The question was recently posted to Women in SharePoint: How do you get college ladies to apply for internships? The question was posed because there was an opening and there were no female applicants to the position. None, zip, zilch, zero, nada… you get the picture. This is an increasingly common question. We know that there are women out there who are excellent SharePoint IT Pros, Developers, Project Managers, Business Analysts, Designers, and dare I say, Architects. These women make up some of the best and brightest in the field, so how come we can’t seem to attract any of them to positions?

“Are you looking where women are?” was my first reaction to this question. And I have to admit, I wasn’t sure that was the best reaction, but it made me stop and think. How do you recruit women, whether for an internship, an entry level technology position, or even higher in technical teams? As a woman, I know that I have had to adapt and set my career focus on what I want and go pursue those positions I want regardless of whether the company that had the position was using any techniques to recruit women. However, women who are just getting started in their careers may not have the network or knowledge of where to go to seek out these positions, or even what positions they may want to seek out and put them on a specific career path. So I did a little research and came up with some great suggestions to help companies reach out to women to apply for positions (at any level) within their organizations.

Make the job descriptions more neutral. Terms like “guru, ninja, wizard” shouldn’t be included in job descriptions or advertisements while these may be an attempt to make the position sound appealing to younger generations, these terms do not have the same appeal across all genders, races, and cultures. Other terms that typically describe masculine behavior and management style are also things that may turn women off in looking at the position. Consider the words you use, make sure that you are presenting the position in an appealing manner to all people.
Recruit where women are. Internships, especially, are going to be a challenge. The number of women in colleges who are majoring in technical fields is, sadly, still small. You will need to ensure that you are very specific about recruiting them. Consider colleges for women as much as co-ed colleges. Also, enlist the professors and the contacts at the colleges and universities to encourage women applicants. Look for job fairs for women and advertise there. Tell your recruiters that you specifically want to ensure women are applying, don’t dumb it down for them, but seek out those talented women. Don’t forget there’s a lot of sites out there that will post your position and cater to a specific audience or help you find people who might be interested; women’s sites like this one that may have a discussion board or have links to job sites.

Use the current women in your organization. Encourage the women who are in positions to find others and bring them in, use their networks. Incentivize it, and incentives don’t have to be financial.

Stress the benefits. Every conference and women’s event I’ve been to there has been the question of “Work-Life Balance” for women. Women want the career, we want the family, we want it all. Stressing the benefits of the position helps us to know what piece we may or may not be sacrificing or building with that position. I’ve honestly taken a position that wasn’t a raise financially but the benefits were what I needed at the time for my level of work-life balance. Remember this isn’t always just about having children and family, it could be that there is a strong desire for travel, but make sure you spell all of these things out.

Show that you are open to having them apply. This one doesn’t take much unless you’re starting from ground zero. One of the first things many of us do when considering where we want to work is search for them on the internet. Show and highlight the diversity of your organization if it already exists. Even if you don’t have a diverse group but want one, you can do this. Find a project or something that you have worked on with women (and this doesn’t just apply to women, but all kinds of diverse people) and get permission to use the pictures or a press release on your site.

Mentoring programs do work. If you have women in your organization that are mentoring and helping others they are a great source for that. Sponsoring a mentorship program ensures that you have a pool of talent already at your fingertips, familiar with your organization, and who are going to be ready to enter your workforce soon. Consider the Hacker School grants done by Etsy in order to specifically recruit women into engineering roles. They used this opportunity not only to recruit women, but to train them and teach them so they were ready when it became time to hire, and they dramatically increased their diversity within the engineering arena.

These are just some of the first suggestions that popped into my head, and then I did a little research and found that this is also suggested by experts as well. I’d like to leave you with the following references to help with these ideas and more. Remember, this is just to get them to apply, once you get to interviewing and retaining your top talent, there is even more to consider.

How to Get More Women Hired for Technical Roles
How to Recruit Women for Your Workforce
Making your IT Department More Attractive to Women
Six (More) Ways to Recruit Women
How to Recruit and Retain Women in Tech Workplaces