Diversity and inclusion is central to creating a healthy and stimulating work environment. Developing an accepting and open-minded company culture can take years of planning and hard work. However, technology companies across the UK and beyond are still falling at the first hurdle for being inclusive – recruitment.
With nearly a third of LGBTQ+ students openly conceding that they would avoid a career in tech, there are undoubtedly systematic issues within the industry’s recruitment strategies. In an increasingly competitive and constricted job market, there is more pressure than ever on jobseekers. Unless active steps are taken to ensure that the recruitment process is fair and avoids all inherent biases, tech companies will likely continue to see an imbalance across their workplaces.
A study by Stonewall found that nearly one in five members of the LGBTQ+ community have experienced discrimination whilst applying for a job or being interviewed. Employers need to take conscious action to ensure that no candidate feels embarrassed, vulnerable or exploited when seeking a new job.
Therefore, conscious and unified action – across the tech industry – is required to overhaul the recruitment process. Whilst Pride Month is a great platform to broadcast and discuss LGBTQ+ issues, it is important that the strategies devised by industry voices help LGBTQ+ communities year-round.
With this in mind, here are three ways in which tech companies can apply a more inclusive mindset to their recruitment process.
1. Use gender-neutral language in job descriptions and advertisements
The language we use daily is coded according to gender and, as a result, can often be exclusionary. By using gender-neutral language, it suggests to potential employees that the recruiter, and company, are welcoming to LGBTQ+ employees.
Job descriptions and advertisements play a key role in shaping a candidate’s perception of the company and role. Aspects such as salary range and employee benefits are used to attract talent and the same metrics need to be applied to ensure that members of LGBTQ+ backgrounds are not being deterred from applying.
2. Sharing pronouns at the beginning of the recruiting process
Small gestures can often have a hugely significant impact. Sharing one’s pronouns in their LinkedIn profile, email signature or Twitter bio can immediately display awareness, and signals to candidates that they can be comfortable applying to the role, irrespective of their preferred pronouns or sexual orientation.
Displaying respect for the identity of each individual is essential in any working environment, and this is a culture that can be fostered from the onset, starting with the interview process. Sharing one’s pronouns during the early stages of recruitment ensures that both parties enter the interview knowing that no predetermined bias has been applied.
The inclusion of pronouns is particularly important for those who are going through, or have undergone a gender transition; the recruiter should not address applicants by their dead name (their name prior to transitioning) which may still appear in official documents, though no longer used by the applicant. Misgendering or deadnaming an applicant could easily affect or unsettle them, impacting their interview performance, or even hindering their chances of a successful application.
3. Avoid discriminatory interview questions
Questions form the basis of a successful interview and are key to preventing ‘Mini-Me’ syndrome, which is where employers hire candidates similar to themselves. Ensuring interview questions are relevant and professional is arguably the final step for creating inclusive recruitment.
It is pivotal that topics that could be discriminatory, on any basis, are avoided. This can include the more obvious topics such as political leaning, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, to less known microaggressions, such as asking the interviewee about whether they have children, or questioning their appearance – all questions must remain in a professional and inclusive remit. Focusing questions on the parameters and needs for the role, as well as how a candidate fits into the larger culture of a company, can be achieved without asking personal, or triggering questions.
By combining the above, tech companies can systematically address the way they recruit new staff, and measure the steps they have already taken to ensure that LGBTQ+ candidates have been made to feel comfortable. Further steps, such as providing workshops and training to educate new employees about inclusive leadership, can help build on the recruitment process, ensuring that all new employees are aware of how they can avoid exclusionary behaviour in the workplace.
Whilst clear improvements have been made in recent years, it is crucial that, as an industry, tech continues to support and encourage diversity, starting with their recruitment.
Felizitas Lichtenberg is head of diversity and inclusion at global fintech company SumUp.
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