The right ways and very wrong ways to recruit female developers

Companies and developers share thoughts on how to recruit women programmers, while one company demonstrates how to definitely not do it

Most people in the technology world probably already know that it’s hard to find good software developers these days. That’s why some companies have resorted to things like offering really large cash referral bonuses (or, sometimes, something more offbeat than cash) to find them. Finding female developers, though (who currently make up about 20% of the developer workforce), and convincing them to work for your company can be even harder.

no_girls-290x218_0.jpgImage credit: flickr/Enokson
Some female developers still feel this is the case

The issue of recruiting female programming talent made the news recently, unfortunately in a negative way. As reported by NewStatesman, Evvnt, a London-based startup advertised for Ruby developers earlier this month on a discussion board and advertised a number of perks to attract developers such as a four day work week, free chocolate and “female french, italian and spanish junior / front and backend developers.” Not surprisingly, this triggered some strong negative reactions and eventually Evvnt issued an apology. It was an incident that demonstrated the mindset (conscious or not) that females often still have to contend with in the tech world.

While this was an example of how to repel female developers, the question still remains: What are the best ways for companies to attract them? First, before you can convince female programmers to work for your company, you have to find them. Sarah Allen, the CEO of Blazing Cloud, recently told NPR that good recruiters should be able to present you with a set of diverse resumes. “And if your recruiter can't get you resumes that are diverse, find another recruiter," she said.

Some recommend actively recruiting female students before they’re even in the workforce.

We actively seek interns at the local schools. We've found that there's much more gender balance at the college level. … We feel our internships really get people fired up about a career in software engineering regardless of gender.

Scant Roger

Advertising in forums geared toward female tech professionals can also help.

The Society of Women Engineers (Home Page) is a nonprofit organizations that can possibly help you. You can either advertise your opening on the SWE Careers page, or you can directly contact the SWE chapters in your geographical area.


Once you’ve found female developers that you’d like to hire, of course, you still need to convince them to work for you. While women programmers want a lot of the same things as men (good pay, challenging work) women also want to know that they won’t be a token female on a team of men.

I look for other women on a team. If there aren't any women on the team, I would wonder why. Have other employees harassed former female team members until they quit? If there have never been any former female team members, that presents a problem, too.


I was really surprised by how many design — let alone development — firms had women as window dressing: one woman on the team, and it turns out she's the salesperson

Estee Solomon Gray, founder of Mmindd Labs

Ultimately, women developers just want to know that they’ll be treated fairly, like their male colleagues.

As a female developer, I know one way I can be beckoned into a job: Equality. ...I want to be hired on my skills, not my 'assests'. If there was ever a time when I found out my co-workers salaries, and I was getting paid less with the same experience due only to my gender, I wouldn't be happy. I'd just like a job where I can be one of the team, not one of the subset of the team.


Are you a female developer? What’s your experience been like? Any advice to companies looking to hire women engineers? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

ITWorld DealPost: The best in tech deals and discounts.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon