Several contacts of mine have recently shared what worked for them to recruit women in tech and engineering. It turns out there are some key elements in their approach, which one of them calls ‘demystifying technology’. It’s about making it tangible and help people see it’s achievable for someone like them. None of the approaches of these organisations is rocket science. But – just like with all diversity initiatives – you have to do it in the right way to make it work.

Real models in a UK Bank

A UK Bank has 18,000 tech staff, that is more data scientists and engineers than Google or Facebook or Skype. Remarkably 35% of those are female, even at senior levels. What did they do to recruit women in tech?

The bank were keen to retrain current back office staff – who are mostly female – into tech roles. So they invited staff to career re-training days where they got to meet people currently working in tech roles, often people that before had been working in back office roles too. That is what they call ‘real models’. These real models have been very effective. People think, ‘If she did it, I can do it too!’ In fact, we know that women are often more inspired by someone who is 1 or 2 steps ahead than by someone at the top.

The bank is making it easy and low-risk to switch as employees are also offered a chance to shadow someone who is currently in the role for a day and short term internships.

Taster day in the fire service

This same concept of easy and low-risk has worked well in the fire service. Potential recruits can attend a taster day, where they get to try the material and see for themselves what it’s like to be part of a crew. They get to meet the team, do a mock fitness test and experience the size and weight of the equipment. It helps them see it is not too heavy, and fire fighting as about more than heroics, as it includes building community relationships and fire prevention.

The fire service use the day to inform all participants of the recruitment process and selection criteria. As an added benefit, it also levels the playing field by removing the advantage for those with friends or family members in the fire service. Implemented as part of a wider programme to bring in more diverse applicants, you can learn more by reading my case study on Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service.

Career days at MBA’s

MBA’s have found that career days are a key element for them to recruit more women. They offer a day for women with speeches and panel sessions. Potential applicants can ask questions about the application process and requirements, meet staff and speak with those who are currently studying or have already graduated. MBAs that implement these days as part of a range of measures now have 40% women, up from 22%.

Shorter courses at Sky

Sky run a software academy, where graduates take courses of 6 months or longer, however not many women applied. They introduced a short Get Into Tech programme, which includes a one week course followed by one evening a week for 14 weeks. For women only, with no previous experience in coding or tech required, this makes the programme more accessible.  The programmes have been very well received, with many women continue afterwards on the longer courses with the software academy, which has significantly increased the percentage of women on those courses.

Open evening at Springboard Pro

Springboard Pro wasn’t receiving any CVs from women. They implemented a series of measures, and 30%-50% of new hires are now female. One of the key elements of their approach is that they offer a graduate scheme for women. To make it easy to access applicants are encouraged to come to an open evening, or drop by for an informal chat, and many do. When they also get information about selection criteria and interview questions, so they are well prepared for their application. This levels the playing field with those that have a better personal network in engineering.

The common theme for all these companies to recruit women into tech or engineering is to demystify technology by giving women (and other candidates) a chance to safely try out whether it’s for them, to get to know people, and make it feel both easy and low-risk to enter.

How can you make your initiatives to recruit women in tech and engineering work?

The initiatives these organisations have implemented are great.  If you want to achieve a similar impact, it is important to be aware that there is no point blindly copying what others have done.  Use the above examples to inspire an approach tailored to your situation. Design an approach that suits your industry, your organisation, and your current recruitment and retraining processes. Make sure your approach feels right for your organisation and suits your employee brand.  Just demystifying technology is unlikely to be effective, it’s often used as part of a wider package of measures.

Are you looking to find out more about how to recruit women in tech and engineering? Then come along to a full day training on D&I on 5 November in Central London How to turn a Good Company into a Great Company! Learn from D&I Leaders from organisations like Deloitte, Hogan Lovells, Centrica, CBRE, Fujitsu, Lockton, HS2 and more. Register now using the exclusive 50% discount code Inge50.

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Author: Inge Woudstra

Would you like to know more or have a question? I am always happy to have a chat to discuss your needs. Why not drop me a line or pick up the phone? Call me at 01372 457 907 or Just contact me to discuss your requirements by e-mail.

I can help you recruit, retain and advance women, and typically work with organisations in tech and engineering.

Or just check out my book 'Be Gender Smart - The Key to Career Success for Women'

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