Sourcing Diversity: A Realistic Approach in Tech Recruitment

The Quest for Equal Representation

Recently, I had an enlightening conversation with a regional recruiting leader in the technology professional services industry. They shared the ambitious goal set by their company, seeking to re-balance gender diversity gaps: achieving a 50:50 gender ratio in candidate submissions for roles. This target, while commendable in its intention, sparked questions (between two men, for better or worse 🤔):

  1. How realistic is this goal, given the current landscape of gender diversity, especially in STEM fields?
  2. What sourcing strategies will be effective in achieving this target?
  3. Is the company really set up for success beyond simply setting a candidate sourcing target? 

Navigating the Gender Gap in STEM

The reality of gender disparity in STEM is stark. In STEM occupations, globally women represent only 29.2% of the workforce according to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2023. In contrast Australia lags at just 15% in 2021, and while New Zealand is at a high overall 48% level, sectors such as engineering and information and communications technology (ICT) are have lower representation at 27%. These rather shocking figures underscore the challenge ahead in achieving gender parity, particularly in tech roles. For anyone seeking data points for Australia, the STEM Equity Monitor is a useful resource. 

The Journey from Graduation to the Workplace

A key issue in this disparity is the transition from academic institutions to the professional world. Data reveals a significant drop in the number of female STEM graduates who move into STEM jobs. This suggests a need for smoother transitions and consistent support for women entering these fields. It could be a significant opportunity for some employers to close the gap. 

Leadership Disparity

The disparity becomes even more pronounced at the leadership level. In STEM, women hold only 12.4% of C-suite roles, despite a 29.2% participation rate in the space. This is not just a hiring issue; it’s a clear indicator of the systemic barriers women face in advancing their careers in STEM. Certainly programs like the Chief Executive Women (CEW) Leaders Program will be instrumental in mentoring female leaders, at least in Australia.

My Learning Curve

As a Co-Founder of Referable, my recent return to New Zealand after a substantial period in Japan has been an enlightening experience, especially in terms of understanding gender dynamics within the workforce. While I do not at all profess to be an expert in this area, the stark contrast in gender dynamics between countries like New Zealand and Japan is striking and has significantly informed my perspective. 

Masking & Removing Bias

At Referable, one of our goals has been to eradicate bias at the initial stages of recruitment, while still facilitating precise, targeted referrals. In Beta now, we achieve this through a comprehensive masking process within the app, applied to Long lists, Shortlists, and Pipeline management. This approach conceals the identity of candidates until a referral request is initiated, ensuring a fair and merit-based selection. Despite the inherent subjectivity in employee referrals, we are confident in our ability to foster positive and equitable outcomes through these measures. 

We need to consider how sourcing strategies can positively impact gender diversity

Referable’s talent insights can pinpoint companies with higher female representation, especially in leadership roles.

Sourcing Strategies for Gender Balance

In today’s highly competitive talent market, even if a company falls short of this ambitious goal, any progress made is a step in the right direction. Reflecting on my recent conversation, I’ve identified some practical sourcing strategies that could prove effective:

Competitor Insights

With over 14M profiles in ANZ, Referable’s talent insights can pinpoint companies with higher female representation, especially in leadership roles. By understanding and emulating their successful practices, companies can enhance their own gender diversity. At a high level you can also look at which companies have female CEOs as you have to assume they have a better than average diversity balance—the CEW Member List may be a good place to start. 

New Graduate Hiring

A focus on recent female STEM graduates and providing them avenues into tech roles is crucial. This approach necessitates a commitment to Learning and Development initiatives that is in sync with a committed gender equity and inclusion program. 

The Shortcut: Targeting Competitors

For companies playing catchup, awareness of competitors in the STEM field that have successfully empowered women at both the graduate and mid-career levels opens up opportunities to attract their talent. If a company is genuinely committed to reducing the gender diversity gap and can showcase success stories of women in their workforce, it creates ample talent attraction opportunity when combined with targeted referrals and direct sourcing. In fact, Referable’s collaborative sourcing features are purposefully designed for this type of proactive referral targeting.

Sourcing strategies on their own are not enough to improve gender diversity disparities

In STEM occupations, women represent only 29.2% of the workforce, and while New Zealand is at a high 48% level, Australia lags at just 15% in 2021.

Harmonizing Goals and Realities

Striving for a 50:50 gender ratio is an admirable ambition, but it must be grounded in the realities of the workforce. Gender parity in tech roles is not an achievement to be solved by the recruiting team overnight; it demands a nuanced, long-term strategy. Beyond just gathering more candidates, it involves nurturing an inclusive culture, enabling mentorship, and advocating for equitable policies that attract high potential candidates. In tandem with overall people strategies, platforms like Referable play an essential role of the talent sourcing plan, as automated talent mapping, competitor insights and proactive candidate sourcing go a long way towards successful achievement of ambitious gender parity goals. 

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