Diverse approaches are needed to find female coders and achieve more gender equality in the technology industry, according to Microsoft UK's diversity manager.
Alexa Glick, diversity programme manager at Microsoft, said at Monster's Women in Code event attended by V3 that technology companies need to broaden the way they find and recruit people, especially women, with coding and computing skills.
Glick explained that recruiters put too much emphasis on hiring people from computing backgrounds, rather than searching for technical skills developed outside academia and the industry.
"It's looking a bit further afield than you have been. It's educating your business and recruiters on where people are coming from," she told the audience.
"For instance, they may not come from a typical computer science background. They could come from a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] background, but they could just have the problem solving ability or the scientific mind that is right for a computer science or STEM job."
However, Glick warned that companies still need to find the best skills they can to be successful, and should be careful of carrying out positive discrimination just to recruit more female technologists.
"You can't say: ‘We're just going to hire 100 women and not really think about what their skills are.' You have to hire for the job, but it's about being creative in how you do that," she said.
Glick explained that Microsoft is taking a less traditional approach to finding skilled candidates.
"It's really about thinking outside the box," she said. "We are going to hackathons and hacker competitions and it's really about people's potential and not their previous experience. It's being able to unlock that potential and being able to find it."
Teaching coding in schools is likely to lead to more male and female coders in the industry. But Glick said that technology companies need to do more in the short term to train women coders and inject a little more gender balance into the traditionally male-dominated technology industry.
V3 asked Glick whether Microsoft is doing anything similar to Intel's $300m investment to expand the number of women and minorities in its corporation.
"I couldn't put a number on how much we're investing, but it's constantly front of mind for us. We are doing a huge amount internally to up-skill our female engineers," she said.
"We've seen, in our company especially, that there are a lot of women who are better at programme management in the industry, rather than specialising in coding.
"So what we're able to do is provide training for programme managers to be able to get a bit more technical in their roles as well."
Glick also mentioned Microsoft's DigiGirlz days when the company invites girls between the ages of 12 and 14 to learn how to create apps or games with the aim of inspiring a new generation of female technologists.
Other ways to encourage more women to learn coding and enter the technology industry were discussed at the Women in Code event, including the need for more female role models in the industry, and the erosion of clichéd stereotypes of IT workers as ‘unwashed nerds'.
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