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Why do we have more male applicants than female ones?

maria_michou profile image Maria Michou ・1 min read

I often discuss with my (male) colleagues the hiring process our company follows and the characteristics of job applicants for a given role. For women in tech, what are the criteria for selecting a particular job/role/company?

I for sure I’m biased; I really believe that it depends on the circumstances. Depending on the background each woman has, and what she wants to do next, company A might provide a more viable environment for her to grow than company B. What I’m actually saying is that women decide based on more or less the same (or similar) criteria than men do.

However, I find difficult to answer the question that follows: “Then, why do we have more male applicants in our company than (a rather disappointing number of) female ones”?

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

The immediate answer to your last question is that you're not drawing from a balanced pool. If you ignore everything else and pick five applicants from a pool of ten women and ninety men you're going to tend to get almost all men unless you take steps to address the discrepancy. You could ask why this situation is how it is, but there's been enough ink spilled on that subject already; the real question is what you're going to do.

The balance of the "default" recruitment pool will change slowly at best. If you want a more equal distribution, that takes work. Meet women candidates where they/we are: literally, as in recruitment efforts and sponsorships at women-focused meetups, conferences, etc; and metaphorically, by offering benefits and a company culture geared towards women's material needs. Our criteria aren't wholly different from men's, but there are subtle distinctions: parental responsibility tends to land on women more often than on men, for example, to say nothing of actually giving birth. Flexible hours and remote work policies are great for everybody but especially for mothers. Here in the US, companies are only required to offer three months of unpaid maternity leave at most (federally; some individual states have gone further). Against that backdrop, extended paid parental leave is a huge sign that a company is making a conscious effort toward employees with family responsibilities. And those employees tend to be women.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

Hi Dian, thanks for taking the time to answer! Yes, you're correct, it's not a balanced pool, but this has already started to change (not as quickly as I'd like, but still).

Again, you're right, I often go to meet ups with regards to software development, and I see more and more female developers. I agree with your perfect response, we women tend to think about our second (or first) duties as parents and we'd like a safe environment in order to continue to work (equally paid) with no risk of getting fired, because we are less efficient or sth else.

Where I'm coming from is worse than US, but in countries, say in Northern Europe, mothers usually have more benefits.

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bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G.

Maybe because there are more males in similar positions? I think is pretty much an industry dominated by them so of course there are more applicants, and more speakers, and more writers and more developer males. Not saying it is good or bad, just stating the facts.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

Hi, thanks for your answer. Well, I'm not questioning the statistics, that men are indeed more in the IT world and in other places as well. I'm wondering why let's say out of 20 men or even more, the very few women (not questioning the number) will choose your company over another one.

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bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G.

I could not found the articles I read but I found some papers, with further research I'm sure you can find a lot more about the topic:

The computer games industry: Women's experiences of work role in a male dominated environment - a paper that touches your question too, for example women care more about a flexible schedule and are more sensitive to relocation.

Gender Balance Research & Development Programme for the Games Industry Report This one is more extensive, collecting more data and gathered also the most common answers from the Recruiters, on why from 1600 applications only a few were female.

I know they are Gaming related papers but I think most of the reasons can be found in Software/IT aswell.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

Thanks for the articles!

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bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G.

Oh I see, I read a couple years ago some articles about women in gaming industry, and one of them had some interviews and reached the conclusion that women are looking for different things at the work place, I do not remember the specifics though, maybe I'll search for them.

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simonhaisz profile image
simonhaisz

A question I've also wondered about. I cannot provide any personal anecdotal answers but can provide my thinking on it.

The multitude of stories I've read about reasons why specifically women leave a job, or sometimes the industry, seem to fall into two categories: respect and harassment. Why apply for a job when you see red flags that even if you get hired there's a good chance you'll want to GTFO of there?

By respect I mean: lower pay; lack of career advancement; mansplaining; tedious work items; etc. Harassment I think is self explanatory - if I have to explain it, you'll never understand.

