Throughout my career in HR, I’ve had the unique opportunity to observe how individuals handle changes in the workplace firsthand. In my current role overseeing Human Resources at PressReader, a group of technology companies providing digital publishing solutions and services, I’ve seen just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted women in tech this last year.
A New Challenge, Same Results
Despite the fact that gender roles aren’t what they used to be, women are still more likely to work part-time or put their careers on hold to become caregivers—and as reports of a “she-cession” continue to show, the pandemic has exacerbated this trend. In March 2020, Canadian women saw a 7% drop in employment, compared to 4% for men. In the tech sector, the TrustRadius 2021 Report showed that women in tech are nearly twice as likely as men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic.
In BC, women in the tech industry are also significantly underrepresented. Before 2020, women only made up 18% of the tech workforce, compared to a national average of 30%. The pandemic has added more uncertainty as women are pushed to give up work for caregiving roles or relinquish jobs that are more susceptible to disruption.
So, with all this in mind, what can tech companies do to encourage more women to join the tech industry?
Transforming the Workplace with Women in Mind
At PressReader, we’re thinking about how we show up for women. And, now that we’re seeing an increase in job applications from women, we’re revisiting what we can do to make it an appealing work environment for today’s candidates.
One thing I’ve noticed during interviews this year is that a lot of talented women laid off during the pandemic are less confident in their abilities. Like other employers in the tech sector, we feel we can play an important part in the healing process as we continue to build our teams.
Our first step was to neutralize the wording in our job descriptions. The goal was to ensure that our language doesn’t deter women from applying to a role by using gender-neutral words. (This gender decoder was particularly helpful.) We also revisited how we select our job requirements. Instead of creating a never-ending list—which could make it easier for women candidates to spot skills they don’t have—we ask ourselves: what are the basic skills and experiences a person needs to succeed in this role? This encourages us to leave out requirements that may limit the talent pool unnecessarily.
We’re changing some of our internal terminology and processes, too. We now use the term “health and wellness days” for instances when employees need some space from their work and they don’t need to offer up an explanation when they make their request. We’re encouraging our team to take time off when they aren’t feeling well or need a mental break, whether or not they have physical symptoms.
Providing a supportive and flexible work environment is also important. At PressReader, we’ve launched a phased return-to-office plan that gives employees time to reorganize their lives around a hybrid work model. Knowing that parents will be dealing with children going back to school in September, our gradual return to the office doesn’t start until later this fall.
Some other changes we’re currently implementing include a program to promote people based on merit and potential, and providing coaching and resources to our new leaders. This is key to ensuring women can actively participate in the various career paths at our organization, where one third of our leadership team is female.
How Women Can Approach the Job Search Today
As companies like PressReader take steps to tap into today’s pool of professional candidates, here are four things women should keep in mind if they’re interested in joining (or rejoining) the tech sector:
- Remember: tech companies don’t just need technical people. In a 2018 Glassdoor study, researchers found that over 40% of open roles are for non-technical roles in marketing, project management, accounting, design, and more.
- Look at each application as a learning opportunity. Whether or not you get the job, each application will be a step in the right direction. You’ll get insight into what companies are looking for, what works well in an interview, and how to best showcase your skills.
- Build your resume around your skills—not a list of tasks. Too often, women refrain from featuring their expertise and achievements on their resume; and that has to change. Be sure to lead with your contributions and any wins on the projects you’ve worked on.
- Do your homework. Before applying, make sure you’ve researched the company that caught your interest, and if you have an interview, be ready to ask questions around career development, equity & inclusion, and any other elements that will help you assess if this company is the right one for you.
There’s so much potential for women in the tech industry. As our sector embraces this potential, I’m excited to see the changes that companies make to adjust their recruitment processes and build supportive cultures.
Frederika Renaud is the HR Director of PressReader Group of companies. She built her expertise in HR within the tech, education and financial services sector, where she has fostered her passion for people and building talented workforces. For more information about working with PressReader, please visit: Careers at PressReader.