The Importance of Inclusive University Recruiting Strategies for Women in Tech

STEM fields have come under intense scrutiny in recent years for their statistical lack of women in Computer Science (CS) roles. While women make up 57% of the U.S.

STEM fields have come under intense scrutiny in recent years for their statistical lack of women in Computer Science (CS) roles. While women make up 57% of the U.S. workforce, as recently as 2014 only 26% of professional computing occupations were held by women. This problem stems from many factors including cultural gender stereotypes, educational gaps, and biased hiring practices.

The issues facing women in STEM are attributed to a number of factors in early education, where girls are often discouraged from pursuing sciences, leading to low numbers in college CS departments, where women who do choose to pursue a STEM degree often feel unwelcome. As numerous studies demonstrate the importance of diversity for a productive workplace, tech companies across the country have stepped up to provide resources for young women coders, such as hackathons and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In circles, and are evaluating their hiring practices to attract top female talent.

For university recruiters in the tech space, it is imperative to build an inclusive campus recruiting strategy that can address these issues, and foster a community of support for women in the workplace after college. Many companies continue to struggle in their efforts to hire and retain women from top CS programs, so I want to take a look at some of the events that have been successful for the University Recruiting team at Delphix.

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This year Delphix was one of several companies whose sponsorship allowed 50 women from Rice University to attend the annual Grace Hopper Conference in Houston.

Aside from the policies at the company itself (what kind of parental leave do you have, etc.), one of the best ways to appeal to women in tech is to show that your company is more than a monoculture. As Sharon Wienbar of TechCrunch has noted, inclusivity does not mean daisies and doilies, nor hosting a hack a hair dryer challenge, but presenting the company culture as one with universally appealing values like mentorship and collaboration. One of the biggest challenges women face in the tech world is a feeling of isolation or of not belonging, and research has shown that simple changes to the workplace environment or the way you present the company to prospective employees can have a huge impact on how women envision themselves there. A great way to do this on campus is to connect students with a variety of representatives from your engineering team to whom they can relate, and ultimately see themselves working alongside.

At our campus events, we encourage women to engage in conversation with our engineers and view the tech industry through a critical lens, providing not only presentations on our technology, but also a forum for women to take part in a larger discussion on issues in computer science, as an industry and a culture. At Brown University, we held a conversation with the Women in CS group challenging Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In philosophy, and at Rice University alum Elizabeth Liu presented on her experience with mentorship in the tech industry.

Outside of events with our team, we also sponsor activities that encourage coding communities and projects for women; at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we support Code it! - a program for middle schools girls to get exposed to coding and technology over a long weekend. Delphix also sponsors our own Women in Tech scholarship, a coding competition that encourages women to build a unique project, and receive scholarship money to enable the pursuit of a technical degree. This year’s winner was Kelsey D’Souza of Columbia University, whose SMS-based mobile health service “EboHub” connects Ebola patients with caregivers. Through these programs, we empower women to pursue their interests in technology and software development, in a space that allows them to see firsthand the value of their contributions.

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CSters from Rice University at Grace Hopper 2015

One of the reasons I was drawn to Delphix as a university recruiter was the hiring statistic shared by my now-manager: at Delphix, women made up 45% of our incoming class of new college grads in 2015. This was huge news to me, coming from a company where we very rarely saw women at our entry-level new hire orientation. This discrepancy is one encountered at startups and corporations alike across Silicon Valley, but I was intrigued to realize that a smaller company can have a much bigger opportunity to improve its hiring. Wienbar explains that one of the upsides of smaller, high-growth companies is that they “can dramatically change ratios without extraordinary changes in pipeline because the number of new hires is high relative to existing employees.” As Wienbar points out, even if Google hired all of the women CS majors from the top 15 programs in the U.S., it will only increase its female headcount by 1.5%. At Delphix, which is still growing, the potential is much higher to develop a strong culture of inclusion company-wide.

Like the rest of the tech industry, we still have a ways to go in closing the gender and diversity gap. While there is still much work to be done, I feel confident that with our foundation and leadership, we will continue to drive thoughtful and inclusive hiring practices when we return to campus next year.