” If we hired for talent and trained for skills, organisations would have no female talent shortage at all.
There’s a plethora of female tech talent just waiting to be discovered.”
Stephanie Dillon, Founder of Inclusivity Partners and Co-Founder of the Reignite Academy.
It’s an often cited statement that it’s hard to find female talent in the tech industry. I confess, I always find this statement baffling. Instead of a shortage of talent, I believe the industry suffers from a shortage of imagination when it comes to how we define talent and how we go about hiring it.
Firstly, our fixation on the precise experience in the most recent role is doing us no favours. It is excluding hundreds, if not thousands, of highly technical and experienced women. Recruiters glance at a CV for 6 seconds before deciding whether to reject a candidate. This approach does nothing to include those whose careers (and it’s mainly women) have at some stage paused, or taken a step backwards, but who at the present time are able and willing to reignite their careers. The strong belief that still exists that suggests one’s cv must be linear in pattern simply doesn’t work for the majority of women in the UK.
Secondly, there seems to be a fundamental belief that technology in the UK is different to the rest of the world. How we have arrived at this conclusion bewilders me given the propensity of organisations to offshore many technology functions to areas such as India and Poland. This suggests that tech is tech, no matter where in the world you are.
Yet when over-seas candidates arrive to live in the UK, with highly skilled tech backgrounds, they are often met with ‘you don’t have any UK experience’ by traditional recruitment agencies and thus cannot find a way to return to their careers. Indian women who have moved to the UK, in particular, suffer from this experience. Many of them are hugely qualified, both academically and technically, yet struggle to get a phone call with a recruiter let alone an interview with a hiring manager.
Thirdly, the technology industry continues to lose so many women during ‘peak work/life crunch periods’, when they are combining young families with working responsibilities. Lack of access to flexible working patterns and positions less than 5 days a week mean many often make the difficult decision to leave work behind. Most do so with a ‘pause’ in mind, rather than a complete abandonment, yet when the time comes to reignite their passion, they are met with judgements around their career break and applicant tracking systems that don’t find ‘career breaks’ particularly appetising. We can but hope that the one positive out of Covid-19 is that a few dinosaurs have realised just how much can be achieved via home working and are open in the future to more flexible work patterns.
Finally, there’s the concept of talent. Talent is different from skill. Talent is a series of behaviours that means a person will most likely succeed in all they throw themselves into. Behaviours such as drive, determination, curiosity and a growth mindset, the ability to synthesise complex information and deliver back clearly and easily to others, the ability to engage and influence, the ability to learn new things. Yet when organisations look for talent in the marketplace, do they look for this? No, they fixate on the skills.
If we hired for talent and trained for skills, organisations would have no female talent shortage at all. There’s a plethora of female tech talent just waiting to be discovered – but you may need more than six seconds.
You can hear more from Stephanie at the Women in IT Virtual Summit on 2nd July 2020. To find out more and register your free place, please visit www.womeninitsummit.com.