Are you a tech entrepreneur wondering why your efforts to bring on new coders, engineers and IT people always turn up tons of male job candidates, but very few women? If you’re looking to redress the traditional imbalance between men and women in the tech world, one answer could be going virtual—virtual workers, that is.
A new report from online hiring site Elance found that while they may be struggling to find parity as on-site tech employees, women are finding both personal and financial rewards as freelancers, virtual employees and independent contractors handling IT jobs. In fact, 70 percent say it’s easier to succeed in technology online than it is in the “real world” of the office.
The endless hours that a lot of on-site tech jobs require could be one reason why women prefer online work. (Think of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent ruling that employees must come in to the office to work.) Six in 10 women in the Elance study say working online makes it easier to balance their work and their personal lives. Even if they have to be on call 24/7, doing so from home offers more flexibility than sitting in an office.
Women in the survey also said online work is intellectually stimulating. For women who’ve been out of the job market for a while, picking and choosing online jobs makes it easier to learn new skills and build their resumes. Sixty-five percent of women in the survey said working online gives them access to more diverse projects than they’d get in a traditional office setting.
Finally, and this is kind of sad, but women said that online, they don’t feel the effects of gender discrimination as much as in the office. Instead, they can prove themselves based on getting results. If you think discrimination isn’t still a factor, consider that 21 percent of women say the “unappealing geek culture” is hindering women from advancing in technology, while 31 percent cite stereotypes.
If you’re trying to bring more women into the workforce, offering the option to work remotely, hiring a virtual workforce, or using female IT contractors or freelancers are all good ways to go about it. But if your business doesn’t allow for online work and you need tech workers in the office, here are a couple things you can do to make it more appealing for women:
- Pay attention to company culture. Is your office male oriented? If your idea of workplace bonding is limited to foosball games, beard-growing contests or keggers on Friday afternoons, consider expanding to more gender-neutral activities. (Bonus: These will probably be more appealing to older male techies, too.)
- Watch the wording of your want ads. Do your want ads paint a picture of a roomful of young male geeks who rarely bathe and lack social skills? As Fast Company recently suggested, making your workplace sound less “bro-tastic” and more friendly and inclusive is a big step toward attracting more women.
- Use your connections. Consider contacting women in your social networks (even those who aren’t in technology) to solicit referrals to female techies they might know.
Image by Flickr user Sam Howzit (Creative Commons)