Skip to content

Tackling Equity in Tech Hiring: Insights from 3 Women Leading HR | Part One

In the evolving landscape of corporate hiring, achieving gender equity remains a critical yet challenging goal. The hiring process, influenced by unconscious biases and systemic inequalities, often fails to treat men and women equally, leading to a skewed workforce. Our most recent study, Smashing the Glass Ceiling for Women in Tech: Exposing Hidden Gender Bias in Job Descriptions, investigates the ways language and diversity commitments help or hinder women from applying for open roles and whether or not this ultimately shrinks talent pools.

To explore the complexities and solutions in this domain further, we gathered insights from three experienced professionals: Lori Golden, Melissa Grabiner and Desiree Goldey. Each brings a unique perspective to the shared challenges of gender equity, diversity in tech hiring pools, mitigating biases in job descriptions, and technological tools in the hiring process.

Lori Golden’s HR expertise is in the tech industry and she is currently a Product Evangelist at Draftboard. In our interview, she addresses the specific difficulties in attracting women to coding roles. She discusses the necessity of a diverse talent attraction strategy and the creation of DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) committees to review job descriptions. She also stresses the importance of reducing unfair hiring bias and points out that while tools are helpful, addressing bias among the people using these tools is crucial.

Melissa Grabiner, a seasoned recruiter and currently the Senior Talent Acquisition Leader at OneDigital, highlights several persistent challenges, including the ongoing wage gap, the need for diverse hiring panels, and the impact of unconscious biases. She emphasizes the importance of unbiased job descriptions to prevent discouraging candidates from underrepresented genders. Melissa also shares effective strategies for enhancing diversity in talent pools, such as implementing strong diversity initiatives, offering flexible work policies, and conducting targeted outreach.

Desiree Goldey, Director of Talent Operations and Culture at ZRG’s Embedded Recruiting Division, elaborates on the importance of a comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion. She explains how ZRG and its clients navigate the journey toward a diverse workforce through audits, surveys, and actionable plans. Desiree’s strategies include connecting clients to untapped talent pools, leveraging networks, and crafting job descriptions that actively seek out diverse candidates. She also discusses the effective use of AI screening tools and structured interviews to enrich the hiring process.

In Part One of this two-part series, we focus on these three HR leaders’ insights and strategies that offer potential solutions for achieving gender equity in hiring, providing valuable guidance for organizations striving to create a more inclusive workforce. 

To start, would you each share what your current challenges are when it comes to gender equity in hiring?

Lori: In tech, and particularly in coding roles, the challenge with attracting women is that the overall pool of talent is disparate to begin with. Even with the extensive investments in promoting STEM education to females, they still choose these roles at a lower percentage than males.

Melissa: A vast body of research shows that the hiring process at many companies is biased and unfair. Gender bias notably affects women more than men. Despite having the same capabilities, women are typically treated less favorably resulting in an imbalance in the workforce. From my experience being a recruiter for many years, gender equity in hiring currently faces several challenges. First, the ongoing wage gap between genders may affect hiring practices. If employers prioritize cost-cutting over fair compensation, they may unintentionally perpetuate inequalities by offering lower salaries to women.

It is also very important that hiring panels consist of both females and males. When these panels lack diversity there is a high likelihood of overlooking qualified candidates from underrepresented genders. 

Additionally, many hiring decisions are influenced by unconscious biases, which is forming opinions about candidates based on first impressions or irrelevant criteria. This can lead to discrimination against certain genders. For example, stereotypes about women’s capabilities in certain roles or leadership positions can unfairly impact hiring decisions. 

Last, it’s very important that job descriptions do not include biased language favoring one gender over another. If this occurs, it may discourage candidates of a particular gender from expressing interest and applying.

Desiree: ZRG and our clients are grappling with this tricky balance — wanting a diverse workforce but not always knowing how to get there. We’re here to shake that up, and help our clients see the incredible value in a team that mirrors the diverse world we live in.  

We look at why it isn’t happening through audit work and surveys, then figure out the journey with actionable steps to make sure we have a plan to get there.  The work is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight. If you do not address every piece of your organization, then it won’t work because you will just be checking a box and not actually providing an equitable and inclusive workplace.

Can you walk us through the strategies you are using to overcome any lack of diversity in your talent pool?

Lori: It’s important to have a diverse talent attraction strategy and to post roles in a variety of spaces that appeal to different audiences. 

Melissa: Diversity and Inclusion initiatives that prioritize creating a warm and welcoming workplace culture for employees from various backgrounds have been effective for my clients.  Flexible work policies that cater to all employees and their particular needs such as remote work options and flexible hours. Targeted outreach and recruitment, such as advertising in a wide variety of places, will bring you a bigger, more diverse candidate pool. By collaborating with various organizations, universities and professional networks, my clients have been able to focus on diversity of hiring which in turn, helps to broaden the candidate pool. Diverse hiring panels also help to minimize the chance of unconscious biases and can help assess candidates more fairly and accurately.

Desiree: At ZRG we are on a journey. We are becoming more intentional in finding different sources for talent.  For our clients, we are connecting them to a talent pool they didn’t even know was out there by hosting and attending events, developing partnerships, and leveraging networks of women and people of color in STEM. This shows us and our clients there’s a wealth of untapped potential; it’s about making those introductions, opening eyes to the real, vibrant diversity of talent waiting to be discovered.

Building gender diversity in tech requires an intentional strategy and planning, followed by a variety of tactics, as made clear by our experts. Here is a recap of Part One, where our talent acquisition leaders focus largely on the following strategies to tackle equity in tech hiring:

  • Employ diverse hiring panels to minimize unconscious biases.
  • Offer flexible work policies to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
  • Use targeted outreach and recruitment to broaden your candidate pool.
  • Implement comprehensive audits and actionable plans to achieve gender equity in hiring.

Join us again for Part Two when we dive into the tactical side of building gender diversity in tech with our experts, including the tools they use and where they have seen progress in the hiring landscape. 

If you haven’t yet, make sure to read our most recent study, Smashing the Glass Ceiling for Women in Tech: Exposing Hidden Gender Bias in Job Descriptions, as the research presented provides great insight into where and how biases currently prevail in job descriptions. Download a full copy of the report here.