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Go where the women are, silly.

The tech sector is notoriously awful at attracting and promoting women. There would be no point in spilling much more ink on that, but the truth is that the situation has gotten worse over the past 30 years in the US.  In 1987, 37 percent of computer science degree holders were women.  As of 2012, that was down to 18 percent. Women software engineers are scarce, so businesses need to be proactive.

Women, on the other hand, would like to be hired and promoted and are famous for organizing themselves into groups. If your business is serious about hiring women software engineers, here are six professional organizations of women in computing and two big events that should connect you up.

Anita Borg Institute

The Anita Borg Institute is a social enterprise focused on recognizing and developing the strengths of women in technology. It is large, well-established (since 1987) with an expansive network of members and partners, including Fortune 500 companies in more than 50 countries. Its business partners have access to other members and events like The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, to be held in Phoenix, on October 8-11. That event is expected to host more than 8,000 people, including many women with resumes in hand, and has been described as the hottest ticket in tech for employers struggling to close the gender gap.

Society of Women Engineers

Members of SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council have the opportunity to create opportunities for women engineers and technologists and support diversity within their organizations. Even for non-members, their recruitment center is a good resource for a targeted candidate search.  SWE’s annual conference, on October 23-25, in Los Angeles, is another opportunity to rub elbows with job seekers. As with all conferences, the opportunity to present or exhibit raises a potential employer’s profile considerably.

National Center for Women & Information Technology

Among other things, the site offers advice on making company culture friendlier to women. For recruiting purposes, the most valuable resource may be its Workforce Alliance membership that offers:

  • Access to the technical talent pipeline,
  • Research and data,
  • Connections to industry and academic experts,
  • Pilot programs with corporate peers,
  • Participation opportunities in national outreach programs and
  • Opportunities for corporate philanthropy

Women in Software Engineering (WISE) Group on LinkedIn

Smaller businesses can find the price of membership in some of these organizations a little daunting. LinkedIn discussions, on the other hand, can offer the potential employer quite a bit of ground-level insight into the issues confronted by women in software engineering, without a membership fee. The site also offers access to resumes, of course.

Women 2.0

This is a particularly rich site, focused on the software engineer as entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship and employment are not mutually exclusive interests, though. For some women employees, recognition and encouragement of future entrepreneurial plans may make a workplace as friendly as more frequently suggested benefits like maternity leave and gym memberships. Women 2.0 also holds conferences twice a year, with the previous one having been in San Francisco in February, 2014.

Coalition to Diversify Computing

This has a more academic focus, but may offer an avenue for the employer who wants to become involved through internships or scholarships. Both are powerful ways of building employee loyalty and community presence.

Small businesses are generally eager to hire women software engineers for any number of reasons. Some have suggested that bringing greater diversity into tech leads to better design because of new insights into the ways different people interact with the product. There are also legal concerns about avoiding discrimination in hiring and promoting. Whatever the reasons, prospects have been daunting for both the job seeker and the potential employer. Tapping into existing networks may be the most painless way to begin to solve the problem.

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