8 ways women and men behave differently when applying for an IT job in Europe

While doing my research I came across this survey from March 17, 2022, about female representation in ICT - information and communication technology - in Europe. Across all the European nations, only 18.5% of the specialists employed in the ICT sector were women. 

Job application pipelines in IT tend to be very male dominated - but why is that? I wanted to find out because we face the same challenges at Nordcloud where only 17.4% of our employees are female but not all of them work in technical jobs. So what are the differences between men and women when it comes to applying for a job in IT?

1️⃣ The 2018 LinkedIn Gender Insights Report Germany examined the interaction between companies and job applicants in Germany. It analysed the applications, the contact by recruiters and the hiring of the candidate. The report’s findings revealed that women saw the same number of job adverts as men but women applied significantly less often, meaning that candidate pipelines contained fewer women than men.

2️⃣ Company culture was important to both genders - men and women looked at the firm’s LinkedIn page to find out if the position and company were a good fit for them, and read up on company values and employee testimonials. This shows that companies’ LinkedIn profiles can influence applicants so it is important that they appeal to and include people with diverse backgrounds. For example, the career path of a female employee right up to management board level can be illustrated as an example of equal opportunities and gender diversity in senior roles. 

3️⃣ According to the LinkedIn Gender Insight Report Worldwide, both genders globally regarded salary as a vital part of the job description because it was seen as a sign of transparency and equal pay.  

4️⃣ Based on LinkedIn Talent Trends 2019, 75% of recruiters in Germany said that flexible working hours were an important factor in recruiting and HR. The German Federal Statistical Office carried out a survey in 2019 of mothers and fathers aged between 20 and 49 years whose youngest child was under 6. Of these, around 1.6% of fathers were on parental leave, while almost a quarter of mothers were looking after children and not working. Significantly more women than men need employers who offer flexible working hours which fit around childcare. In order to attract qualified female applicants, this should be included in job descriptions. According to a pay gap study from 2018 by the Anti-Discrimination Agency Germany, nearly half of the female population worked part-time with half of them citing family responsibilities as the reason.

5️⃣ In Linkedin's 2017 survey on global recruiting trends, it was found that companies placed great value on potential recruits who had been recommended because they were hired faster and, on average, performed better in their roles. At Nordcloud, one in four hires is also an internal referral. However, women are 31% less likely to ask to be recommended for a job, so it is important not to rely too much on employee referrals because it will favour male candidates. Companies should have a healthy mix of referral processes such as making contact with candidates via LinkedIn and encouraging direct applications. 

Applicants come from diverse backgrounds with varying skills, and understanding the job description is an equal opportunity challenge for women and men when searching for a job. It is important for candidates to see proof of gender diversity and equal opportunities when searching a company’s website and deciding whether working for that firm would be a good fit. 

This could be something as simple as an image of a woman in a senior role to show that there are equal opportunities and female role models.

6️⃣ It is perhaps ironic, then, that 23% of qualified women will be hired more often than men and 24% of women will receive promotions more often than men. Given this, why do we still have fewer female applicants for ICT jobs in Europe? Women in Germany, for example, look at more job ads than men, but they are much more selective in what they apply for. 

According to the Harvard Business Review 2014, women only applied for positions where they met all the requirements of the job description. Men, on the other hand, applied despite meeting only 60% of the criteria. Women are much more selective in the jobs they apply for than men, taking themselves out of the running, thereby leaving more male candidates. 

7️⃣ But why do women only apply for positions where they think they meet all the criteria? Is it because of a lack of self-confidence and not feeling good enough? US author of the bestseller ‘Playing Big’, Tara Sophia Mohr, wanted to investigate this further and carried out a survey of 1,000 employees. In her Harvard Business Review, 12% of men said they would not feel confident in a job if they did not meet all the job requirements. It was only 9% for women. However, women took the job advertisement much more literally than men, thereby underestimating their abilities and the application process. Women were therefore more likely to follow the job ad's requirements and play by the rules. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, women in management positions were often those who did particularly well in school. They played by the school rules and did the tasks as prescribed. In exams, conforming is a success factor but in a professional context, this is not always the case. Nordcloud didn’t want to miss out on great candidates who fit most of the requirements so our Talent Acquisition team decided to add a note under our job ads that said: “If you don't meet all of the above requirements, but still fit most of the criteria, we highly encourage you to apply anyway. Let's find out together if we are a good match.”
We have already heard from candidates that this was the reason why they applied for the job.

8️⃣ How can we get more women into male-dominated IT professions? 

I am convinced that we have to start preparing future talent for the labour market at an early age. We can make our job ads, websites and company culture as inclusive as possible but we will still lack female applications. 

I think it starts in childhood, with literature, media, general education and the personal environment. Do children read books with different gender roles? Is the doctor or fireman always male or is gender diversity already in evidence? Do TV shows reflect gender diversity? How can we highlight a greater variety of  professions in primary, secondary, high school and university education, and show which academic path is suitable for whom? What kind of career options are available and what sort of jobs do they offer? From a young age, we should have more visibility around career opportunities, explaining the salary ranges and benefits packages that are on the market.
I also advise everyone to work on their networking skills and build up a group of people who can help you in your professional career by sharing information or referring you for a position.

Dear female applicants, please don’t take the job description too literally. In recruiting we barely ever get a 100% match for the role. Most of the time, I am happy with a 70-80% match, if the ‘must haves’ for the job are covered. 

Recruiting is like dating, it is like finding the right partner, where we all have this ideal person in mind. If you think for example about a list of ten attributes that your ideal partner should have, would you say no to a date because they only fit eight? I suspect in most cases you would still like to get to know that person. So my point is, you’re better off applying for a job instead of potentially missing out on a great opportunity. And with that in mind, we encourage you to check out our job offerings here.

Carolina DüerkopTalent Acquisition Partner @ Nordcloud
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Ilja Summala
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Ilja’s passion and tech knowledge help customers transform how they manage infrastructure and develop apps in cloud.