There is undeniably a diversity challenge in software engineering, despite movements over the past few years bringing diversity and inclusion into everyday workplace conversations. Workable defines diversity as “the existence of variations of different characteristics in a group of people. These characteristics could be everything that makes us unique, such as our cognitive skills and personality traits, along with the things that shape our identity (e.g. race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, cultural background).”
- In engineering as a whole, women make up just 12% of the engineering workforce, and those from minority ethnic backgrounds, 9%.
- Almost 30% of people aged between 13 and 23 who identify as LBGTQ+ have chosen to avoid a technology career.
- 77% of tech director roles are fulfilled by men, and 23% by women. In the wider economy, 71% of directors are men, and 29% are women.
- Less than one in five UK technology workers is a woman or from a BAME background. One in five is over 50, and only one in 10 has a disability.
- In the UK tech sector, over a third of board members and 31% of senior executives in the top tech firms attended private schools, compared to 7% of the wider population
Why does it matter?
One of the greatest skills that software engineers possess is the ability to problem-solve. By creating diversity in your software engineering team, you’re bringing in different ways of thinking. People’s ideas are shaped by their education, lifestyle and culture. By bringing in different ideas, this can help to solve problems in a way that if 5 engineers the same age, who all studied at the same university, may not be able to do.
Studies have shown that a more diverse workforce can help the bottom line. One study found that companies with diverse leadership are more innovative, and deliver 19 percent higher revenues than those companies with monolithic workforces. For example, even when looking for jobs, Glassdoor has reported that two-thirds of respondents state that diversity is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Companies leading the way include Monzo and Facebook. By publishing data on their own diversity metrics, they are showcasing what a forward-thinking, inclusive company should look like. This is just one of the many reasons people want to work there.
But what do we do about it?
1. Build your own talent pool
One thing you can do whether you’re a startup or a large corporation is to actively outreach and engage with diverse candidates. You’re unlikely to attract a variety of candidates by putting a job description on one channel. Using a variety of channels can help you attract as many people as possible.
2. Showcase diversity
If this is something your company is actively engaging with, shout about it. Whether you sponsor and participate in minority group events, or offer referral bonuses for diverse candidates it’s important on your website to let people know what you’re doing.
3. Level up job descriptions
Imposter syndrome is real, so using phrases like ‘rockstar’ can really turn people off. Some people won’t have all the desired skills you’re advertising for but could still be a perfect fit - for example research shows that women only apply for jobs if they meet 100% of the requirements compared to men who apply if they meet 60%. Elaborating on what you mean by “equal employer” is also important. Go above and beyond and attract more by talking about your desire for interpersonal skills (something rarely touched upon in technical job ads), and if you have diversity goals then you can advertise them as well. It’s also important to make sure you only use gender-neutral pronouns.
4. Nurture talent
Have you considered offering and creating internships either for college students or university students? Attracting both self-taught and university-educated engineers is a great asset for a diverse team.In an article from Venture Beat, some members of the LGBTQ+ dev community spoke about what companies can do to attract a more diverse workforce:
“Having high-level employees, someone in the C-suite, be a vocal advocate for LGBT rights is a huge benefit to ensuring that LGBT employees feel safe and that LGBT talent wants to join those companies.”
“Bottom line: Be a great company to work for, and make great products. That will always attract the best talent, gay, straight, or otherwise.”
Driving diversity in all walks of society is important, but driving diversity in software engineering is something that still has a long way to go. That final quote is something to remember. Making sure your company is the best at what it does, or is at least making efforts and strides to be the best company to work for, you’re going to attract the best techies.