How to Hire More Women into Tech: Fish In More Pools

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A tech company executive talks about his effort to bring more female grads into the company, and the young women explain why they chose careers in tech.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Micro Focus, an international software company with more than 1,200 employees, may not sound like the first choice employer for bright-eyed female grads. Selling a successful product that’s nonetheless far from a household name, the company lacks the instant draw of big consumer tech companies, so how did the firm manage to hire nearly 40% women when it recently set out to recruit grads for the sales and business side of things?

David Valentine, VP Product Strategy & Business Development, explains that getting more women into tech companies isn’t just about waiting for more female applicants, but also a matter of getting management to re-examine where they look for candidates:

Can you describe the program you put into place?

We chose to recruit either graduates or recent graduates. These will be mainly based either in Dublin and Troy, Michigan. The intention was to recruit 24 in each location. Given you are a technology company, did you focus on technology graduates?

Essentially no, we decided that recruiting individuals with aptitude to learn our products, the language skills to support specific countries, coupled with the right drive and ambition would be more important. Does that mean you need to teach them all of the technology from scratch?

Yes, we established a 13-week intensive course to do just that. You have over 40% women joining, which is more than average for technology companies. Can you explain why?

I think a few factors are at play here. The first being that we recruited for capability not choice of degree, so we opened ourselves to a greater number of people with more varied backgrounds. Secondly, by providing training and assuming no previous knowledge, we made it easier for a graduate to choose Micro Focus as a career they had not envisioned when choosing their university course. Did you have many candidates apply? How did you screen and select?

We had over 1,000 applicants in each location. We worked with a specialist recruiter to complete the first stage selection and screening using online tools and telephone interviews. For the final selection, candidates were interviewed by our executive team. This gave candidates a unique perspective on the company as they could decide if Micro Focus was right for them after having met all of our executive team. So why did some of the young women taken into this round of recruiting, decide to move into tech? Valentine put us in touch with three of them to get the answers directly: Alexia:  I'm French, I love football, dance and music, fashion, and the IT environment, which can seem to be a strange mix for a young woman. I chose to develop a career in IT because I realized after working in different environments that it was the place where everything moves and evolves really fast. IT is everywhere and my curiosity made me choose this universe to comprehend and fit better the world I am living in.

Another point that made me choose to work in IT is the challenge of integrating into a male universe. I did this before by integrating into the Football French universe (with a lot of pain), so I knew that I could do the same when it comes to IT.

Sian: My mom usually keeps me up to date on all the job offers there are going, and usually misses the mark by a million miles.  I'm no care assistant/chef/personal trainer, and my reaction to the job with Micro Focus was no exception, due to the fact that I have no previous knowledge or experience in IT. However, when she told me that the company was looking for people with foreign language skills, I was intrigued as to how my arts degree was applicable.

Once I had secured the interview I began doing some research and was amazed to see how a company that I had never heard of had such a vast global presence. After that I was even more keen to land the role as travel has always been a passion of mine and a job with a multinational company would surely offer me the chance to scratch this itch. I joined Micro Focus with an open mind and have learnt a vast amount about technology in the short time I have been with the company. Victoria: Currently the IT field is predicted to be one of the biggest professional fields and this is why I relished the opportunity to work for a global software development firm. Throughout the Micro Focus selection process, there was no distinction between male and female with every candidate being treated equally. When I met the executive team they were extremely encouraging, open and welcoming, particularly as a female in what is renowned as a male-dominated sector.

What strategies do you know that other companies are taking to hire more women?

Photo by sfbike / flickr. jessica Jessica Stillman (@entrylevelrebelis an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others.