Six Ways to Attract and Hire Women in Male-Dominated Industries

Current news stories make it sound like it’s impossible to attract women to high-tech jobs. My team debunks that myth. Here’s how you can do it too.

I lead a high-tech sales team of 50—half are women, including a vice president and two directors. Yes, this is highly unusual in the male-dominated worlds of both tech and sales, and I’m often asked how I’ve managed to hire so many successful women.

The truth is, I’ve never had a problem finding highly talented people of both genders, so I haven’t had a good answer. To analyze what’s worked so far, I turned to the experts: the women on my team. I asked what attracted them to their current job and what other companies could do to attract and retain women. Here’s what they had to say:

1.  Understand the power of female role models. Every woman I spoke to said that seeing women in leadership positions attracted her to our company. “It’s motivating to watch these leaders balance work and life, raise families, and still crush goals at work,” says Erica Johnson, a senior account executive. When Kathie Baures, a senior account executive, met me during her job interview, her first thought was: “Nice. A female exec. That’s different.

2.  Don’t treat women as tokens. Seeing only a handful of women scattered here and there raises a huge red flag. “I once had a leadership role with a large technology company where, out of 75 leaders, only two were women,” says Sherrie Hayes, a senior account executive. “Our ideas were quickly dismissed, and we were ignored on a regular basis.” After a year, she decided the money just wasn’t worth it and left.

3.  He for She. Building a strong female presence requires men who are not only committed to hiring women but actively champion for them. My boss, Rick Brown, an SVP of sales, was described as that kind of ally. Recalling her job interview with Rick, Hayes said, “He made it clear that, based on his opinion and experience, when you have women in your organization, you always have a strong and successful team.”

4.  First impressions count. A lot. Job interviews are as much about the candidate picking your company as they are about you deciding to extend a job offer. “I can tell right away if a company is ‘women friendly,’” said Hayes. “I take my cues from the men in leadership positions and how I’m treated during the interview process.” Baures described a disastrous interview at another tech company with a brash, egotistical VP: “I’d never want to work at a company where that guy was considered the ultimate sales prototype.”

5.  Get managers onboard.  To succeed you need support at all levels, not just at the top or within human resources. “If a company is serious about hiring more women then they need to make sure that’s not just HR talking and that they have hiring managers who objectively consider female candidates,” says account executive Amanda Pittis.

6.  Talent attracts talent. The great thing about hiring and developing talented women is that they become your best recruiting tool. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of like attracting like. Simply put: “Find the talented women in your company, nurture their skill set, and promote them,” says Lisa Martin, vice president of northwest sales. “They will act as a beacon for others to follow.”

Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse.

Alice Katwan

Alice Katwan is Senior Vice President of Sales, West and Central regions, at Genesys, a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. She has 20 years experience in sales at enterprise software companies, and frequently writes and speaks about women’s leadership issues. Connect with Alice on LinkedIn.

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