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TechTalent Charter: Better data will help the women in IT cause

Recruitment agency Monster is launching a TechTalent Charter to encourage diversity in the IT industry through widespread adoption of best practice

Recruitment agency Monster is launching a charter for the IT industry to guide organisations in making changes to encourage women and minority groups into the sector.

The recruitment firm has developed the so-called TechTalent Charter to encourage participation from firms and individuals to discuss the women in technology agenda and take action to improve the situation.

Ahead of the launch, a steering group discussed the commitments the charter will ask its members to adhere to and how these will help the industry move forward.

As part of the initiative, partner organisation CodeFirst: Girls wants to invite a research company on-board to encourage members of the charter to collect anonymous data, which can then be shared confidentially across the member groups.

“Part of the issue is we don’t know how much of an issue it is,” said Amali de Alwis, chief executive of CodeFirst: Girls.

“Let’s see if we can find a way to look at numbers in a consistent fashion and get some true figures around not just women in tech, but around software developers. How many are women, how many are men, how many are from different backgrounds.”

Read more about women in the IT industry

  • Network for women, Girls in Tech, has launched a mentoring programme to help selected women to learn entrepreneurial skills.
  • The Society of Information Technology Management has launched a women in IT network. 

This will give organisations the opportunity to compare their own progress with the wider industry, and also act as a baseline to measure progress.  

“If we want to be able to change, we need to be able to measure the change. What gets measured gets done,” said de Alwis.

Driving diversity in the IT industry

This is only one of the ideas surrounding the TechTalent Charter. Members will also be expected to commit to implementing several initiatives to facilitate change, such as appointing internal responsibility for the cause, helping to support the IT talent pipeline, encouraging the adoption of diversity best practice and implementing the Rooney Rule.

The Rooney Rule is based on an American NFL concept whereby teams have to interview at least one minority candidate to encourage diversity in teams.

But Debbie Forster, co-CEO of Apps for Good, said this is not about tokenism, but rather a method that ensure people who have the talent but may not have otherwise been interviewed get a chance.

By encouraging employers to ask for women to be put forward, recruiters will cast their net for candidates wider, sparking a change from both sides.

“It is something that will change behaviour,” said Forster. “We focus on women, but when you focus on women you get other kinds of men too.”

Filling the skills gap

Many of the steering group members agreed that some initiatives already in place do not put enough emphasis on action, and therefore things do not move quickly enough.

The skills gap in the IT industry continues to leave employers with unfilled jobs and, as pointed out by Forster, the industry is currently facing a 15- to 20-year shortage in the skills pipeline to fill these jobs.

“We have so many jobs to fill that we can’t ignore 50% of the population. Commercially, we’ll be a more successful nation and will deliver more products which are fit for purpose,” said Monster’s Sinead Bunting.

The charter will aim to resolve the lack of women in IT from three angles, beginning with the recruitment process to get more women applying and being considered for jobs, then focusing on the number of girls studying science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects and, finally, looking at retention of women in the industry.

We have so many jobs to fill that we can’t ignore 50% of the population
Sinead Bunting, Monster

“This isn’t about women taking jobs from men, we need these jobs filled,” said Bunting.

The launch will see people sign up to contribute ideas to build a code of best practice in November 2015, and then in mid-2016 members will be challenged to put these suggestions into practice and display affirmative change.

 “We’ve all been in those meetings where people talk about it and we’ve been frustrated there’s no action,” said Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of Stemettes.

“This time we need to push a little bit harder and make sure we’re holding people accountable for what they’re doing; make sure that they know what is expected of them.”

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I may be less qualified to answer this due to differing gender, but one area that I have noticed is that many women and those of different backgrounds than the stereotypical white male tech geek place a level of "over-competence" on themselves.

If there are ten requirements for a job, the "typical techie" may find themselves competent in four of them, passable in three, and totally un-equipped in three more. They will roll the dice and say "Why not? Let's see what will happens!". By contrast, those outside of the "typical techie" stereotype tend to hold back on these opportunities, applying only if they feel they are competent in the high majority of areas, or all of them.

It's to simplistic an answer to say "take more chances, gamble a little" since the built in advantage of familiarity and already being part of the club allows people like me that margin to feel and act that way. No question, I'm the beneficiary of the good old boys club, whether I like it or not. When we get to the point where those not of the typical "old guard" feel they'll get a fair shake at the same level, then we may see some progress.

Sadly, it seems we can accept median/mediocre performance from the typical candidates, expecting them to rise to the occasion, but we expect exceptional ability for everyone else. Let's fix *that*, and maybe we will have better parity going forward.   
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That's true Michael, women do seem in general to be less willing to put themselves out there and take risks.

I definitely applied for positions for which I didn't meet all of the wish list criteria, but I was still brought in for interviews. I was told by one hiring manager that if they didn't think that I could do the job, they wouldn't have brought me in. I always keep that in mind any time that I'm not feeling so confident and questioning myself.
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