Gender impacts the IT workforce before professionals even enter the office—it can impact the recruiting process in these small, subtle ways.
By Tim Cannon
There is a lack of women in tech, and despite efforts from those in the industry the problem is getting worse. Most of the focus to fix the gender imbalance has been placed on efforts to better educate girls on the opportunities and careers available in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and in creating more supportive work environments for the women already in the field.
However, most discussions ignore the IT job search. Gender impacts the IT workforce before professionals even enter the office—it can impact the recruiting process in small, unnoticeable ways.
Here are just a few of the ways gender can impact the tech job search and eliminate women from entering the field:
Gender impacts the IT job search from the very beginning. When crafting their resumes, women in tech tend to write theirs longer and wordier than men, according to an analysis of tech resumes published in Fortune in March.
CEO of Textio, Kieran Snyder, collected and analyzed 1,100 resumes from IT professionals. Half of the resumes were from men and half from women. On average, women’s resumes had 745 words, compared with 414 for men. Women were also more likely to include an executive summary and to summarize their overall responsibilities for each position. On the other hand, 91 percent of men used bulleted lists to describe their experience, compared with only 36 percent of women.
The resume style can make all the difference in the job search. IT recruiters don’t have time to carefully read each resume they receive, and quickly scan for specific keywords, skills and experience. Women with equal skills and experience could be immediately eliminated because their resumes are off-putting to employers.
Although professionals in tech have worked hard to erase the stereotype that IT is a man’s field, these beliefs still exist among men and women in tech.
A study published in March 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), found that when employers had to hire a professional for a mathematical task, both male and female recruiters were twice as likely to hire a man over a woman, when the only information they had was the appearance of the candidate. In addition, without any information about their skills or experience, recruiters expected male applicants to perform better on a mathematical task than female applicants.
Although employers try to be objective in the hiring process, they may subconsciously make up their minds about a candidate, before they walk through the door, based on their gender alone.
Women in tech also have less confidence in their skills than men. The PNAS study found that when asked to predict their performance on a math evaluation, men tended to overestimate their scores, while women were more likely to underestimate theirs. While humility is an admirable quality, it can make a big difference in the job search.
If recruiters already expect men to be better at STEM jobs, and women downplay their skills on their resume or in a job interview, men who boast their achievements have the upper-hand.
Words are critical in the recruiting process. From the words a candidate uses on their resume to those they use in a job interview, they can have a subtle impact on the hiring decision.
A study published in the June issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly found that women who described themselves with “feminine” terms, such as warm, supportive and nurturing, were seen as less qualified for jobs in male-dominated fields like tech and science. Women who used “masculine” words like assertive, independent and achievement orientated, however, were seen as more fit for upper-level STEM jobs.
The impact of gender in the tech workforce is huge. From resumes to interviews, gender can affect the way candidates search for jobs and who is hired at the end of the process. Focusing on gender issues in the workplace is a good start to bringing more women into tech, but its impact on the job search also needs to be addressed, to bring balance and equality to the field.
Tim Cannon is the vice president of product management and marketing at HealthITJobs.com, a free job search resource that provides health IT professionals access to more than 1,000 industry health IT jobs at home or on the go. Connect with Tim and HealthITJobs.com on LinkedIn.