We all know that the Israeli tech job market is booming, but it has also become a landgrab for top talent. Finding good people with the right skills who are a good fit for a company here in Israel has become a challenge and the top businesses are vying for top talent all the time.
My role, as HR lead for a successful cloud based computing company based in Tel Aviv, means I am constantly looking for the most qualified people to come work for us. But over time, two primary observations became clear. One was that there appeared to be more male software developers in the job market, but also, that it seemed that there were more successful male applicants for open positions even when there were very qualified female candidates competing for the same jobs. Why was this? I mean, I’m not a developer, but I am a woman working in tech, and I know that some of the best software developers out there are female.
For me the answer was simple, somewhere along the hiring pipeline, female developers were somehow falling short or self-selecting out of the process. I needed to tap into that as yet relatively unknown market of female developers, but at the same time also try to provide more equal opportunities for talented female developers who were struggling to break into the job market. Women account for approximately 15% of the total number of R&D employees in Israel and that number could and should be higher.
Possible reasons for that relatively low percentage of female developers here in Israel may have to do with remnants of a “boys club” mentality that is a possible carry-over from military service where men from Army computer units sought male friends from the Army to join them in the private sector, once they left the service. Another view may be a much more traditional one, in so far as women may be seen as a “high risk for maternity leave” and therefore perhaps not suitable as long term potential hires given the resources it would take to hire, train and then re-train someone else for the same position.
My personal view was that these perceptions were antiquated and made very little business sense here in Israel, or anywhere for that matter. My view, and one shared by my employer, was that our hiring policy should be about finding the best, most qualified people whether they be male or female. We also believed that our company should have an open and welcoming environment for female developers, and at the same time communicate that we are a forward thinking, innovative place to work.
Given these core beliefs, we started to shift our hiring process by consciously re-designing activities to meet the individual needs of female applicants. It’s very important to point out that “re-designing” didn’t necessarily mean complex or expensive changes, but rather, using common sense and making some minor adjustments to make the prospect of working at our company more appealing for women. This “re-design” came about through four distinct changes to the hiring pipeline.
- The first change was the interview process itself. Whenever we were interviewing a potential candidate who happened to be female, a female interviewer would be also be brought in to interview the applicant in order to make her feel more at ease and comfortable.
- The second adjustment was to change the order of a programming skills test to occur second, rather than have the test before the face to face interview portion. We found that female applicants preferred to establish a personal connection through the face to face interview first, prior to completing the computerized test.
- The third differentiation in our hiring process was to be transparent and stress to potential female applicants the importance of flexible hours and the company belief that family comes first. If a mother had to leave at a certain time to pick up children, as an example, it was perfectly acceptable. The company felt strongly that they didn’t mind if you had to leave early to be with your kids, as long as you could log on later and get your work done. We found that this really resonated well with our female applicants.
- The final factor was to have an open discussion regarding salary and compensation. In a hyper competitive employment market such as the one here in Israel, and specifically Tel Aviv, once an employee, male or female, feels they are not being fairly compensated or treated fairly, they are likely to look to competitors or head hunters for better offers.
I noticed years ago that women tended to ask for lower salaries, perhaps thinking that this was their “real” market worth, or that by asking for a lower salary it would make them more competitive with male applicants. While this may seem like an appealing cost saving move for some companies, I never felt this was a good strategy for the simple fact that a new female employee coming onboard was already at a disadvantage in terms of feeling they had to negotiate their way into the position rather than win it on their own merit.
Further, negotiating a lower salary would also likely leave a bitter taste in a female applicants’ mouth and they would look for the first opportunity to leave the company once they had built up some experience. Not to mention that I found it offensive as a woman that other women felt that they had to ask for less than a man to be competitive. Therefore, my belief and that of my company, was that qualified employees, male or female, should be given their fair market worth based on their individual experience.
Can we say there is perfect equality between male and female developers here in Israel? Not yet, but we are proud of what we’ve done, and by shifting hiring practices and mindsets even slightly, and at no cost to the company, the playing field is a lot more accessible for female developers, and ultimately, that’s a win-win for everyone.
Note: 70% of the staff at Webcollage in Tel Aviv is female, including 50% of the R&D team.
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