Women may make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, yet they only represent 28% of the total science and engineering workforce. To level the playing field, employers are realizing the road to equality starts with them, and are leading authentic and inclusive conversations around what it takes to attract and engage more women in tech.

To an extent, many of these efforts appear to be working—early career women are applying to more STEM-related roles than years prior. Handshake data shows that 72% more women applied for roles as software developers and engineers; 85% more women applied for roles as data scientists; and 227% more women applied for roles as data engineers from June 2018 through May 2019, compared to the recruiting season before.

Handshake’s Women in Tech report highlights the pioneering efforts of these employers, uncovers trends in women students and young alumni entering STEM-related fields, and delivers insights on the company values that are attracting today’s women in tech.

Download Handshake’s Women in Tech Report

In this blog, we’ll cover three findings from the report, along with takeaways early talent leaders and campus recruiters can incorporate into their programs.

1. Where are women in tech applying?

You might expect established tech companies to have an easier time recruiting top tech talent. However, Gen Z women software engineers and developers—and those graduating alongside them—aren’t necessarily applying to the biggest brands in tech.

One of the world’s largest online destinations for home goods and furniture, Wayfair, made the number four spot on our list of employers with the highest percentage of women in tech. Wayfair boast a 2,300-person engineering department spanning two continents, and is headquartered in Boston—a non-traditional tech market.

Wayfair’s approach toward equity stems from their understanding of how a lack of women’s voices in the field deters future talent from pursuing jobs in STEM. That’s why its talent and engineering teams regularly host women in leadership panels where college students can learn about real-world career journeys, get honest advice, and gain an understanding of what it takes to be successful at Wayfair.

While Wayfair leans in on influencing today’s leaders, Adobe Systems—#7 on our list—pledges to support women from their college to career journey. Women from anywhere in the world who are interested in pursuing STEM in college can apply for the employer’s Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship.

If they secure the scholarship, they’ll receive financial aid, mentorship, and an opportunity to interview for an internship at Adobe.

2. What kinds of skills are women in tech bringing to the workplace?

According to a Girl Scouts Institute research study, young girls who show interest in STEM at an early age are curious—they like to understand how things work, solve problems, and gain a better understanding through hands-on exposure.

Our next finding uncovers the competitive leadership and communications skills women software engineer and developer applicants bring to the table—skills that may have been acquired throughout their journey to pursuing a career in a male-dominated field.

What’s more is that these women aren’t necessarily graduating with a degree in Computer Science. In fact, over one third of women applying for a STEM job on Handshake don’t have a STEM-related major, yet they are equipping themselves with some of the most marketable tech skills today’s employers demand, including data analysis and experience deploying Java, Python, and SQL.

To paraphrase Handshake’s VP of Higher Education & Student Success, Christine Cruzvergara, college students are discovering that the true value of their education is not defined by their major. 

In a Refinery29 post, Christine went on to mention that the unique perspective these students bring to problem-solving and finding creative solutions is just as valuable to employers as theoretical domain expertise, and deserves to be highlighted and emphasized throughout the recruitment and hiring process.

3. Which values do women in tech look for in a future employer?

Some of the company values most important to women fall under culture. Communicating honestly sets the tone for the kind of work culture you want to build, and the secret to breaking through to today’s college grads is simple: be authentic.

Leave a good first impression to college students and alumni by providing honest answers to your early talent candidates’ questions—both on and off Handshake—and personalizing insight into your careers and culture by deploying ambassadors.

Fortune 500 employer, General Electric (GE), for example, knows that engaging early talent early on requires transparency. To see this company value in action, read Karen Morgan’s story—an engineer at GE Aviation—who joined GE as an engineer on its rotational Edison Engineering Development Program in 1984.

After 10 years, Karen left GE to be a stay-at-home mom, returning in 2004 to serve in a customer-facing role. Karen later went on to lead the GLBTA Alliance at GE, helping to earn the employer a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index every year since 2014.

Karen’s commitment emanates, in part, by GE’s inclusive culture and employment practices, which include protections for sexual orientation and gender identify, so she could focus on her impact. GE shows that authenticity doesn’t always have to be communicated top-down, and that your diverse employees can share their exceptional experiences and shed insight to prospective candidates.

As we see more candidates apply for technical roles, it’s critical for employers to incorporate the values that matter most to this next generation of graduating women: inspiring leadership, supportive environments, and managers who are mentors, along with opportunities to learn and grow and clear pathways to leadership.

Engaging early career women in tech and creating programs that nurture their progression to the top does more than increase diversity at the entry level—it provides a holistic approach to diversity and inclusion by building a larger pipeline for employers looking to fill their leadership roles while improving retention—a finding confirmed by McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report, which explains why companies need to focus their efforts earlier in the pipeline to make real progress.

To do so, communicate your story authentically by sharing powerful employee stories and testimonials on your Handshake employer profile. For Handshake Premium partners, keep in mind your profile is dynamic, and is personalized based on who sees it. This means women software engineers and developers viewing your profile on Handshake will see reviews and testimonials from other software engineers and developers who are like them.

Following in Cisco’s footsteps, you may even want to host a Girls in ICT day to begin introducing young girls interested in STEM to role models and mentors at your company, enabling you to carve a niche and competitive path for first career considerations early on.

By taking these steps, you can level the playing field and help bridge the gender inequality gap, all while fostering creative thought, diverse teams, and innovative practices to sustain your business through the ever-changing skills tech demands in the years to come.

Download Handshake’s Women in Tech Report