Attract More Women to zSystemsAttract More Women to zSystems

IT is still a male-dominated industry, and nowhere more so than in the zSystems environment. That’s something we need to change. So I was very pleased to hear my colleague Michelle Harris discussing this very subject on IBM’s z/Action! podcast with Lee Sullivan. 

As Macro 4’s head of mainframe research and development Michelle is mentoring our new generation of mainframers and she has three tips for any organization wanting to address the gender imbalance and—vitally—recruit from the biggest and best possible talent pool:

1. Encourage women who are already in zSystems to mentor younger women and girls

We can all benefit from positive role models. So it’s great to see the Stemettes sharing stories about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) to inspire the next generation.

Women working in IT can help on a personal level too. Michelle explained how she visits her daughters’ school to talk to girls about IT careers. She leads 10-minute ‘speed careers’ sessions where a group of six to eight girls can ask questions and find out what the computing industry is really like. I like Michelle’s opening gambit: ‘Are any of you a bit stemmy?’!

In Michelle’s experience, young women want to understand the purpose of IT rather than just loving technology for its own sake. If you focus on what technology can help people achieve, and start the conversation talking about the platforms the girls already use, like Instagram and YouTube, then they will become more interested.

2. Be sensitive to gender differences when recruiting

When it comes to applying for jobs there’s a significant gender difference. Research has shown that men are likely to apply for jobs when they meet only 60 per cent of the selection criteria, whereas women are only likely to apply if they meet 100 per cent of the requirements.

That’s valuable information for both applicants and recruiters. It should embolden more women to get applying, even if they can’t tick off every single skill in a job advert. The lesson for employers is to question what goes into a job ad. If you would consider applications from strong candidates who don’t tick off every item on your wishlist then it pays to say so. Equally, it’s worth considering what is really an essential skill, and making your requirements less specific.

It’s also important to be careful about the language you use in job ads. Wording that’s intended to make a role sound exciting, such as ‘Have you got what it takes?’ can sound daunting, even a little macho. That could put off plenty of people, not just women. Why not talk about the support you can offer, rather than giving a reason not to apply?

3. Start talking about zSystems in a different way

People fresh out of college generally don’t know about zSystems any more than they know about a great many other technologies. They have no preconceptions. So if you want to make the platform appealing don’t shoot yourself in the foot by saying the mainframe is old. Explain how the mainframe underpins our lives, from processing credit card transactions to organizing our next plane journey. Tell them how new advances on the z16 like AI and the Telum processor are helping companies with today’s problems like preventing fraud in real time. As people working with zSystems already know, it’s an exciting platform that’s constantly evolving. We just need to spread the word.  And remember, to make zSystems more appealing to women, focus on that all-important purpose, not just the cool features!

To learn more, watch the IBM podcast:

This article is based on my original blog published at: