Hidden Figures is pretty much a play by play on the horrors of toxic workplace culture for marginalised groups. Also an amazing film you should definitely watch!

Why women don’t want to code for your tech company

As a person now happily employed in tech I’ve been thinking over the job hunting experience.

For a start, job hunting after Makers was a very different experience to job hunting in other fields. The interviews were actually fun and interesting. It was easier to get a sense of the job and the company during the application process. People were more casual, and also generally more friendly and enthusiastic about you working for them.

It wasn’t less stressful though. I found that the internal anxiety that comes from being used to the insecure work/Jobcentre cycle was quite detrimental to my motivation and overall abilities when it came to applying for jobs. I kept overthinking things. I kept undervaluing my abilities. But most of all, it was the absolutely petrifying fear of failure that really impeded my ability to think clearly in order to come up with good solutions for tech tests and prepare well for interviews. I spent weeks feeling like I had rattlesnakes in my stomach.

But one of the things that really struck me, was how quickly you could get a sense that you wouldn’t want to be a woman in “that” company.

It was a topic that came up quite a few times with other women in my Makers cohort. Especially towards the end when they started to introduce us to hiring partners and potential employers.

So here are the core markers that seemed to single out the “bro-companies”:

Gendering your talks

If you do a presentation and keep referring to developers as ‘guys’ and make ‘guy’ jokes, we’re going to think you’re only really looking for guys. You can say you’re looking to hire women until you’re blue in the face, but you probably won’t have much luck. I mean, would you want to work for a company that wasn’t even self-aware enough to know when they were being sexist? Probably not.

No women are put forward to represent your company

Valuing our skills requires letting us talk about those skills

If you do some kind of ‘meet us’ event, don’t just bring the dudes. Even if you don’t have devs who are women right now, at least bring along women in your company that are openly happy about working with you. Preferably, ones who do something STEM-based even if it’s not code-based. Nothing screams “we don’t value women here” like not representing any of the women in your organisation already. Or worse, bringing them along as visual aids that don’t get the chance to speak to anyone. Blegh.

Your overall behaviour sucks

If you aren’t open and friendly, if you don’t give other people (especially people you’re supposed to be working with) the floor to speak, if you’re quick to interrupt or demonstrate social dominance, most women are not going to want to work for you.

I suppose this is a general dickhead warning, but these sorts of behaviours impact how valued people feel they will be. This is especially important to under-represented groups of people because we’re already used to not feeling like we are fully valued members of social spaces. If you don’t make us feel comfortable and welcome, we’ll assume your organisation won’t either.

Excuse me, but why is this organisation such a white sausage-fest?

There’s no women in your organisation/tech team already

I suppose this one is a bit of a catch-22. But it’s still a valid concern. If you need to very pro-actively work on your diversity, there’s probably already a cultural problem within your organisation. Even if you’re trying to resolve it, would you want to be the first person to go into that environment and all it’s potential pitfalls? It’s a really daunting prospect. But on the plus side, there are lots of things you can do to show you’re taking the issue seriously.

So how do you show you’re taking the poor representation in your organisation seriously?

What you can do to actually appeal to women

Be honest.

If representation in your organisation isn’t as good as you want it to be, be honest about it.

Talk about why you want more diversity in your organisation and what you hope we can bring to your teams.

Talk about why you care about improving representation among the people you work with.

Talk about what measures you have in place to create a great safe and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life to work within.

If you show that this is an issue you really care about and are enthusiastic about, it will place your organisation’s shortcomings in a much more appealing context.

Be active.

If your representation sucks, doing the same sorts of calls for diversity from the same unaltered work culture, delivered by the same ineffective dude-bros, is not going to help you.

Don’t treat diversity in your organisation as a box-ticking exercise. “You did that five min web-training on diversity, so now you can keep going as before. Well done, Bob.” is not effective implementation of workplace cultural change.

You don’t need maths to know why that print-it-yourself certificate hasn’t stopped Bob being a jackass

Make sure you have a really strong complaints and inclusion policy in your workplace, and I really cannot stress this enough, ENFORCE IT.

I’ve had the misfortune to work at a number of places that looked great for equality and diversity on paper, but were cesspits of harassment, sexism, racism, and workplace bullying in practice.

These were the kinds of places where people think that sad leaflet you hand out to new employees about equality is just a lacklustre nod to ‘political correctness’. The kinds of places where even the managers are weighing in on the racist jokes and xenophobia. Don’t let this be your organisation. Pull those weeds out at the root.

“You did that five min web-training on diversity, so now you can keep going as before. Well done, Bob.” is not effective implementation of workplace cultural change.

In my current workplace I’m the only active developer on my project who is a woman, and the only active female developer I’ve met in the wider community of the project I work on so far. But I’m surrounded by data scientists who are women, and women make up the majority of my team overall. The fact that I’m a woman feels totally inconsequential here.

A good team shows its own strengths

During my interview I got to meet the all the members of the team based in this office. It was clear they had great camaraderie and a high regard for each other. The atmosphere felt comfortable, casual, and really friendly.

The primary culture and focus of the organisation is international development, so the importance of equality and diversity is in its very foundations. But on top of that, my new colleagues are completely lovely and have made me feel at home here very quickly. It’s such a relief to be in a job I enjoy, and one where I’ve felt able to be myself from the very beginning.

I’m sure there are a lot of these kinds of blogs floating around the internet. I’ve seen so many warning women what to watch out for. So many telling companies how to technically structure their application process to appeal to certain groups. But I’ve not come across any that seem to point out the obvious: If your presentation and evidence of effective, inclusive action is poor, it will show in your hiring processes.

And again:

If your presentation and evidence of effective, inclusive action is poor, it will show in your hiring processes.

Here’s hoping I’ve provided some food for thought. Happy hiring!