Here’s how you can recruit more women into tech

Halimah Awan

By Halimah Awan

The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on working women – in the year to January 2021, three million left the US workforce. At the same time, we’re facing a digital skills crisis, with tech and IT jobs now making up 13 per cent of all UK vacancies.

There’s a clear opportunity to tackle both these issues – to build the workforce of the future, organisations should provide more women with the opportunity to switch to a career in technology.

That’s why we’ve created a career changer scheme. It attracts women with a passion for data into our analytics team by developing their technical skills.

We spoke to three of the PA Women in Tech team behind the scheme – Maggie Hunt, digital expert, Camilla Jansz, recruitment lead, and Caitlin Johnson, analytics expert – to learn about how to design and set up a career change scheme for long-term success.

1. Find out what already exists

To start, we researched what other schemes were available across PA, learning from what was already on offer. We wanted to make sure there wasn’t a similar scheme in place that we could promote instead and set out to differentiate from existing programmes.

We also collected feedback from job interview notes to identify why we were rejecting candidates. We found we’d rejected great candidates with consultancy skillsets as the technical gap was too big.

2. Mobilise a cross-functional team

We gathered a group of analytics, digital, recruitment and HR professionals to solve the challenge of how to attract more women into technical roles.

Together, we conducted focus groups with recent career changers, asking about key lessons learnt, the importance of defining expectations at the start of the scheme and providing structured training. And we assessed exit interviews to understand why women had left similar schemes and used this to shape our solution.

We took this research and presented the problem to senior leaders, gaining their support and the green light to progress.

3. Design your scheme with tailored targets and pathways

We mapped the journey career changers would take into PA and designed a pathway that would provide consultancy and technical training, on-the-job learning, and tailored targets to enable career progression.

Key to this was implementing an intensive training period to develop the skills of career changers without affecting their performance KPIs. This gave them the chance to get industry certifications and the confidence to develop further.

4. Amend your recruitment practices

Traditionally, we’ve recruited for technical aptitude rather than consultative and collaborative skills. We switched the emphasis onto the broader skills needed to work with clients and a passion for data.

We also made our job description accessible, focusing on personality traits and attitude rather than qualifications. This led to 230 applications for five spaces in three weeks. To create a shortlist of candidates, we prioritised those who had shown an interest in data outside of their career. When assessing career changers, it’s important to look at their passions, not just their experience.

5. Support your new joiners

New joiners can often shy away from asking for help, so pair candidates with a buddy to guide them through first few weeks. Let them know support is always available. By focusing on the social elements of onboarding, we help build career changers’ networks across PA and get them set for success.

In terms of technical training, we made sure there was both a challenge and early wins to show how quickly they could learn technical skills and build confidence. We also paired them with a mentor who was an expert in their technical area of interest.

It’s important to keep an open dialogue with career changers, understand the areas they might struggle in and feed this into the design of future schemes.

If you’re interested in a career change, or setting a similar programme up at your company, sign up to our mailing list to get the latest on future schemes and insights.

About the authors

Halimah Awan
Halimah Awan PA digital analytics expert

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