Louisiana’s technology sector has grown steadily over the last decade, expanding to include large companies like IBM, DXC Technologies and numerous start-ups and mid-size firms drawn to the state’s favorable business climate and well-known quality of life. Between 2006 and 2018 alone, Louisiana saw 20,000 new tech sector jobs created, bringing new opportunities to a wide swath of job seekers, including women.
Long known for attracting the Creative Class, New Orleans has grown its number of tech companies to 100 strong. In 2019, the city placed third in the Smart Asset’s “Tech Jobs Filled By Women” category, a subset of its annual roundup of Best Cities for Women in Tech. In 2017, New Orleans earned the no. 5 spot overall. Women interested in a tech career are finding an expanding employment landscape in New Orleans, as well as robust networking and skill-building opportunities. It’s a great time to learn more about what regional companies are doing to build a diverse talent pool, say talent acquisition managers.
“We want to see more inclusion in our workforce,” says Jasmyn Farris, vice president of people operations for software development company iSeatz. “Starting with recruiting, we try to make sure we have a good showing of women and minorities applying for open positions, and we have triggers in place that tell us if we need to try to generate more.”
Farris says it’s important for job seekers to remember that tech jobs don’t always mean software engineering.
“Getting into the world of tech, the perception is that you have to be an engineer, but that’s not true,” Farris says. “There are product managers and business analysts who work closely with customers to make sure their needs are being correctly translated to software development teams.”
As job opportunities grow for women in tech in New Orleans, so has grass roots networking. Job seekers can get involved in activities like these as they hunt for the right position.
The New Orleans-based Ada Lovelace Awards, temporarily on hold in 2020, highlight the contributions of exemplary women in tech across the Gulf South. The awards program was started in 2015 by tech start-up LookFar. A judging panel comprised of national experts selects winners across several categories, including nonprofit work, education, start-up and engineering. Each year the awards have yielded an inspiring list of accomplished, visionary women.
New Orleans is also one of 12 cities to host Tech Talent South courses, high caliber tech sessions that allow job seekers to beef up their skills. The eight-week sessions are taught in cities with a strong tech sector presence and cover topics like coding, website development, founding a start-up and others. Currently, courses are taught online, but are historically taught in person.
Also in New Orleans, Tuesday Hack Nights are grass roots meet-ups at rotating bars and restaurants around the city. A popular way to mix business with pleasure, these meet-ups allow young tech enthusiasts to share ideas about their work and discuss ways to help the sector continue to grow in the Crescent City. Activities have gone virtual for now, but will resume in person in the future.
At Levelset in New Orleans, a tech company specializing in streamlining contractor payment in the construction field, a monthly group called Ladies of Levelset is in place to support female employees.
“This group provides education, open conversation about struggles women have in the workplace and how we can support one another,” says Director of People Operations Jami Smith. “The group also provides resources and guest speakers that focus on women’s issues.”
While a growing number of women are entering the tech field, work still needs to be done to attract more young women and girls earlier in their lives. Currently, women earn only 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the United States, even as computer science research jobs are set to grow 19% by 2026, according to the BLS. The tech field is a great place for women to work; according to the American Association of University Women, computer science has one of the smallest pay gaps between men and women, with women earning 94% of what men earn.
New Orleans tech firms are working with local colleges and universities, including Delgado Community College, Southern University New Orleans (SUNO), the University of New Orleans and Tulane University to connect students and recent graduates with internships and recruitment opportunities.
Levelset’s Smith says that the company has assigned a recruiter to strengthen relationships with local colleges. “UNO and Southern have internal ‘tech recruiters’ whose sole purpose is to work with organizations to increase a diverse pipeline in tech,” she says.
A short distance away in Baton Rouge at its Client Innovation Center, tech giant IBM hosted a recent “Womxn in Tech” networking event with the goal of connecting people who identify as female in Louisiana with IBM employees in order to learn about career paths in technology. About 70 people attended the 2020 event, where they networked with IBM leaders representing all lines of business at the Baton Rouge Client Innovation Center. This program is one of many ways the global player is encouraging women to consider careers in tech.
One of the interesting things about increasing numbers of women in the ranks is that sometimes it takes convincing female candidates to apply for tech jobs in the first place. Women who don’t have a software engineering degree shouldn’t give up on working in the sector, says Accruent Talent Acquisition Manager Suni Peddle.
“Women tend to apply for jobs only when they think they’re a perfect fit, while men tend to be more aspirational and will apply for jobs even when they think they’re not a fit,” says Peddle.
Thus, Accruent has developed language to accompany all of its job openings which shows the company’s commitment to an open and inclusive hiring process. Peddle says a broader net of candidates ensures a diverse pool.
Accruent’s statement reads:
We believe everyone can bring something incredible to the table with each of our unique experiences and personal skillset. We encourage you to apply for roles that interest you, even if you don’t believe you have the exact experience we’re looking for, or your background doesn’t match the job description perfectly. If you are courageous, adaptable, and love being part of an extraordinary team, we want to hear from you!
“What’s unique about Accruent,” continues Peddle, “is that if you’re willing to start in an entry level role in support for a year, you’ll have the opportunity during that year to get to know our products, our customers, and gain an understanding of what tech roles look like within our company. You then have a good chance of moving around the organization into other roles. We like to say that we’re really passionate about getting the right people on the bus, and then helping them switch seats should they want to later.”
Interested in a career in tech? Check out openings at Louisiana Job Connection!