Can’t Find A Tech Guy? Why Not Get A Grrl?

It’s the law of demand without supply. According to the Information Technology Association of American, the need for IT professionals will create 1.6 million new IT jobs in the United States this year, and approximately half of these over 840,000 positions will go unfilled. This lack of employees means that, overall, one in twelve IT jobs will be vacant. Finding IT candidates is and will continue to be a major recruitment focus. While the field is still heavily dominated by men, according to a study from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), 20 percent of IT professionals are women. Webgrrls, which calls itself “the women’s tech knowledge connection,” is a resource for women IT workers. The international organization, its corresponding site, regional chapters, and regional sites all offer opportunities for reaching and recruiting female IT professionals. With over 100 chapters and 40,000 members worldwide, Webgrrls is an organization that began when Cybergrrls founder, Aliza Sherman, and five other women started meeting in a cyber cafe in New York City in 1995. The women came from various backgrounds: one was a performance artist with her own website, another was a computer publications editor, another a UNIX programmer. But all were somehow involved with technology. According to Eileen Shulock, Director of Webgrrls New York City, “this Web thing brought them together.” Within six months, the organization grew to 150 people. Shortly thereafter, chapters began springing up around the world. Shulock attributes the rapid growth of the organization to its ability to fill a need. “Five years ago, a lot of these women found themselves being one of the only women in their companies doing anything in technology,” she says. “The whole phenomenon was a grassroots kind of thing.” <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Although the organization’s objective is still to offer women a network for career support, as Webgrrls has grown, so has the scope of its influence. “Now women are coming to meetings looking to transition their skills into Internet-based careers,” Shulock says. “We’re very focused and very interested in any ways we can provide training for our members.” Webgrrls is also involved in mentoring. “We help women who are not comfortable with computers embrace technology. And we mentor young women to show them that high tech careers are cool, not geeky,” says Shulock. Perception of computer-related careers by girls and young women appears to be a problem. According to AAUW, less than 28 percent of computer science graduates in the United States are currently women, a figure which is down from a 1984 high of 37 percent. When it comes to pursuing engineering degrees there is even less interest: only 9 percent of engineering graduates are women. To support its training, mentoring, transition, and international communication efforts, Webgrrls encourages contact by recruiters. “It’s a total recruitment paradise. It’s a totally targeted audience,” Shulock says, pointing out that job lists are a service the organization offers its members. Job information is shared via chapter mailing lists and listservs. “We post job leads for free,” Shulock says, indicating that recruiters can contact Webgrrls International or a local chapter. Upon request, leads can also be passed along from one chapter to another. There are other opportunities for recruiters as well. “We love to have recruiters speak at our meetings,” Shulock says. Industry trends and what companies are looking for in terms of skills are among the topics of interest to members. There are also sponsorship arrangements whereby a company provides meeting space or offers other services. Webgrrls makes these opportunities available to recruitment organizations and corporate recruiters. At the Webgrrls International site there are links to chapter sites. At the home page, simply select “find a chapter” to choose from a list of regions including seven in the United States alone, as well as in Canada, Europe, Asia, and “Down Under and Beyond.” Selecting a region, such as “Northeast, USA,” returns a list of chapters in that part of the world. In addition to website addresses and links, email addresses are also provided. Shulock, who was formerly director of Webgrrls International, indicates that all chapter directors are volunteers. Therefore, chapter offices aren’t always staffed. The best way to contact Webgrrls is via email. With so many IT jobs to fill, an organization like Webgrrls offers a way to reach a large group of potential candidates. “There’s a lot of movement in the industry and so there are a lot of jobs out there. We’re a recruiting mecca,” says Shulock.

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Paula Santonocito is an e-recruitment strategist and columnist for AIRS, the global leader in Internet recruitment training, tools, news and information. AIRS AIRS AIRS


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