Building on the findings in this report there are a number things you can do as a founder to ensure that the future tech workforce is more inclusive and diverse.
Of those young people who wanted a career in tech, 70% were young men, and only 30% young women. The perception that tech is a less viable career option for young women must be addressed, as an employer, this should start with recruitment culture. To reduce gender bias in your recruitment processes, you can:
- Use gender neutral language to advertise tech vacancies. The use of particular words and phrases will have an impact on whether men or women feel able, or qualified to apply for a job – for example, Gaucher et al.’s analysis shows that company use of language reinforces gender inequality.
Companies should therefore use tools to assess and eliminate gender bias, a good first step is to understand what extent the advertisements that are currently being used include gender coding. Matfield’s Gender Decoder for Job Ads (which uses Gaucher et al.’s research) informs the user whether the ad that is pasted into the text box is masculine, or feminine coded.
- Ensure that tech jobs are advertised in places that men and women are equally likely to see. Some publications, particularly tech publications, have a predominantly male readership and tailor content to appeal to this demographic – therefore vacancies that are exclusively advertised in these publications serve to reinforce a gender bias in potential applicants. Employers should not only look at the content within their job advertisements to eliminate gender bias, but also ensure that the location of their job advertisements are conducive to a gender equal readership.
- Be clear on your company culture, and tell people about it. In most cases, people will have strong preferences for working at a company based on their pre-conceptions of that organisation, informed by what they see of the company in public spheres, like the media, and from friends and family. As such, companies should be open and transparent about issues like pay, culture and equal opportunities.
Young people feel most strongly about work life balance, 51% suggested this career factor is Very important. As a tech employer, here are three practical steps that you could take to facilitate a company culture conducive to a fulfilling employee experience:
- ‘20% time’ – Google’s much lauded, but seldom replicated freedom to innovate has led to the creation of many new products and services, in your company, you may want to experiment with the allocation of innovation time – perhaps beginning at 10% of the working week. Piloting to understand the benefits of an initiative like this should encompass both firm level performance benefits, but critically focus on individuals – this should be about creating a culture – the spillovers of which will be captured in the learnings and outputs of the people that work with you.
- Set up a social committee – social activities can be usefully integrated into working life, there is ample evidence on the productivity benefits of doing this (take Khavis and Khrishnan’s study on accountants, for example), but there is also research that suggests the positive wellbeing impacts for employees aligns people with the company they work for – a secondary impact of social activity at work (for instance, Medina-Garrido et al.’s study on the Spanish Banking sector finds that mechanisms to promote a work-family balance have a positive impact on wellbeing, and productivity spillovers effect for the company).
- Adopt flexible working – this might encompass a whole range of activities, that could be customised, based on the culture and needs of your company. It may include remote (out of office) working, flexible time, shift swaps, career breaks, compressed hours – the list goes on. But in many cases, what makes this type of working effective, is a blend of appropriate technology to enable staff to stay connected, and a culture that means wherever and whenever someone is working, they are able to enjoy the same working experience as other colleagues, and capitalise on the benefits that flexibility might yield.
65% of young people felt that work experience was crucial to getting their first job. To offer work experience opportunities that everyone can be involved in, you can:
- Work with a local school or charity to raise awareness about you work experience opportunities: relying on existing networks and word-of-mouth information on opportunities at your company means groups outside existing networks never hear of opportunities.
- Be flexible when considering qualifying criteria: broaden your search for a prospective work experience candidate, and try not to apply a high bar based on educational attainment, grades or existing work experience. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggest that young people offer new ideas and ways of thinking, reflecting the interests and needs of the next generation of customers and consumers – consider that an inclusive hiring strategy will develop diversity, and could augment your business.
- Be proactive and reach out to young people: consider reaching out to young people in ways that are meaningful to them, to garner positive engagement with your company.This might include attending careers fairs, open evenings and school events, as well as convening school, college or university careers discussions which will give you the chance to talk about the positive attributes of tech careers, and working for your business.
John Fagan, Founder, Sync the City
Sync the City is a 54-hour event that brings together entrepreneurs, developers, business managers, marketing gurus, graphic artists, and students...We set it up because we wanted local companies, organisations and universities to come together and build something from nothing, for fun or profit! Put your money where your mouth is, and start shipping...The biggest tangible outcome is people get jobs. What better job interview could you have? I often see the event appearing on graduate CV's. We have a couple of companies (Senlab & Prison Voicemail) that span out of the event by pivoting their initial idea.
These findings point to the need for action – driving better information, recruitment processes, and transparent company cultures. The benefits of an inclusive tech economy and diverse workplaces cannot be overstated. The UK tech community has a responsibility to young people, after all, these people are our future talent.