Upload CV Menu

Let's #BreakTheBias - A Conversation with Dipika Kaur

Meet Dipika, a Senior Recruiter for Software professionals on Parallel's Benelux team. Here, she discusses how she breaks the bias as a female recruiter.

July 2022

Let's #BreakTheBias - A Conversation with Dipika Kaur

Based on conversations that you've had with hiring managers and candidates in your market, do you feel that gender bias is still quite pervasive in the tech industry?

I don’t think that there is a conscious gender bias; however, there is definitely an unconscious bias. A lot of the time people without realizing it are applying bias to the things that they’re doing, hence “unconscious.” You only need to look at something as simple as job descriptions.  

For example, I work with a hiring manager who focuses on neutralizing the tone of job adverts to attract both men and women. This hiring manager learned at a conference that female applicants are more inclined to think, “I don’t have enough experience” or “I don’t meet all the requirements, I just won’t apply,” and then not apply for that job. Male candidates with the same experience as the female candidate who read this same job advert would be more likely to apply, even though he might only have 3 of the 10 hard requirements listed in the description. 


In your opinion, why is it so hard to find women for technical positions who have both the skillset and experience required? 

I personally see more men with varied experience across different projects and usually freelance female developers with a lot of experience on one longer project.  

It seems to me that maybe once in a role a female developer is more inclined to stay, possibly for reasons I mentioned above, they don’t apply for jobs as they feel they don’t have the experience, but they aren’t getting as much experience as working on a variety of projects allows.


Where do you think bias starts to "play a role" in the recruitment process?

I think you can mainly see it at interview stage with certain “unfair” questions that are asked. You’ll see it mainly when female candidates are asked about projects. “Can you commit to that? Can you show me one or two projects where you have done this or that?”

There are people who would overlook a decent female candidate because of her age or because she's got children. 

You also feel like you are compensating for the questions you will be asked when putting a female candidate forward because you know they will ask about longevity and commitment for factors they likely don’t consider coming into play for male applicants. 

For example, my sister was in a class of civil engineers, and she was the only girl! She was discouraged every single day in school and asked why she chose this course, and eventually she quit.

How do you try and make sure that your search isn't biased? Or people that you're putting forward for roles? Isn't bias? What would you say you are trying to do to eradicate this?

I would say just calling out hiring managers I’m speaking too. If they keep saying he could do and he would, I ask, “maybe they could be a female developer as well, what are your thoughts on that? What are your thoughts on having a female developer in your team? Or what what's the ratio that you have now?” It’s important to be asking these questions and addressing it.

Another thing that came up when a few of us were talking on desk the other day that I noticed I was doing unconsciously, was naturally looking for more experience in female candidates than I would for male candidates. Obviously yes, the technicalities can be different which requires different qualifying processes, but if women have a similar amount of experience (in terms of years at a company or number of projects), I then asked myself, “why am I questioning female applicants in more detail?” I realized that I was questioning putting some female candidates or candidates of a different nationality because of the usual questions I was asked by a hiring manager or client.  Once I recognized this, I started to make a conscious effort to ask all candidates the same questions, doing my best to not let almost a bias that rubbed off on me affect my recruitment process. 


What practical things an employers do to combat gender bias in their recruitment process? 

Firstly, not asking any personal questions regardless of whether the candidate is male or female. If anybody goes to interview somewhere, that person should be asked the same questions as anyone else. You should not be asked “unfair questions” about family situations just because you're a female developer who happens to be of a child-bearing age.

The second very practical thing employers can do is changing the wording in job descriptions to make sure the language is “equal” (so to speak) to allow equal opportunities to grow. If this was put on the agenda and the company says that it will promote this effort, then you can see it become normalized and a true testament to organisations who achieve diversity with their hiring policies and processes.


Have any female developers you’ve spoken with, said it seems harder to progress, or I can't I seem to get passed over for a senior manager role, as it seems like you know from some of the conversations we’ve had so far, as a female, they’re struggling to get the exposure or get the progression. Does this come up for you at all?

If I'm being very honest, 90-95% of the time. I'm really only speaking to male developers, if I can give you an example, my sister was in a class of civil engineers and she was the only girl! She was discouraged every single day in school and asked why she chose this course, and eventually she quit. So, if this was happening only even 8 years ago, it’s no wonder why there are so few females in the industry.

My sister is a prime example of how women get put off from pursuing an education and career in STEM. Girls need to be encouraged more to pursue an academic and career in these specialisms whilst in schools and then we need to empower those girls and women who have chosen to work in this sector. 


Why is it so important to discuss gender bias in technology, especially right now? And do you think unconscious bias is still a bit of a taboo, or has it been normalised?

It is still a taboo, from what I've seen, because from conversations I’ve had, people can be so adamant about the fact that there’s no gender bias in a company, that you can be less accountable by saying “well only males apply, not females,” and so on. I suppose, in a way, it is trying to justify the results of a recruitment process, but I think that companies could and should do more to attract and encourage more female applicants. As a result, they will have a more mixed pool of applicants, but then of course the employer needs to make sure that the screening process remains unbiased as well. I also think it is no use for people to speak out unless they are recognizing that this subject is still very taboo.


Want to speak more about this with Dipika? Connect with Dipika on LinkedIn or send her an email.