Diversity in the tech industry? Equality between men and women? That remains wishful thinking for now. The Corona pandemic has not only slowed progress when it comes to this issue; the trend has even reversed itself. According to Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Minister of Economics, Labor and Tourism of the State of Baden-Württemberg, the employment rate of women with children is currently back at the level of 2011. But why? Because women are once again increasingly shouldering family-related responsibilities – and therefore often reduce their working hours in companies or even leave the job altogether.
The traditional role models, depicting the man in the office and the woman in the household have become steadily less dominant in recent years. Now the former division of tasks that seemed to have been overcome appears to experience a sad renaissance.
Companies must counteract this development. They must commit themselves not only to making it easier for women to re-enter the workforce, but also to creating better conditions for them within the company.
Companies must commit themselves not only to making it easier for women to re-enter the workforce, but also to creating better conditions for them within the company.
This begins with the application process. Many women tend to apply exclusively to jobs which they feel 100 percent qualified for. (By comparison, for men, that figure is about 60 percent.) Some suffer from what's known as impostor syndrome: they believe they don't have enough experience for a position, and when they are being selected they feel like impostors who stole the job from someone else.
In turn, for example, HubSpot provided training to HR to help the team deal with this issue and to aid them in adapting job descriptions, for instance by appending the following sentence to every job posting: "We know the confidence gap and imposter syndrome can get in the way of meeting spectacular candidates, so please don't hesitate to apply – we'd love to hear from you." The technical terms "confidence gap" and "imposter syndrome" link to pages where more information can be found.
Since 2018, HubSpot has also had a 20-week program to support women on their way back into the workforce. It includes mentoring and e-learning activities, as well as help with regard to networking. Those women returning to work are provided with the opportunity to exchange ideas with each other. At the same time, they must be offered a flexible working environment, as women often take on a large part of the responsibilities at home even after returning to work. Those who have to manage household and family need sensitive leadership that also allows them to adjust working hours, for example.
Companies should set themselves three tasks in order to support women returning to work:
Ensure more humanity at work
Companies need to feel empathy for their female employees. They must show understanding for the fact that working from home is also affected by children demanding attention from their mothers. Those who are new to a company and/or a position need time and space to settle in. Companies should ensure that the respective colleague is awarded with a period of adjustment.
Removing barriers to recruitment
Whether parents or other caregivers have only been out of the job market for six months or six years, those who want to bring back good female employees must proactively reach out to them and remove any barriers that may exist.
Hiring a returnee alone is not enough – it's also about creating a framework for her to stay long-term. Companies should offer special programs to give her the opportunity to succeed. The returnee must be able to grow and develop professionally.
Companies must be empathetic and helpful not only to women re-entering the workforce, but also to women just starting their jobs. On the other hand, young women should also be proactive before applying to a tech company.
My advice for young women who want to make a career in tech: Be bold, go for it!
The easy way is always to stay in your comfort zone. But growth means often leaving it. Mastering new projects increases self-confidence and broadens perspectives when it comes to new opportunities – and makes women more attractive to the job market. Example: If an applicant who wants to work in the tech sector already has her own blog where she writes about relevant topics, she automatically expands her knowledge and builds a community – and also makes herself interesting for potential employers.
Find out about future employers!
Are women and men paid equally in the company? How high is the percentage of women in the company? How many women are in management positions? Does the company deal openly with the topic of diversity and does it publish figures with regard to this? These are important questions that women should ask early on. If they know the answers, the question of whether it makes sense to apply will take care of itself for many companies.
It makes sense to continuously invest in personal development and to establish contacts with other women inside and outside the company. There are also networks with exclusively female members. I, myself, belong to the Women of SaaS network, where women from the industry exchange ideas. For many, it can also help to have a mentor with whom they are able to discuss the challenges of the job.
Whether women are returning to the workforce or young women are venturing into the tech industry for the first time, it is up to all of us to support and help them on their career paths.
About the author:
Before joining HubSpot in 2018, a leading customer relationship management platform with over 158,000 customers worldwide, Kathleen Jaedtke supported Zalando as Team Lead for Content Marketing (in the DACH region). In addition to her degree in economics from Humboldt University of Berlin, she holds certificates from MIT and LSE, among others. Since 2020, she has been a lecturer for content marketing at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne. This year, she is not only a jury member at dpr awards, which evaluate innovative projects in digital publishing, but also at Forbes 30 Under 30 for the DACH region.