How to Hire More Female Engineers

Hiring female engineers has become a critical priority for startups aiming to foster innovation and stay competitive. Despite the well-documented benefits of gender diversity, women remain significantly underrepresented in engineering roles, particularly in the startup ecosystem. By examining successful case studies and outlining practical steps, we aim to empower startups to create inclusive environments that support and celebrate female engineering talent.

The State of Female Representation in Engineering

The tech industry has grown and innovated in recent years but female engineers in technology startups are still few and far between. This is not just a reflection of broader societal gender imbalances but also specific challenges within the tech industry.

Stats on Female Engineers in Startups

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2023 survey, women make up 16.7% of architecture and engineering occupations in the US. In the startup world, this number is even lower. Carta’s 2023 data showed a 2% decrease in women founders. These numbers mean we need to do more to increase gender diversity in science and engineering roles in startups.

Challenges Female Engineers Face in the Tech Industry

Female engineers in the tech industry face many challenges that contribute to their underrepresentation. Some of the main obstacles are:

Workplace Culture: The tech industry has been male-dominated for a long time so the workplace culture can be unwelcoming or even hostile to women. This can discourage women from pursuing or continuing a career in the engineering field.

Bias and Discrimination: Gender bias in hiring, promotions, and everyday interactions can impact women’s career progression. Research shows that women working in tech are judged more harshly than men, which can affect their confidence and career growth.

No Role Models: There are so few female leaders and mentors in science and engineering roles that it’s hard for women to see themselves in the role.

Work-Life Balance: Engineering roles require long hours which can be especially tough for women who may carry more family responsibilities. Lack of policies like flexible work hours and parental leave makes it worse.

Why Most Engineering Teams Fail to Attract Enough Female Engineers

Several reasons why engineering teams struggle to attract female engineers:

Lack of Benefits Women Need: Many companies don’t offer benefits that are important to women such as maternity leave, childcare support, and flexible work options. These benefits are key to creating a supportive and inclusive workplace.

Gender Bias in the Hiring Process: The hiring process in many companies is still biased. For example, job descriptions use language that can be off-putting to female candidates. And lack of women in the interview process makes potential female hires feel unwelcome.

Workplace Culture: A company’s culture is key to attracting and retaining talent. Companies that don’t actively promote diversity and inclusion will struggle to attract female engineers.

Importance of Diversity in Engineering Teams

Having diverse engineering teams goes beyond just meeting quotas. Diverse teams bring different perspectives and experiences that can supercharge innovation and problem-solving.

Benefits of Gender Diversity in Engineering Teams

Gender diversity in engineering teams:

Better Performance: Research shows diverse teams perform better. A McKinsey & Company report found companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 39% more likely to outperform on profitability.

More Innovation: Diverse teams bring different perspectives to more innovative solutions. A Boston Consulting Group study found companies with above-average diversity generated 19% more revenue from innovation than companies with below-average diversity.

Innovation with Diverse Teams

Diverse teams are better at problem-solving because they can draw from a wider range of experiences and perspectives. This diversity of thought leads to more creative solutions and a better understanding of a diverse customer base. In engineering where problem solving is key, having a team that can approach challenges from multiple angles is gold.

Addressing Diversity Early On

Addressing diversity early in a company’s growth is key. Once a company has established its culture and demographics, it’s harder to change. Early-stage startups have the advantage of building a diverse and inclusive culture from the ground up which can set the tone for the company’s future growth and success.

How to Attract Female Engineers to Startups

Creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for female engineers requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are some strategies that can help startups attract and retain female engineering talent:

Inclusive Job Descriptions and Company Culture

Inclusive Job Descriptions: Use gender-neutral language in job descriptions and highlight the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Don’t use jargon or phrases that may deter female candidates from applying.

Company Culture: Foster a company culture that values diversity and inclusion. This includes having policies that support work-life balance, diversity training, and an inclusive workplace.

Partner with Organizations that Support Women in Engineering

Partner with organizations and initiatives that support women in engineering, such as Women Who Code, Girls Who Code, and the Society of Women Engineers. These partnerships will help attract female talent and show you are serious about gender diversity.

Mentorship and Support Programs

Mentorship Programs: Set up mentorship programs that connect female engineers with experienced mentors who can offer guidance, support, and career advice. These programs will help women navigate the challenges of working in a male-dominated field.

Support Networks: Create networks within the company where female engineers can share experiences, ask for advice, and support each other.

Career Growth and Advancement

Professional Development: Invest in professional development opportunities for female engineers, workshops, conferences, and training programs. Encourage and support them to participate.

Clear Career Pathways: Have clear career pathways and regular feedback to help female engineers progress in their careers. Recognize and reward their contributions and achievements.

Gender Pay Gap and Workplace Bias

Pay Equity: Conduct regular salary reviews to ensure pay equity in the company. Fix any discrepancies and pay female engineers fairly for their work.

Bias Training: Have training programs to address unconscious bias and promote a more inclusive workplace. Encourage open conversations about bias and work to create a culture of respect and equality.

Work/Life Balance and Other Benefits

Flexible Work Options: Offer flexible work options like remote work, flexible hours, and part-time positions. These will help female engineers balance work and personal life.

Family Friendly Policies: Have family-friendly policies like extended maternity and paternity leave, childcare support, and family health benefits. These will make the workplace more attractive to female engineers and support their long-term career growth.

How to Attract Female Engineers

Startups that have Gender Inclusive Practices

Several startups have gender-inclusive practices and are worth looking at:

Atlassian: This software company has made great progress on gender diversity. Atlassian has inclusive hiring practices, extensive support for working parents, and a strong mentorship program.

Slack: Slack has made diversity and inclusion a priority from day one. They have created a space for women through mentorship programs, diversity training, and family-friendly policies.

GitHub: GitHub has focused on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace by partnering with organizations that support women in tech, offering flexible work options and regular diversity and inclusion training.

Conclusion: Building a Diverse and Inclusive Engineering Team

Having a diverse and inclusive engineering team is not only the right thing to do but also a business decision. Diverse teams are more innovative, better at problem-solving, and can drive more business success. For startups, addressing diversity early on can set the foundation for a positive and inclusive company culture.

Startups can attract and retain female engineering talent by having inclusive job descriptions, mentorship and support programs, addressing the gender pay gap, and investing in work-life balance. Learn from successful case studies and keep working to improve diversity and inclusion practices and startups can build engineering teams that are not only diverse but also high-performing and innovative.

Successful Placement: How Kofi Group Promotes Diversity and Inclusion

At Kofi Group, we build diverse and inclusive teams for early and growth stage startups. An example of this is when we partnered with Rialtic IO to hire a female data engineer. We were introduced to Rialtic by Oak HC/FT, one of their lead investors, to help them fill a challenging engineering role.

They were in search of an engineer who had experience spanning backend SaaS development and building real-time data ingestion pipelines. Beyond the technical skills, they were also looking to diversify their previously all-male engineering team.

We met with their hiring team to discuss the role in detail and within 6 weeks, we presented 7 candidates who were highly qualified for the role. 2 of them made it to the later interview stages and 1 was hired.

Here’s what their Lead Recruiter shared:

Ken Dugan CIR Testimonial

Build a diverse and innovative engineering team and transform your startup’s potential.


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