Late last month, the tech recruiting firm Speak With A Geek revealed some disturbing news: when it presented a pool of 5,000 candidates to a group of employers, only 5 percent of those selected for interviews were female—but that number jumped to a whopping 54 percent when the candidates’ identifying details were removed.
While there are apps and tools designed to remove job candidates’ biographical information, blind applications are far from the norm. In light of Speak With A Geek’s survey, here are some steps for women to consider when applying for a tech position.
The Stealthy Résumé
Women who feel that they aren’t getting traction because of their gender might consider using gender-neutral variations of their name (such as “Alex” instead of “Alexis,” or “Sam” instead of “Samantha”) or even their initials on their résumé. “I have advised people to take out any identifying information that makes sense in their situation,” said recruiter and career coach Molly Mapes, author of ‘Cracking the Code: A Practical Guide to Getting You Hired.’
“Putting your initials on instead of your full name can be a really smart thing,” agreed executive coach Michele Woodward. “However, if you’re somebody with a personal brand already, if you’re mid-career or later-career, and suddenly you go to just your initials, you run the risk of people not remembering that they know you and that you do really great work.”
If you do plan on abbreviating or switching to initials, make sure to let your references know so they won’t be caught off-guard if your prospective employer gives them a call.
Sometimes gender-neutralizing your name isn’t enough. As former headhunter turned career strategist Ann Mehl pointed out, women may have other gender-related references on their résumé, such as participation in a professional group for women executives. But these can be removed, as well.
Find Allies Within the Company
Finding allies at places where you want to work, whether male or female, can go a long way towards a referral that can get you into a position more quickly, said Mehl. “People really do hire people, so know as many people as you can. Whether your résumé is looked at first or not, I think it can move the needle a bit.”
Find Women-Friendly Companies
A different strategy is to specifically target companies that have a higher percentage of female technologists or engineers. You may have better luck with hiring managers in these types of firms. This could even include applying to companies that use a blind audition process.
If nothing else, it’s important to remember that job-hunting includes finding companies that are a good cultural fit for you. “If you pick up that there aren’t a lot of women in higher-level positions, you need to be asking questions along those lines,” Mapes said.
Collectively, women applying for tech positions can make a huge impact. If women are well represented in applications, but not in jobs, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can level fines against the offending companies. “Part of the reason why companies in tech have not been blasted by the EEOC is because women are underrepresented,” Mapes explained.
Demographic information collected in applications is used for the company’s applicant-tracking procedure, but this data is routed to a different department—so you don’t need to worry about accidentally identifying yourself if that’s something you’re trying to avoid.