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Five Ways to Attract and Retain More Women to Work in Technology

Cheryl Cran

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It is an employee market—the unemployment rate is at an all-time low. Even with the rise of robotics and technology, companies are struggling to find and attract top talent. In addition, the rise of technology work is increasing the need for STEM graduates.

A recent report by Deloitte states that there will be 3.5 million STEM jobs to be filled by 2025.

The report goes on to state that two million of those jobs will remain unfilled due to lack of skilled workers.

The graduation rate of STEM is 36% compared to a 67% graduation rate of first-time students in college.

The only way to solve the talent gap is to increase education and to increase diversity in the workplace.

The technology industry has been focused on attracting more women to both STEM and to tech jobs and yet there are still far less women graduating from STEM. In addition, many women may go to other careers not STEM related. In some cases, women may start in STEM and then leave due to lack of alignment with culture.

Why?

In our research at NextMapping we have found it's because the language and strategies being used to appeal to female tech students or female tech workers is not working. To attract any demographic, the approach, language, and work culture needs to be aligned with values and life goals.

Here are five ways to attract and retain women in technology:

1. Speak their language—you will not entice a female worker with the promise of long hours, hard work, and lots of money. The language that does appeal is flexible work, project work, remote work, work that provides time for family, work that contributes to the community or to the world, work that is performance based, and work that provides great compensation.
Specifically, in regard to attracting girls to STEM, the language needs to be linked to social influence, freedom to create a life by design, and ability to work together in teams.

2. Choice in how to work—in the future of work it is projected that by 2025 50% of the workforce will be freelancers. This is appealing to Millennials and Gen Z's, as well as women workers. The ability to have a choice on how to work holds a huge appeal. Some workers are more suited to the structure of workplace, others work better at home, and others work better in a co-working remote situation. The key is having options in how work is done, where it's done, and who its done with.

3. Build in family solutions—female workers are attracted to workplaces that help solve family related issues. For example, companies that have daycare services have higher levels of engagement of female workers. Of the Fortune 100 there are 17 companies that offer daycare. These companies include Fannie Mae, Disney, and others. These are examples of larger companies; smaller companies can still provide family solutions by providing a list of daycare options to their employees.

4. Shorter work week—there is recent research that is once again suggesting a future where the work week is four days. A New Zealand study has found that workers that work a four-day work week are 20% more productive. Female workers are more likely to work for a company that provides a four-day work week. A three-day weekend provides the most valuable commodity: time. More time for family, more time for household activities, and more leisure time.

5. Meaningful work—for women, work is less of an all-encompassing identity or their sole identity. For many, their identity is about how they are living a life of meaning. This is true for all workers—specifically for women; they are attracted to work that is making a difference in their communities and in the world. Linking purpose and meaningful work is highly attractive for women considering her future career.

Companies seeking to increase the diversity of their workforce need to recognize that attracting women in technology requires strategies that appeal to the values and the lifestyles of women.

Cheryl Cran is a future-of-work expert and the founder of NextMapping.com, a future-of-work research and consulting firm that helps leaders, teams, and entrepreneurs be future-ready.
She is the author of six books, including her new one due out at the end of 2018 titled
, NextMapping—How Great Leaders Inspire People to Create the Future of Work.

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