NCWIT Tips for Startup Members: Issue #1

To Hire Technical Women, Don't Look for Ninjas.

You may think terms like "rockstar" and "ninja" are just hip ways to describe a good developer, but if you're using these terms in your job listings, you may be sending a subtle message that women need not apply. Researcher Aaron Kay has found that an imbalanced use of "masculine"-associated words, particularly when used for job ads in male-dominated fields like tech, reduces the number of women who apply for these jobs — even if those women believe they're qualified — because they don't perceive they would fit in with your company culture.

Get started:
  • Try to use a balance of "masculine" and "feminine" or more neutral wording in your job posts, to ensure you're not implying a subtle bias.
  • Audit your descriptions for unnecessary qualifiers that might carry gender connotations.
  • Remember that women tend to underestimate their qualifications whereas men often overestimate theirs.
Sources and More Information
"Startups and Job Advertisements," Aaron Kay, Ph.D.: video and PDF slides
NCWIT's Promising Practice, "How Can Reducing Unconscious Bias Increase Women's Success in IT? Avoiding Gender Bias in Recruitment/Selection Processes."
Finley, K. (2013, March 11). New Study Exposes Gender Bias in Tech Job Listings. Wired Magazine.

Audit Your Office Vibe.

Do your cubicle walls feature decorations suitable for a man cave? Do your engineers and marketing people sit on opposite sides of the room? You might be surprised to know that physical environment counts for a lot when it comes to attracting (and deterring) technical women employees. Research has shown that your physical office space sends subtle cues, and if these cues perpetuate a stereotype of technology that is heavily gendered, the minority gender can feel pretty uncomfortable. Make sure you're communicating that your office welcomes all different kinds of people, and that you intend for those people to work together harmoniously.

Get started:
  • Aim for neutral or a wide range of decor.
  • Insist on professional standards of cleanliness.
  • Establish rules about personalization of spaces, including respectful decorations.
  • Consider seating arrangements that integrate teams (and genders).
Sources and More Information
Cheryan, S., Plaut, V., Davies, P., & Steele, C. (2009). Ambient belonging: How stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer science. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 1045-1060.
NCWIT's Promising Practice, "How Does the Physical Environment Affect Women's Entry and Persistence in Computing? Design Physical Space that Has Broad Appeal"
Berson, B. (2013, February 6). How Etsy Grew Their Number of Female Engineers by Almost 500% in One Year. First Round Capital.
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