By Melissa J. Anderson

Tuesday the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology released its latest report on getting more women into the technology workplace. The report combines best practices from a number of top technology companies on recruiting and retaining women, as well as suggestions on how companies of any size can implement them.

Denise Gammal, PhD, Director of Corporate Partnerships at the Institute, explained, “Last year when we first debuted our top companies of the year award — IBM was the winner — we held a workshop to discuss best practices. And through the year, we’ve increasingly had companies ask us what they can do to hire more talented women.”

Companies are actively seeking more women in order to stay competitive, Gammal noted. “The research shows that diversity is important to innovation. It’s hard to develop products you want to market to half the world if half the world isn’t represented in the development of those products.”

And some are going above and beyond to stay on top. This year’s Top Company for Technical Women award, released along with the study, went to American Express. Jerri Barrett, Vice President for Marketing at ABI, said, “This is a company that has achieved over 30% technical women.”

Gammal continued, “And it’s at every level of the pipeline, which is an impressive accomplishment.” She added that the industry norm is around 20 percent women at the entry level , and only three to five percent at the very top.

The report, “Solutions to Recruit Technical Women” is the first in a series of papers discussing tested methods to improve the gender ratio in the technology industry. “Our goal really is to come up with an actionable set of recommendations,” Gammal said. “Any company — no matter their size or resources – will find solutions they can implement.”

Spirit of Collaboration

One of the most meaningful things about the report, Gammal said, was the fact that so many top companies were willing to collaborate on the report — despite the industry’s well-known competitiveness when it comes to talent acquisition. “What was surprising and heartening was how committed companies were to sharing their best practices,” she explained.

Gammal mentioned Cisco’s Cisco Choice program, where candidates choose their best fit career path, which has shown strong results at the 4-year retention level. She also cited IBM’s global initiative to leverage employee networks and social networks to bring in qualified candidates at all levels.

“I would point out a caveat that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But we have put together 19 recommendations,” she said.

One of the top things companies can do to recruit a more diverse talent is broaden their recruitment pool. “Many companies inadvertently narrow their talent pool by only going to a couple sources to recruit – just a few top universities. But they’re ignoring many talented candidates by doing so. So one recommendation is to broaden the prospective talent pool externally.”

Internally, she said, companies need to take a long hard look at themselves. “Really look internally at the unintended biases that may be built into job descriptions and hiring committees.”

Actively setting gender goals is an important way for companies to take control of their talent diversity. She explained, “Paying attention to data really matters. Set targets – this issue is not going to change on its own. This could mean making sure you have strong women candidates on the slate for every job.”

Women of Vision Awards

American Express will be honored as the second recipient of the Top Company for Technical Women Award at the Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards Banquet on May 10 in Santa Clara, California. ABI will also present awards to three women of vision: Jennifer Chayes, Distinguished Scientist and Managing Director of Microsoft Research New England; S. Revi Sterling, Director, ICTD Graduate Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Sarita V. Adve, Professor, Dept. of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.