end developer roles. Thus, we established “Next Engineering Generation”, a three-month internal training program meant to bring more women into the candidate pipeline for this role. Today all the 15 graduates of two programs are among our leading developers.
Partnership and involvement
We established an internal Global DEI Board led by the People & Culture team. It includes employees across all our brands, departments, and global offices who find it important to contribute to change and who help us stay accountable and connected. The DEI Board allows us to have open and honest conversations about difficult topics around diversity and to receive different opinions, which enables us to make the best decisions for our company
Follow-up and transparency
Another parameter for success is follow-up by the CEO, CPO and the entire management team while being transparent to the organization. For example, our CEO and I deliver a quarterly presentation to the entire company as well as investors where we report on our diversity goals and progress.
Moving from diversity to inclusion
If we don't know how to accommodate different groups, the change won’t be meaningful or lasting. An example of this is how we handle gender discrimination. In our content business, women often face gender-related criticisms on social media when it comes to their sports reporting. As we’ve increased the number of women on our sports content teams, we need to make sure we are committed to supporting the women content writers internally and externally. Another example is an advanced Parental Leave practice we introduced to support mothers and fathers during the first year after childbirth and beyond.
Managing objections with empathy
This is a journey. At every stage, there might be objections from managers, employees, and diverse populations. It is important to remember this is a long, continuous process where things must be discussed openly. Frankly, I'm glad when objections arise, because it means that people feel comfortable sharing their honest feelings which is the only way to grow and evolve.
Change doesn’t happen in one day. To succeed, a can-do attitude, passion, and perseverance are key. Once we turn differences into uniting factors (as opposed to biases), research shows that diverse groups are poised to be more successful in the long run. We all come with a different story, and with that comes different perspectives, ideas, and views. I firmly believe that we all can benefit from an inclusive culture where these differences are embraced.
Written by Liat Shahar, CPO at Minute Media