#SecureWomen: More than Just a Hashtag - How Companies Can Attract More Women
Thirty percent. That’s the average percentage of women making up the workforce across major tech companies. It's important to note this percentage includes both tech and non-tech jobs. Digging deeper, reports show only twenty percent of women make up employees in the US tech industry. When we read numbers like these, one might assume the issue is that there aren’t enough talented women to fill these roles. But as I stood at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Florida this October, surrounded by more than 20,000 smart, impressive, and hopeful women technologists, that didn’t seem to be the case.
So, what’s the problem?
I spent the last two years working closely with my Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager (D&I PM) and nearly four years interviewing our people for employee spotlights. When talking to our women, it's amazing and a little horrifying to hear about their past work experiences.
How they were iced out. How they weren’t supported as moms. How their voice went unheard and work went unnoticed.
These experiences were enough to break a spirit or make them shy away from tech companies or careers in technology. On many occasions, I heard the weariness in their voices when talking about considering a new role at another company. It seemed like they didn’t want to be hopeful that this would finally be the place where they could be a valued member of the team because they'd learned the hard way things aren't always roses and butterflies after the honeymoon phase. Sometimes even sooner.
In hearing this and working with my D&I PM, we realized something: to retain more women, we needed to support their growth. And to attract more women, we needed to give our women a voice. As we strategized and built new initiatives, we saw a shift. We heard more positivity in our interviews. We had engaged women starting at our company. All because we gave our employees a place to share their stories, and backed it up with actual programs to support them.
A Culture of Change
Call me crazy, but I don’t like smoke and mirrors. Maybe I’m a little tougher on companies because I’m a skeptic. Even though I'm not in a technical role, I related to a lot of the stories I had heard. I'm more of a "I'll believe it when I see it" kinda gal. I’m sure many other people are way more optimistic than me, but in having conversations with women internally and externally, I can say one thing for certain: they’ve got your number.
Employers can't expect to pull together engaging copy, staged photos of their employees (or stock), and a pretty design that's all "rah-rah" for their culture and think that's all there is to it. Anyone can say they're great. Anyone can write a clever line about how they support women. But if you don’t live it, if you can’t show how you back up these claims, then don’t even bother. “The future is female,” and they’re here to support one another. If you’re called out as offering lip service rather than actual programs to help women, you’re going to lose a lot of credibility.
Putting it simply, to make an impact on hiring and retention, you have to accept this is a long game. It’s going to take work. Before you get all fancy with your recruitment marketing, you need to create something worth talking about. At Carbon Black, we started this process in 2017 and evolved it continuously since then. It wasn’t until 2019 that we really buckled down and shared it.
Because we wanted something real and tangible to talk about.
So, first things first: build a culture and programs that support and grow your female employees. Show them how you’re different. Prove that you champion women. Put your people first. Once you get that started, then you can work on the attraction piece.
I hope I didn't scare you off with that little dose of truth, but it's only in doing these things that I saw the most impact with our employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts. If you already have a solid culture in place, awesome. If your company isn't quite there yet but is eager to hear what comes after the culture work, read on.
The #SecureWomen Campaign
I’m always looking for new ways to optimize the employer branding role. Part of that means stealing strategies from our corporate marketing team. In talking with someone on Demand Generation, I adopted their outline for an integrated marketing campaign. Rather than doing the quick, short campaigns I had been doing, I wanted something with longevity. Social media algorithms and attention spans have changed. You can no longer post, email, or set up ads once and assume people will see and retain the information. They need to be continuously exposed before they’ll take action.
I knew if we had a campaign that stretched longer and built upon itself, we’d need to tell a story. So, I took their integrated marketing campaign strategy and tweaked it to work for recruiting over a three-month period. Here’s what I did:
Develop the core theme and tagline that anchors it all together. For Carbon Black, we liked the play on cybersecurity (our industry), so we went with the slogan "Smart Women Rock. Secure Women Rule." and the hashtag #SecureWomen. Any content or promotion we created had to support this.
Build subthemes. Since we knew we'd be going to the Grace Hopper Celebration (women in tech conference) in October, we ensured we had relevant content leading up to it. First, we spent a month featuring the women of Carbon Black. This showcased different women in varying roles or phases in their lives (i.e., getting an MBA, moving into a leadership role, coming back as a new mom). Leading into the conference, we shifted our focus to talk more about women in tech at Carbon Black. After the event, our theme transitioned to internal mobility and our programs to develop women's professional skills.
Plan your content. If you’re lucky, you may already have some content developed. I’ve built blogs, photos/graphics, and videos over the years that featured our women and programs. Once I plugged those into my schedule, I found gaps I needed to fill with new content and then made a plan for that.
Give people a place to land. In our case, we created a specific landing page that lives under our diversity tab on our career site. Here, we highlight how we support women (internally and the external community), feature videos, talk about our roles, point out any events we'll be at, list our awards/recognition, and link to our specific #SecureWomen blogs. It's a one-stop-shop of information so people don't have to poke around (which may also cause them to drop off).
Figure out organic and paid opportunities. Will you just be posting on our social media accounts? Will you send out a weekly newsletter to your talent community? Will you make it easy for your employees to share messages with their networks? Will you do paid campaigns on social media? Will you work with third-parties for sponsored content? There are lots of options to get the word out, but you have to figure out what works with your bandwidth and budget.
Get your employees involved. Feature your employees. Their voice is what makes the difference in this type of promotion. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had new hires or interviewees say, “I wanted to work here because of the videos on your site” or “because of the blog I read from the woman in engineering.” Honestly, this is the type of stuff I love to hear because it means it’s resonating. I could pull analytics all day long, see clicks and website traffic, but it’s this feedback that matters.
Building a workplace where women will be proud to work takes a lot of effort, but it's worth it. There are so many talented women out there whose skills are going untapped because they haven't found the place that will support them. Will that be you?