Various efforts are underway to support women entrepreneurs and founders, but what about those who are looking for jobs in the technology scene?
How can they find the right positions to put their skills to work in a male-dominated field?
Those are some of the questions that the developers of PowerToFly in New York want to answer. Their platform, which launched in August, is designed to connect women primarily in tech to remote jobs at startups, Fortune 500 companies, and other rapidly growing businesses. The work can be month-to-month arrangements as well as some fulltime roles.
At this week’s New York Tech Meetup (NYTM), CEO Milena Berry and president Katherine Zaleski demoed PowerToFly along with the other presenters seen in the slideshow above. The October gathering of NYTM included ideas from wearable baby monitors to a fast video editing app.
The co-founders of PowerToFly said while there are skilled women in technology, they might not live in the usual hubs where companies with jobs are based. “Some of the best female talent is in their mid-30s,” Zaleski said. “They’re being forced to make choices between pulling out of the work force because of family or never seeing their families.”
PowerToFly’s platform offers employers a pool of vetted professionals to reach out to, she said. “It gives women an opportunity to be part of a workforce that essentially hasn’t changed since the 19th century,” Zaleski said.
BuzzFeed has used PowerToFly, Berry said, to connect with talented women in Romania, Russia, and Uruguay to work as developers and quality assurance engineers. Other companies using the platform include The Washington Post and Hearst.
Berry said the platform’s search options can point employers to different geography based on availability of the technology professionals, language skills, time zone overlap, and other requirements.
Allowing women to work remotely might increase diversity compared with just offering onsite jobs, Zaleski said, especially in environments that might not be female-friendly. “Companies keep complaining they don’t have enough women in their engineering departments,” she said. “A lot of the issue is they have campuses that are set up to extend the college existence for 26-year-old men.”
Two archetypes of women in tech are typically seen, said Zaleski. “There’s the Marissa Mayers and Sheryl Sandbergs in their Gucci outfits on [Mount] Olympus,” she said, “and then there are women are sort of in the shadows.”
The latter, Zaleski said, may feel compelled to use their initials rather than their first names on résumés, in order to keep attention on their skills instead of their gender. “They feel like they can’t talk about having family or a life that influences how they work,” she said.
PowerToFly’s layout shows job seekers’ photos, a headline, and a tag cloud that presents their skills and areas of expertise. The objective, Zaleski said, is to help women share their portfolio of work and talent, which goes beyond simple listings on a job board. “You can see she is not just a résumé,” she said.
Interested employers can click on the profiles to see the pay rates the professionals are looking for, and can then reach out to them.
In addition to the push for hires in tech, Zaleski said PowerToFly is starting to focus on editorial, marketing, and other jobs that can be performed remotely.
Job candidates must pass several rounds of interviews with PowerToFly, including a review of their coding skills, before they get listed, Berry said, to ensure they are worthwhile prospects. “We get everybody on video interviews to confirm their identity,” she said. There is also a trial period before the candidate and employer lock in a work agreement.
Regardless of PowerToFly’s intentions, a concern arose from the audience. Laws can require employers to disregard gender when hiring, to prevent discrimination. That stirred discussion on whether using the platform to specifically hire women could lead to legal issues for employers. Using PowerToFly, Berry said, did not mean companies are limiting their searches only to women as job candidates. “We just give you a platform of qualified talent,” she said. “Who you end up hiring is really up to you.”