Now, why would your job offer be flying red flags to applicants?

Reputation

Classic example - you work for Uber. Or a subtler example where it's not as endemic but there's still word of mouth that incidents occurred that were swept under the rug instead of shit-canning the people responsible. Whether your team deserves it or not your org is considered toxic and will throw off applicants.

If this is the issue it's likely there's nothing you can do at your level. In fact, depending on the situation I would advise you to start looking for new work :(

Culture

This one is more of a gray area, but I think the more your culture appeals to bro's the more red flags it raises. It is entirely possible for a company to appeal to a younger crowd and be 'fun' and have company events with alcohol and all that without being creepy. But without specific evidence showing otherwise I would understand why some women would assume this to be 'bro friendly' and downgrade accordingly.

Visibility

Do you have women in prominent positions? And are they in positions other than HR, or Docs, or Training or other areas that are considered 'female friendly'? Do you send women to tech meetups, job fairs or conferences?

Being a trailblazer is hard, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Sure, "evidence of absence is not proof of absence" but it doesn't mean there's any proof in the other direction. When trying to find a job I would surely go for the surer thing.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

Hi simonhaisz, thanks for your response!

Well, let's just say you covered a lot of my thinking in my decision making process when I'm searching for a job. I'd like to believe (maybe I'm naive), that wherever I go, I will be treated like a human being (and not like a unicorn, because I'm a developer and not an assistant or an HR or whatever).
Although I'm not looking at the company's website to find the percentage of women that work there, I can see this can be more appealing to a junior dev. On the other hand, I personally would be more keen on choosing a particular position, if I were to be interviewed (in addition to male) by female developers in higher positions, too. That would definitely matter as we people, when being in an unknown environment, tend to feel more comfortable with other people we can relate to. That's biology.

Culture is an important aspect. I strongly believe that the company's culture is more important than your own, meaning, that you can come from a different background, but when the company's (good) culture (a non sexist one of course, and yes women can be sexist too) is forced upon you, then this can be a safe and perfect environment for any developer, in equal grounds.

At my current company we used to be few women (at various roles, unfortunately few developers), but now we are getting more and more, which makes me hopeful.

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antonfrattaroli profile image
Anton Frattaroli

What do your job postings look like? Test variations to see what encourages your desired outcome.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

Hi Anton! From what I've seen so far, our postings are like any other, advertising similar roles. With that being said, they're not explicitly stating that we need more women or more ... (fill in other minorities). But you're right, we need to be more appealing and maybe try out different approaches.

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stenpittet profile image
Sten

Hi Maria, this reminded me of several articles where companies have looked into how language in the job offer would impact the pool of candidates.

One thing to consider is that to get more women to apply you may need to make sure your postings are not like any other since most of the industry has a very low female/male ratio. I think @simonhaiz's comment above has a lot of great insights in that regard.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

Hi Sten,

Really helpful articles, thank you!

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antonfrattaroli profile image
Anton Frattaroli

I wish I could comment more than a process suggestion. Sadly I can't suggest anything that isn't common tactics for targeting women, like advertising benefits, favoring skills over particular technologies, a company culture that values collaboration and learning, avoiding terms like "rockstar" and "ninja" or emphasizing perks that appeal mainly to a particular demographic.

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maria_michou profile image
Maria Michou Author

As one of my colleagues and friend said, "I don't care if you're a woman or a man, tall or short, this colour or that colour, as long as you get the job done and efficiently, that's all that matters".

Thanks!

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thinsoldier profile image
thinsoldier

The same reason why when you ask for an electrician or electronic repairs person or a printing machine operator or an auto body painter or a formula 1 systems wireless telemetry engineer... you get 90% male applicants. I don't know what that reason is but I'll bet it's the same reason.

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theredspy15 profile image
Hunter Drum

Because for the same reason the cheerleader team has way more female applicants than male applicants