Philly tech companies are trying these 4 strategies to bridge the gender gap - Technical.ly Philly

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Mar. 5, 2019 1:18 pm

Philly tech companies are trying these 4 strategies to bridge the gender gap

From diversifying their hiring panels to increasing their referral bonuses, here's how local companies are trying to even out a massive gender disparity.
A woman typing.

A woman typing.

(Photo via Pxhere.com, used under a CC0 License)

After a review of U.S. Census Bureau data, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, a think tank that focuses on local economic prosperity, issued an unsurprising diagnostic last week: Philly tech’s workforce is heavily skewed toward men.

In its analysis, the nonprofit found that men occupy 71 percent of tech jobs, and identified lack of diversity across the board as one of the key hurdles for the growth of the city’s innovation economy.

During our quarterly stakeholder meeting ahead of NET/WORK last week, we asked human resource, communications and people operation reps from a handful of tech companies what specific actions their companies have found to be effective in leveling the playing field when it comes to bringing more women into their ranks. From internal training programs to opening up hiring panels, here’s what they said.

Diverse hiring panels

O3 World People Growth Manager Beth Perkins said that convening diverse panels of staffers to interview prospective hires is key to creating an inclusive environment for candidates.

“It’s not good to have only men, or only white people or only people of color in the interview panel,” Perkins said. “We want diversity. We want candidates to be able to see themselves in the company because of the people they get to meet throughout the process.”

Diverse hiring panel also have the added bonus, Perkins said, of allowing people without a lot of interview experience to learn to interview better.

Financial incentives

Chester-based Power Home Remodeling has big plans in store: It’s looking to double the size of its tech team over the next two to three years.

That’s why the remodeling company is putting some cash behind the search for talent: Employees who connect women candidates to the company get an extra $1,000 in referral bonus ($3,000, instead of the normal $2,000 finder’s fee).

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“In the home improvement industry we have a greater challenge with hiring women thorough the company,” said Michelle Bauer, the company’s VP of public relations. “We’ve seen women referrals increase significantly.”

Data-driven approach

Mapping software firm Azavea puts this requirement on recruiting firms: Wanna work with us? Tell us what specific actions you’re taking to reach women and other underrepresented groups.

Additionally, Manager of People Operations Karissa Justice said, Azavea will work with recruiters on a pilot project to measure the candidate pool they put together and use data tools to compare it with census data. This allows the company to see if recruiters are reflecting the people who are available in the job market.

Build the talent from within

Vincent Palochko, head of human resources at Old City’s Linode, said one purposeful push for DEI initiatives that has shown promise had to do with internal talent development programs, aimed at upskilling diverse staffers.

“We found a lot of success putting resources behind internal training and development programs,” Palochko said. “I hear a lot about lowering the bar for hiring, which I’m not a fan of. Diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t about lowering the bar to hire a different class of people.”

At O3 World, Perkins said, women candidates who show promise have had a chance to evolve internally into the role they’re after.

“We wanted to invest in her even though we knew she wasn’t ready to jump on an engineering team yet,” Perkins said of a female candidate who was hired last year. “We brought her in as a QA apprentice, and she already stood up an entire automated testing practice that we didn’t have before.”

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