It’s no secret that the cybersecurity sector is testosterone heavy. Yes, the tech industry has made some commendable strides toward gender equality—witness Microsoft and Facebook boasting this past Equal Pay Day that they now pay men and women the same salary for the same role. Yet, Microsoft’s global workforce is still 73 percent male and Facebook remains 68 percent male.
These numbers are par for the course in the tech sector. According to the National Science Foundation, only 28 percent of U.S. scientists and engineers are women. Pretty short-sighted when you consider that diverse teams have been proven to perform better.
How can you fix this disparity at your own company? Here are five places to start.
Cast a wider net
It’s not enough to post job listings on your website, LinkedIn, Craigslist or Dice. “If you approach the same candidate pool you’ve been approaching for the past 10 years, you’re going to get the same results,” says Ruchika Tulshyan, author of The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace.
If you want to attract more female cybersecurity specialists, you need to go the extra mile. This means spreading the word to organizations like Women in Computing, Women in Cybersecurity and Society of Women Engineers. It also means telling your employees you’d like to hire a more women and asking them to share listings with their own networks, Tulshyan says.
Revise job listing
Only 34 percent of U.S. job listings include an equal opportunity statement, according to Textio, a platform that helps employers scrub bias from job listings. “This doesn’t only discourage underrepresented groups,” Tulshyan says. “It even discourages people in the majority.” This is especially true among younger workers, who place a higher premium on joining a socially conscious company, she adds.
Pay attention to how you describe your ideal cybersecurity job candidate. Job listings using language like “killer,” “ninja,” “ambitious” and “rock star” won’t attract as many women, Textio has found. Instead, female candidates are more drawn to terminology like “collaborative,” “dedicated,” “teach” and “passion for learning.”
Tulshyan offers the example of digital marketing company Buffer, which had a tough time attracting female candidates with a job description advertising for “hackers.” But once the company changed the wording to “developers,” female applicants began to pour in, two of whom the company hired.
Nix human bias
Research shows that employers are more likely to prefer John’s resume over Jennifer’s, or for that matter, Jamal’s, even if unintentionally. Fortunately, it’s possible to root out this bias. Google, for example, has created a workshop on unconscious bias, which thousands of its employees have taken. The company has also implemented interview standards to help reduce bias and has since increased its female and minority hires.
You don’t have to create a formal training program to foster this awareness. Tulshyan advises talking with those making the hiring, pay and promotion decisions about the fact that these subtle biases exist, even among female decision makers. She also recommends developing internal strategies for weeding out bias, such as evaluating candidates solely on the skills their resume lists (and not their name) or using a tool like GasJumpers to blindly audition candidates based on their talents.
Adjust your public image
Your website and social media pages need to walk the talk, too. If all your stock images depict white men, you could alienate applicants looking to join a more inclusive workplace. Your online descriptions of your corporate culture also should indicate that you place a premium on employee diversity. “Even if it appears that you’re pandering, it’s one of the things worth doing,” Tulshyan says.
Your corporate population must match up. Interview loops that include female and minority decision makers can encourage more women to join your ranks. Same goes for seeing women and people of color in leadership roles at your company, on panels at industry events and in media interviews.
Check your culture
If you want to attract women, millennials and anyone else interested in having a life outside work, advertising for candidates willing to put in long hours and answer messages 24/7 isn’t the way to do it. Instead, brag about your flexible work hours, generous vacation package and family friendly policies. Women won’t ask about these perks in interviews for fear of being discounted as a viable candidate. Don’t leave them guessing.
Of course, you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. Savvy applicants will see right through the charade. Not only do they read the regional and national “best places to work” lists published each year, they talk to each other on employer review platforms like Fairygodboss, a Glassdoor for women concerned with which workplaces are good for women.
If you want to attract a more diverse workforce, take a good hard look at your culture and make sure it’s truly welcoming to female and minority candidates.