A global technology company has highlighted the problem of “unconscious bias” when it comes to getting women into tech.

Illinois-based ThoughtWorks seeks to “better humanity through software and help drive the creation of a socially and economically just world”. It employs 4,000 people in 14 countries.

Charlotte Bridgeman, head of UK recruitment, said attracting female graduates is difficult.

“Girls do very well in STEM subjects at GCSE then there is a drop-off,” she told BusinessCloud. “To be associated with tech is not cool, although that perception is beginning to change.

“We’re doing a lot to ensure that our graduate intake is 50-50 in terms of male and female. We practise unconscious bias training: for example, if you have bullet points in a job description that will result in more men applying. Men think ‘I’ve done 70 per cent of these things, I’ll apply’, whereas women think ‘I’ve only done 70 per cent, I won’t bother’.

“We get more women to apply that way. But most applicants are still men – if it was 50-50 I’d be very happy!”

Bridgeman said it is important not to practise positive discrimination for its own sake.

“We review CVs blind – we shortlist the most relevant candidates,” she explained. “We don’t just hire someone because they are a woman – they need to feel empowered that they are there on merit.”

ThoughtWorksThoughtWorks

ThoughtWorks, founded in 1993 provides custom software and its employees blog, write books and are sought-after speakers for industry events. 

It was recently awarded the 2016 Anita Borg Institute's Top Companies for Women Technologists, placing it above Google and Facebook in that category.

Bridgeman believes that tackling the gender imbalance in the male-dominated tech sector is a question of “changing stereotypes” – and that employing women can be of huge benefit to tech companies.

“We have to set ourselves up as a culture women can work in, such as flexible working,” she said. “We coach and mentor girls to give them a sense of belonging.

“We find that female grads have a balanced opinion and viewpoint: they look at the whole problem and analyse the data behind it.

“They also often have a more productive work ethic.”

ThoughtWorks is involved with community groups across the UK that support women in tech, including Ladies Who Code, Code First: Girls, Women Hack for nonprofits, Women Who Code, Manchester Girl Geeks and Ladies that UX. They also support Mums in Tech.

BusinessCloud will be publishing its inaugural ‘100 Women Role Models of Tech’ list in the next edition of the magazine.

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