Friday, October 16, 2009

Tips For Recruiting Women Into Male Dominated Fields

Diversity in the workplace is good, because having a 100% homogeneous labor pool is both boring and produces ideas that ll sound the same. Men and women think differently, old and young have different life experiences, people from different cultures have different paradigms, yada yada. However, even though diversity if good, building up a diverse team requires a little work.

Take recruiting software engineers, something I'm quite familiar with. There are more men than women working in software development, and it's not uncommon to see a team of a dozen software engineers that is all guys. I'm not an expert on why that is, but I know it'd be nice to attract more female applicants, and more importantly, make more woman hires.

    Here's a few tips on recruiting women:

  • Say you're trying to find more women applicants. The very act of trying will help women realize you're trying to build a workforce they'd want to be a part of (few women I know want to be the lone female on a team of all men).

  • Go where women are. There are a lot of events geared towards women. Even though as a guy I was hesitant to attend women-centric events at first, I was surprised to find most women were actually quite receptive to men respectfully participating. I help teach a Ruby on Rails workshop for women, and a fair number of guys help out.

  • Keep humor professional. Dick and fart jokes are great over beers among close friends, but they don't belong in the workplace. Some women will participate and be worse than the men, and some guys don't like the bathroom humor at all. Keep it clean enough, and I guarantee no one will request more vulgarity.

  • Encourage men to work act as if they were around women, even when they are not. If you want to make your workplace woman friendly, you need to have the integrity to be consistent all the time. It's too hard to be running a boy's club one minute and make it women friendly the minute a woman walks into the room.


  1. I read somewhere (sorry, don't have the link) that efforts to make workplaces woman-friendly resulted in greater retention/recruitment of men as well. As you point out, a lot of guys don't enjoy a "boys' club" atmosphere either, and there are valuable employees of both genders who want to take real vacations and to go home at a reasonable time.

  2. Captain Recruiter, I'm an experienced (woman) programmer and have good references and documented work (plus published articles in trade press on technical stuff). But I didn't do so well at university (it was top-tier) because of my lower-division work (I did great in upper-division in hard science) and I do have my degree. So my GPA from that time wasn't great and once I graduated 20 years ago I lost track of my GPA and transcripts because nobody ever cared - until now.

    I've gotten told about several great jobs at HP and LLNL and that I fit the bill. But they want me to fill in my GPA on the automated form and it doesn't have a "N/A" box. Honestly, I don't recall my GPA anymore and it's been a long long time. I've taken a few courses at community colleges in the last decade in languages and gotten A's. But frankly I don't see how my grade in classical mechanics or anthropology is relevant to my years of expertise in distributed systems or my patents. Like a lot of people I know in the industry, I didn't even major in CS, but I've done good documented work. It's like everything in my life is reduced to something from decades ago, so I just stop typing into the application and give up.
    What am I to do? I'm not going to lie - I really don't recall my GPA - but that's a deal-breaker when it comes to those "automated" application forms like LLNL and HP uses.
    What to do?

  3. It seems the easiest answer is to get a copy of your transcript. If you're going to apply and not lie, that's what you need to do. If the college you went to can't provide your transcript, then just take your best guess.