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Female Engineers: The Importance of Diversity for Product & Team Success

A growing body of research over the past ten years points to a significant correlation between diversity and financial performance. Organizations with more diverse leadership and diverse employees consistently outperform their less diverse competitors in both performance and innovation. 

McKinsey found that businesses with more gender diversity in the executive suite were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the lowest quartile. For ethnic and cultural diversity, these top companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that in addition to “inherent” diversity (gender, race, age), companies that also valued “acquired” diversity (work experience, education) saw superior results. Employees at these companies reported growing market share (45%) and capturing new markets (70%). In contrast, in organizations that lacked this depth of diversity, these diverse employees were less likely to gain support for their ideas in disturbing numbers: women (20%), people of color (24%) and LGBTs (21%). What a loss of brain power and potential market opportunities.

A continuing challenge in the tech field is to increase all types of diversity in the workforce—diversity of thought, background, gender, race and education, to name but a few. When everyone comes from a similar background, the risk of groupthink is high. 

As a recruiter in the tech sector, I have more organizations requesting diverse candidates. Companies are looking for different ways of thinking. They want somebody who comes in with different ideas and different ways of doing things.

This has me considering what factors affect the representation of women in the tech field. There are two sides to this—things the company could be doing better and things that female engineers could be doing better.

How the Organization Can Support Women Engineers

One of the big issues is that there often aren’t a lot of women already in those companies. So female new hires lack a strong female role model or female colleagues with whom they can bond and from whom they can learn the ropes. I often see women decline those positions or leave the company after a short time. It’s one thing to say, “We want to recruit more women.” But companies need to build an environment that supports these pioneers.  This can be achieved by including female engineers and managers in the interview process, do so. 

HR and hiring managers need to be aware of nuances if they want to build more diversity in a workplace. If every resume sings the same song in the same key, what’s the likelihood that you will create a more diverse and innovative workforce?   

In companies that successfully hire and retain female engineers the employee’s manager is very supportive. He or she makes sure to check in, know what the employee’s daily struggles are, and discuss her career goals. They also understand that her experience in the workplace may be different from her male colleagues. Even if she doesn’t have an immediate issue, at least you’ve opened the door for future conversations. That’s managing diversity and inclusion.

How Women Engineers Can Strengthen Their Own Position

As a female engineer, what can you do to help yourself be hired and be successful?

Let’s begin with the hiring process. Even with online applications and social media like LinkedIn, the resume is still the foundation. In my years as a recruiter, I have noticed that many women use passive verbs on their resumes, for example, “I assisted, I helped, I was part of a team.” Whereas many men use stronger, action verbs like, “I executed, I led, I directed.”  It’s important to make sure your resume speaks strongly to your ability. 

Highlight the skills that are principal to the job opening. You don’t need to show everything you’ve done. Magnify what you do want to do and minimize or leave off the things you do not want to do.

When it comes to interviewing, women can be assertive when asked their opinion, by avoiding saying I “might be,” “maybe,” or “I think…” Those statements can come across as uncertainty.   Read the room. Use more action verbs accompanied by a positive, confident tone, one that communicates, “I can do this job, and I can do it well.” Know when you should accentuate your soft skills, and when you should be more assertive. Share examples of your team building skills if that’s applicable. 

To get ready for the interview, follow the advice we give to any candidate: prepare well. Know who you will be speaking to, understand the specifics of the job, research the company and be prepared to ask your own questions. After giving an answer, close the loop by asking, “Did I answer your question?” You’re not just there to present yourself. You’re there to show how you would be in that job.

Hiring more diverse candidates is a priority for many organizations now. And because recruiters can search by keywords, if you want to stand out for your diversity, weave that into your LinkedIn profile. Mention your experience volunteering at a non-profit or your involvement in a tech women’s networking group, like Women Who Code, She Geeks Out  or Girl Develop It.

Although we’ve focused on women in this article, truly all aspects of diversity can strengthen the team and make the company more successful. 

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