Looking for women and minority candidates in software?
March 30, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Where can I look to increase my pool of women and minority candidates for a software consulting position?

I'm leading a new business unit for my company. We do enterprise software consulting at customer sites. As the BU owner I'm in charge of building the initial team. I'm looking to find more women and minority candidates than we have traditionally been able to uncover. 99% of the candidate applications I have received thus far are men. I have expressed to the recruiter we are using that I'd like to see more diversity in candidates.

Where can I look to expand my pool of women candidates? I'm not looking to give anyone preference over anyone else, but I can't even begin to diversify my team if candidates are being filtered out before I even look at a resume.
posted by herda05 to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Think about where you're advertising for the positions. Have you put up a posting at the Society of Women Engineers career center? The National Society of Black Engineers job posting site? The Society of Asian Scientists & Engineers careers page? There are lots of other places to advertise that target women and minorities, but those came to mind immediately.

If you're considering entry-level candidates, contact the career services office and computer science & engineering departments at universities with strong women and minority representation.
posted by jedicus at 8:17 AM on March 30, 2011

If you are advertising online and in print you can add a bit to the bottom of your ads that says "Women and minority applicants are encouraged to apply." I know of female software engineers who won't even bother to apply to companies who aren't explicitly women-friendly, and they gauge that initially by looking for the note at the bottom of the want-ad.

If you are using a recruiting agency exclusively, you can make it very clear to them that you will not review any candidates until they give you a pool of X, where X = 50% women, or 30% women, etc. That will motivate them to give you a more diverse pool by gender because they won't get paid until you hire someone. It's unlikely that this tactic will work for racial diversity because the "race" box is often optional on job applications. You might also want to consider that your recruiting agency is the problem here - that they have internal practices that stifle diversity. Maybe if they can't produce a diverse candidate base for you, it's time to hire a new agency.
posted by juniperesque at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Jedicus,

I haven't gone directly to those websites mentioned, as I'm curious how much they are actually used by job seekers? Has anyone here used them to get job interviews?

I'm definitely interested to post at those sites if the money is worth the effort, but I do want to make sure it's going to get seen.
posted by herda05 at 8:49 AM on March 30, 2011

I haven't gone directly to those websites mentioned, as I'm curious how much they are actually used by job seekers?

I couldn't tell you, as I'm a white male and so haven't had much reason to use those services. But there are 2499 job postings on the SWE career center, and job listings are free to post (they do offer a "featured employer" program that costs money).

The SASE careers page looks kind of embryonic, but I suspect it's also free. The two companies using it so far are pretty major (P&G and GE), for what it's worth.

Given the free price, I'd say those fall into "it couldn't hurt." Maybe other folks can chime in with their experience hiring or finding jobs using those services.
posted by jedicus at 9:22 AM on March 30, 2011

Bad news: There aren't many women entering the software field, and those that do enter are more likely than men to leave the field for some other career.

This means that the more onerous your requirements are, in terms of both education and experience, the less likely you are to get many women applicants. If you are able to train less well qualified (but just as able) candidates on the job, this may help.

Recently I read a study suggesting that (on average) mothers who have jobs do more hours of childcare per week than unemployed fathers do. With this in mind, I suggest that advertising "family friendly" policies with flexible hours and so on (for both sexes!) might help draw in more women.

However the fact that your work takes place "at customer sites" suggests to me that the positions you are offering may be inherently unfriendly to people with childcare responsibilities, in which case you're narrowing an already narrow pool of potential female applicants.
posted by emilyw at 9:55 AM on March 30, 2011

If you're willing to train someone who may not have as much experience as you'd like but is willing to learn, that could definitely help lure in more female/minority applicants. As someone who falls into both categories, I've routinely found myself shut out of positions due to lack of experience, and hence fall into the catch-22 of not being able to gain more experience without landing a job.
posted by Anima Mundi at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

In addition to being willing to train somebody more junior for a position, which will allow you to expand your applicant pool, you might also want to shy away from having a laundry list of requirements for the job when the person you ultimately hire won't meet a lot of them. I can't find the studies right now, but women are more likely to remove themselves from your applicant pool before applying if they feel they don't meet the requirements posted.

Talk to women at your company. Ask them if they have any friends that they would like to refer or recruit.
posted by asphericalcow at 10:35 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreed: reduce the laundry list to just core competencies, for a start.

Honestly, I just got out of enterprise software consulting, and I am still bitter and traumatized and (just like the last time I got out of enterprise software consulting) promising myself Never Again until I forget how much it sucks and start doing it again.

Maybe you're in that mythical IBMspace where your consultants are team-based and supported so that it is possible to go to the doctor or pick up a sick kid from school or have good marriages, but most of these jobs are livestock jobs - just enough food and medication to keep them alive, and a forklift for bad days, because revenue is all that matters - and you're going to get livestock for applicants unless you make it clear up front the ways in which your jobs don't suck.

And if your positions are not Sun-Fri weekly travel, say that right up front because I think for the most part it's assumed unless otherwise specified.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:14 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might want to see if there are any local women/minority technology professional organizations. They may have email lists, web postings, or other ways to get your info out there in your area.

In the Seattle area, Digital Eve is pretty awesome.
posted by epersonae at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2011

Systers was recommended in an earlier thread. I emailed a mefite who might have additional suggestions.
posted by mlis at 3:44 PM on March 30, 2011

How do you plan to compensate your consultant? At least one study (which I should probably bookmark) has suggested that a good deal of the gender wage gap can be explained by health care preferences. What this means for you is that 1099 contractors, who are responsible for their own healthcare, are instant turnoffs.
posted by pwnguin at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2011

I don't know how your ad is worded, but I always take language about "rock stars" and "great hackers" and the like to signify a certain culture that is unwelcoming to just about everyone except very young white men. I also agree about intimidating lists of requirements; a lot of women suffer from "impostor syndrome" and would probably be more hesitant to claim knowledge of a technology with which they have moderate experience than would men with similar expertise.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:31 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Universities often have student and/or alumni organizations specifically geared towards women. They often have dedicated processes for newsletter or online job postings, and some even provide facilities for or a booth at recruiting events.
posted by lesli212 at 9:03 PM on March 30, 2011

Same for minorities, I should add.
posted by lesli212 at 9:03 PM on March 30, 2011

I'm looking to find more women and minority candidates than we have traditionally been able to uncover. 99% of the candidate applications I have received thus far are men.

At the height of the Silicon Valley boom, we were looking to hire some people, and the first batch we were given from the recruiter were all very, very expensive. So we asked for some cheaper candidates, and we got all women and blacks.

I'm dead serious. I was absolutely appalled. If you just ask for cheaper people, you may get exactly what you want. I find this absolutely reprehensible, but it might work.
posted by Malor at 9:45 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

MySociety recently asked the same question. Might be worth checking out some of the suggestions they got.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:21 AM on March 31, 2011

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