The fact that women are underrepresented in Canada’s technology sector doesn’t exactly come as a news flash, but one tech CEO is openly reaching out to his network to do his part towards solving the problem.

As we’ve covered in the past on ITBusiness.ca, women only make up about 25 per cent of workers in the tech sector. The problem is a complex one with many layers of challenges – women are less likely to go into STEM education programs, more likely to leave technical fields for other ones, and unfortunately, it’s all too common to encounter a boy’s club culture at tech startups and even larger organizations.

The problem has become so apparent that Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science, and economic development has named it as a top priority to address. While politicians like Bains can start the conversation at a national stage, what it really boils down to is getting more CEOs at tech firms asking “What can I do to hire more women?” – and that’s exactly what Jayesh Parmar, the CEO of Picatic did on LinkedIn a week ago.

Jayesh Parmar - reach women

Parmar’s network responded with a few great suggestions (and less excellent ones too). Here’s a selection of some highlights to consider if you’re in the same position:

  • Represent diversity on your careers page. Several commenters pointed out that Picatic’s website careers section includes photos of a lot of men working together. That sends a signal to women that might consider applying that they’re not welcome.
  • Be proactive. Don’t sit back and wait for women to apply, go out and find the ones you want to work with. You could work with a recruiter to identify candidates for you, or use tools like LinkedIn and AngelList to find them yourself.
  • Network with women’s business groups. There are several organizations building networks of high-achieving women that are looking to improve diversity in the tech sector. You may even consider having one of these groups use your office space to host their next event. Here are just a few: Young Women in Business, WNorth Conference, Lean in Canada, Women in Leadership, Women in Communications and Technology, TechGirls, and CanWIT.
  • Consider what happens after the hire. If you onboard women to your team only to have a hostile culture, things won’t go well. Consider putting a female executive in place, set up mentorship opportunities for all employees, and consider some flexible policies to allow for employees with young families to still effectively contribute as part of the team. This should probably go without saying, but pay a fair salary that is in line with what you pay other employees of similar experience levels.

On a final note, as you might predict this post also elicited responses that echo the common fallacy that seeking to hire women specifically means you’re open to hiring a less qualified candidate. The problem with this way of thinking is that equal treatment is not equitable treatment. Since women are proven to be at a disadvantage in getting hired and promoted in the tech industry, specific actions must be taken to ensure that women are getting fair treatment when compared to their male counterparts.

As one respondent put it, seeking more women in the hiring process doesn’t mean you’ll discount the skills and experience of male candidates. It just means you’ve broadened the options available to you to hire the best overall person for the job.

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