March 23, 2022

We’ve all heard it before, it’s not easy to attract and hire women in tech.  There is a myriad of reasons why any organization should include a healthy balance of women on their tech and leadership teams, and even more reasons why it’s difficult to do so. 

🤔 What exactly are the biases and challenges?

VanHack recently hosted a webinar, Breaking the Bias Around Attracting and Hiring Women in Tech, that is a part of a DEI series designed to support the employer community.  

The 45 minute session provided incredible, thought provoking (and sometimes upsetting!) insights and personal experiences shared by our panelists.  

Thank you to our fantastic guest panelists and moderator:


Read on for key takeaways and insights from the speakers:

Name a bias or challenge faced in your current role or past experience


  • Funding 
    • Funding is particularly difficult as a woman founder in tech.  Investors are often biased and ask women founders “How will you make the business survive?”, whereas they would ask male counterparts “How will you make the business succeed?”
  • Dismissing professional abilities
    • At tech meet-ups, people always assumed women participants are not developers, but instead the organizers.  They’re often the only female in coding bootcamp classes, and it feels challenging to see yourself succeeding in this industry.
  • Disrespect
    • Experienced not receiving respect from male colleagues at their workplace, just because they are female.
  • Constant struggle with hiring women in tech
    • Leads to a lack of women on development and leadership teams.  
    • Focus on diversifying your hiring pipelines to source and reach out to female candidates.  Remove gendered language from job descriptions.


Representation of women in the tech industry
  • Women are underrepresented in tech, making up 34.4% of the workforce.
  • In software engineering – women only represent 14% of the workforce. (Builtin/ Statistia


What’s your experience, and perhaps imposter syndrome as a woman in tech in a male-dominated industry?
  • The biased business system
    • The business/startup system was historically set up for men to succeed.  When women compare themselves to how they’re “supposed” to be, or what accelerators teach, it doesn’t work for them – since it’s not set up for women to succeed.  
    • As women, not that we’re not good enough, we are definitely capable and more.  It’s about staying in the game, finding new workarounds, and finding solutions to gender-related issues.
  • Imposter syndrome 
    • This is real for female high performers.  Be comfortable with your strengths.  Share your strengths, plans, vision, and how your team can contribute with them.  
  • Having to be good at everything
    • Accept that you’re not good at everything, but that you’re there because of the things you are good at. Speak up, let your organization know they need more women on leadership teams.
  • Inner critic
    • Most high performers have an inner critic, leading to self-doubting thoughts like “How did I get here?”  
  • Superhero persona
    • It makes one feel like they should work harder, say yes, and be an expert in everything in order to prove their value, when it’s actually not expected. 


What are your insights, barriers, or biases when it comes to hiring women in tech?
  • Women-led startups only get 2% or less in VC funding – leading to a lack of funds to hire more women developers in their businesses. 
  • Investors are biased toward all-women startups, even suggesting for Caucasian male CTO or senior developers to be added to startup teams to improve funding probabilities 
  • Male developers or C-suite level directors have questioned female interviewer’s knowledge of basic coding languages, or that women should be Frontend Engineers because they tend to be skilled in creativity and design.
  • Parental leave biases
    • Women who take parental leave are disadvantaged – a role or the company may change vastly upon them returning from leave
    • Hiring companies may try to discover one’s marital status to gauge the probability of a candidate taking parental leave.  
  • How to support employees going on parental leave so it doesn’t impede on their success:
    • Have conversations with them on how the company and role may evolve
    • Identify things they can do to stay engaged during the leave
    • Implement programs to support those raising families
  • Token diversity hires
    • Male Founders, CEO, CTOs held one-sided conversations in interviews with a female developer candidate, and offered the job as an effort to diversify their team rather than hiring based on the candidate’s talent


Does your organization set Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals?  If so, how?
  • Leadership teams should remeasure the current state of diversity before setting up new DEI goals.
  • Avoid the “tokenism” of making diversity hires rather than hiring based on merit or skillset.
  • Inject women into the hiring pipeline through top of the funnel – sourcing & direct outreach
    • Diversify the hiring funnel at every step through other means, rather than relying on generic inbound applications
    • Focus on regular talent attraction and outreach, rather than making a list of roles that need to be a certain minority group
    • Diversifying your hires should be an organic process
  • As an interviewee
    • Ask the HR Manager about any DEI policies to ensure it’s solid and implemented into the company culture.


When building job descriptions, are there tools to ensure descriptions are balanced and inclusive?
  • tilr, an ai-based talent intelligence, and acquisition platform help remove biases such as gender and location by stripping down resumes and job description to skills, to ensure the best people are considered based on skill set matches. 
  • Diverse hiring starts with:
    • Bias training in the company
    • Strong hiring briefs that look at necessary versus trainable skills
    • Gender decoders and other online resources for improving job descriptions
      • Gendered language, such as “fast-paced environment”, hints at overtime work, unclear schedules won’t draw women who are parents to apply
    • Align and prepare your hiring team:
      • Difference between what’s necessary and coachable
      • Have two people in interviews, input notes on every candidate before debriefing sessions to remove biases from your teammate
      • Detach names from technical challenges
      • Have a diverse hiring team


What networks, communities, and programs offer support in women-focused professional development and sourcing women in tech?
  • Mentorship and outreach opportunities to girls starting out or women in tech:
  • Ensure everyone on your team has a mentor, and also have an opportunity for them to mentor others


What should you ask a male candidate interviewing for a leadership position to see whether they support DEI best practices?
  • Ask about a time when they supported or faced a challenge on their team that was related to DEI – how did they handle it?  What were the impacts?


Missed out on the webinar?  Catch the Webinar below:


Women in Tech Hiring Event – April 5-7, 2022

VanHack will be hosting its popular Women in Tech hiring event on April 5-7, 2022.  If you are looking to hire women developers, register now to reserve your spot.  You’ll get the chance to speed network with a curated selection of 120+ female developers who have at least 4 years of experience, and have verified English skills.  

Speed networking sessions are organized via skillset (JavaScript, Quality Assurance, Mobile, Python, Ruby on Rails, and Java).  Attend the session for the skill you’re hiring for.

We’re also excited to have a Fireside Chat on April 5 at 8:00am PDT, featuring our guest panelists:

Register to attend just the Fireside Chat session, or stay for the event to meet great female developers to add to your tech teams!

See 40 new senior developer profiles every 2 weeks and get notified about upcoming hiring events!

See 40 new senior developer profiles every 2 weeks and get notified about upcoming hiring events!

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