I’m frequently asked how companies can get more women on board. The answer is two-pronged: the first part involves getting (recruiting), the second part involves keeping (retention). Recruiting more women is especially important in male-dominated fields, but once the women are there, retention is the name of the game. What’s the best way to retain female talent? Develop leadership potential and promote from within.

Both topics are important so to keep it simple this post is about recruiting and the next will focus on retention.

Recruiting is all about the talent pipeline. The smartest companies and industries support the pipeline’s integrity so it delivers a steady flow of diverse, high-quality potential employees.

It’s no secret Silicon Valley’s workforce is light on women and minorities. Last December, the Wall Street Journal released this infographic painting a diversity picture among tech’s largest companies that could best be described as needs improvement. The numbers are striking across the board, with women making up somewhere in the range of only 10 – 30% of the workforce in tech’s largest companies.

A lot of conversation has swirled around this topic since those numbers were reported, including a commitment to hire more women and minorities. With that in mind, recruiting efforts are starting to look different than they did in the past.

Maybe you saw the blog post that blew up the internet in early August regarding a recruiting campaign for OneLogin. Designed to challenge gender stereotypes, it consisted of a series of photos including one of Platform Engineer, Isis Wegner. Response was mixed with some commenting she was “too pretty” to be a computer engineer. Finding herself the unwitting epitome of the tech world’s lady bias, Isis posted a blog openly addressing challenges she’s experienced as an engineer and aiming to change the way people think of engineers. Her post caught fire and #ilooklikeanengineer quickly morphed into a social media movement.

What I like most about how she handled herself is that she majorly owned her voice. She commanded her own narrative, called a spade a spade, and suggested ways to improve. It was powerful and resonant, and news outlets noticed and reported on it. I can’t stress enough how transformative it is when women own their voices. WE want to see more of that in all business sectors.

So, while I think we can acknowledge that tech still has work to do to bring more women into the fold, the good news is that this represents a huge opportunity for women who want in to a business sector known for great pay and some of the best benefits corporate America has to offer. Even better news is that Silicon Valley says it’s committed to building a more diverse workforce.

Honestly, that’s not just smart, it’s good business. Recent research suggests that gender diverse companies are more profitable and more productive than their homogenous counterparts.

With that in mind, let’s give credit where it’s due and talk about tech companies working to attract more women. Intel is putting its money where its mouth is by offering $4,000 to existing employees who can suggest qualified female and minority candidates. This appears to be part of a pledge Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, announced earlier this year when he publicly committed to spend $300 million over the next five years to ensure that the company’s workforce more resembles the diversity of the American talent pool.

Pinterest also just announced it’s partnering with a start-up company called Paradigm in a venture called ‘Inclusion Labs’, which aims to devise strategies that will translate into more diverse hires. According to Paradigm’s CEO, Joelle Emerson, “Pinterest has started building a more diverse network by developing relationships with, and actively recruiting from, schools with more diverse student bodies.”

Or maybe tech firms want to look at how Etsy handled things a couple of years back when it stopped just saying it was committed to hiring more women and actually started doing so. In the process, they quintupled their female engineering staff along with better quality male engineers who were energized by Etsy’s commitment to gender diversity.

Clearly, there’s an effort in tech to improve gender diversity. No doubt more will materialize over the next few years. WE hope that once those companies have promising female talent on board, they will commit to develop their leadership potential and promote from within. I’ll talk more about who is doing that well in my next post.

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