How to Organize for Equitable Employment at your Tech Company

  • Remove the BA requirement. Ours is a city in which our minority-majority neighborhoods have a college completion rate around 20%. We all know that software engineering does not require a BA. Let’s not eliminate from consideration 80% of our communities of color without so much as a glance at a resume.
  • No standardized testing, as it skews white and male. Recruitment should be project-based.
  • Quit asking algorithmic design questions for coding jobs. If the job doesn’t require it, stop interviewing for it. Some developers believe that their algo class in college influenced their thinking, and made them the developer they are today. That’s awesome, and it’s a great example of one person’s path. But to mistake your path for the one empirically correct path is the literal definition of bias.
  • Recognize the privilege of time. Some students are able to hang out in their dorm rooms between classes and work on cool side projects while others are in the mess hall washing dishes. This dynamic continues in the workforce. Let’s not punish folx for having to work.
  • On-the-job training. Your ability to learn matters more than the amount of information you already have in your head. But we still like to hire based on the amount of information you have in your head, without regard for your ability to learn. On-the-job training, for all entry-level folx, is an example of one way in which we account for the privilege of time, and hire for potential instead of pedigree.
  • Weekly structured mentorship. Important for a lot of reasons, but it’s especially important for people of color, womxn, and other folx who might be quietly struggling with Imposter Syndrome. They tend to ask fewer questions, because they don’t want to be “found out” as imposters. When people have a truly safe space in which to share their doubts and ask potentially embarrassing questions, they perform better.
  1. Who are the influential people we need to get on the bus?
  2. What are their blockers?
  3. What are our processes?
  • Use existing structures and means of communication as long as you can. Slack. Standup. Whatever.
  • Balance structured/scheduled communication with more organic, spontaneous conversation.
  • Give a weekly bulleted update on progress. We have a “This_Week” Slack channel at Resilient Coders that we all contribute to on Monday mornings.
  • Share genuine leadership of the conversation. Equity is about the recalibration of power. Be cognizant of your own power dynamics.
  1. The opinions of organized workers. Your leadership needs the buy-in of its workforce to do anything. Take that from them. Make it clear that they are at odds with the wishes of the majority of their employees. Draft a petition, and have your colleagues sign it. Move quickly; there’s value in surprise, and timing. Once your petition represents a significant portion of the workforce, present it to your leadership. Be public with it, but respectful. Always allow your leadership the opportunity to save face, and regain the trust and respect of your colleagues. A leader needs to see in your petition (and in your attitude) a chance to recover. They might try to ignore it the first time, or sidestep it. Keep bringing it up, publicly, until it becomes easier for them to engage with you directly than to continue ignoring you. As always, don’t be an asshole. You just make yourself easy to dismiss.
  2. Public opinion. Keep the press informed of your actions, and don’t be shy on social media. Don’t expect a consumer boycott; that’s just not the age we’re in. The public has a ton of other stuff to be incensed about right now. They just don’t care about your company. But there are a few key people who might: Potential candidates for jobs, prospective partners, investors, and board members. Their opinions matter deeply to your company’s leadership. Let’s generate some uncomfortable questions.

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Activist, designer/dev, artist, and founder of @resilientcoders

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David Delmar Sentíes

David Delmar Sentíes

Activist, designer/dev, artist, and founder of @resilientcoders

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