I've been talking
to various groups in XXXX and other companies about issues related to women in
tech and the same objections come up so regularly that I've just documented
them and my standard responses. This is not in any way an XXXX approved
document or necessarily consistent with XXXX policy or values. The ideas here
are 100% my own:
As I talk about gender diversity in tech with different groups, some common objections come up. I've tried to address each in my own way. I'd appreciate critical feedback. And please feel free to use these if you encounter similar objections. For each of these, I can talk for an hour, but I've tried to distil my primary response to just a few sentences.
Example: We know thereís a lack of diversity, but itís not our fault. Itís caused by the a lack of diversity in the candidate pool.
Reply: Firstly, if the tech candidate pool is only X% female, then the tech teams should be at least X% female. If they're not, that implies that the workplace is even more discriminatory than the industry. Secondly, the industry is discriminatory. That's obvious from the numbers. Something or things are preventing women from entering the industry and forcing them out. Otherwise, half of all programmers at all levels would be women. That's just math. If there is a better place to work, some of them will go there. Thus, creating an environment that is more healthy for women than the industry in general will attract more female applicants and will result in an even more gender-diverse environment than the labor market. This can have a cascading effect, as more women join and are promoted, the reputation of the workplace in the market improves, and over time the gap between gender diversity in the workplace and outside of it will grow.
Example: We value diversity, but we are committed to meritocracy. Weíd like to hire/promote more women, but the ones weíve met just arenít the best candidates for the jobs.
Reply: If we value diversity, how much do we value it? If two candidates are equally skilled, but one would increase the diversity of the team, she will probably be hired (hopefully). But if one candidate is qualified and increases the team diversity, but the other candidate is slightly more qualified, do we factor the value of diversity into the equation? If we donít factor it in, then how can we say that we value diversity? In my opinion, the goal of hiring is not to get the most technically skilled candidate. Thatís an example of local optimization at the expense of the system as a whole. A holistic approach is to hire in order to create high-performing teams, and that involves looking at other factors, including the teamís need for diversity.
Example: We value diversity and would like to hire/promote more women, but it would not be fair to men to hold them to a different standard than we do women.
Reply: If the standards that we are applying lead to a lack of diversity in some places or at some levels, then our standards are not serving to create optimal teams and are not fit for purpose. The addition of subjective, behavioural criteria which can be applied to any candidate can facilitate the creation of the kind of high-functioning teams that we are trying to create, without discriminating against any (not "either" but "any;" non-binary people are real people.) gender.
I'll add another point I've been known to make. If you're still not getting qualified female applicants, you might have to go looking for them. They're out there, but not applying for some reason (probably your reputation or lack of one). If you value diversity, you might have to be prepared to work for it. It is not, in my opinion, discriminatory to take steps to ensure that your recruitment efforts reach a particular, underrepresented demographic.
Why are we doing this? Itís a good question, and left unanswered, people may expect that a gender diversity initiative is motivated by political correctness or some other short-lived initiative driven by some managerís whim. To me, there are three major motivations: 1) to expand the candidate pool by recruiting from segments of the labor market that we may not be targeting well enough, 2) To ease recruitment efforts by enhancing our reputation as a great place to work (making a place a great place to work for women has the added benefit of making it a great place to work for everyone) and 3) Iíve worked in all male teams and in teams that more gender-balanced and so I know that in a gender-balanced team there is a greater mix of personalities, communication and thinking styles, and degrees and skills in empathy and so itís easier to be myself and to be heard. Itís easier for everyone to be themselves and be heard, and so all interactions are more pleasant and productive and even quiet people can have an impact on decisions. Itís possible to create such an environment without having gender diversity, but I think that improving gender diversity is the easiest way to create such an environment.