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Guest post: breaking the bro code

Jo Clay with some of the PDS HR team
Jo Clay (middle) with Claudia and Harriet from the HR team at PDS

Today is International Women’s Day which recognises the achievements of women. This year’s theme is “be bold for change”.

Equality for women in the workplace

Equality is still not where it should be considering this is 2017. We still have a long way to go. It’ll be another 170 years before we earn the same as men, according to the World Economic Forum.

Equality for women in the workplace is better in some industries than others, like healthcare and education. The likes of engineering and technology have some ground to make up.

I want to focus on women in digital and explore how we can speed up inclusion for women in digital.

Bridging the digital skills gap

The first step is to recognise there’s an issue. In digital, the lack of women is striking. In 2015, research showed that only one quarter of those working in the digital industry are female. In IT, the statistic is even more alarming, at 16%.

Secondly, we need to identify barriers. When talking about breaking “the bro code” (and I don’t mean Barney Stinson’s rules on How I Met Your Mother), I’m referring to male dominance in digital. You can see this in the growing trend to adopt words like ninjas, rock stars, and jedis in job titles. Use of the word “ninja” in job adverts for digital roles has increased by almost 400% in 4 years.

The use of these terms can create male-dominated environments where “brogrammers” “bro down" and "crush code”. It can have a negative effect on women applying for jobs and often prevents exceptional women from applying.

There’s a huge digital skills gap in the UK and organisations need to be able to tap into diverse talent pools. A report by O2 found that 2 million digital skilled workers will be needed by 2020 to help bridge this gap.

Tips to break the bro code

There’s lots of ways organisations can “break the bro code” to attract and recruit more female talent. We’ve highlighted three here:

Remove masculine words and gender coding

Ninjas, rock stars and jedis are easy to identify but we also use masculine wording all the time. Words like strong, driven and influence. In gender coding, we unconsciously think of traits being male or female based on biases we’ve developed and inherited. Masculine wording in job adverts has a huge effect on female applications and can really affect women’s perceptions of a role. Removing masculine words from job adverts is a quick and easy step to attract more women.

Review qualifications and duties

Only use essential criteria in job adverts and think about whether skills are transferable. Studies show that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the criteria, but women apply only if they meet 100%.

Be flexible

Offer roles at all levels as flexible, part-time or job shares unless there’s a strong business case not to. Flexible working can build a more inclusive organisation by attracting, recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.

Women in Digital event

We recently worked with PDS to do an inclusion audit of their recruitment processes. This was to identify and remove any barriers for female and diverse talent. It’s great to work with an organisation that really considers the benefits of diversity and inclusion. They’re trying to tackle the issues by addressing the challenges and becoming a leader in this space.

Last month I went to the Women in Digital event hosted by PDS. It focused on recruiting more women into digital roles. Lots of women talked about their less than traditional route in to digital and joining PDS. By focusing on transferable skills and recruiting for potential, PDS has been able to attract and recruit more women.

It’s also worth noting that while the event focused on female talent, PDS Director Rob Greig, also addressed the wider diversity challenges. These go beyond gender and PDS is looking to address these too.

Jo Clay is the Head of Inclusive Resourcing at Equal Approach. 

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