Hey all 👋 as a woman in tech, I’ve seen the positive impact of diversity — but I’ve also experienced firsthand the challenges that come with a lack of it. In this blog post, I will share my unfiltered observations and thoughts about this important issue.
First, why is diversity important?
Diversity is essential because it allows us to harness the power of different perspectives, experiences, and ideas. By bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and skills, we simply create better solutions to complex problems.
Whilst I am speaking firsthand about my experience with gender diversity, there is so much more to diversity beyond gender, age, or race. True diversity includes a wide range of identities and experiences, and is valuable because it brings diversity of thought to the table.
Here are some of my main observations about diversity from my time at university and in the industry:
1) Hiring quotas are only the first step
Hiring quotas are a method of allocating a target percentage of jobs to a certain demographic. While hiring quotas can help boost the number of women in tech companies, it’s not a remedy for the problem.
Hiring quotas can create an internal imbalance
The number of women entering tech-related degrees at university is slowly increasing over time — which is a positive trend! However, this means that a large proportion of female candidates in the industry are less tenured, junior employees. In order to meet a hiring quota, the company can end up hiring a lot more female junior engineers, and a lot more male senior engineers.
This internal imbalance within a company can create a difficult dynamic where core teams, leadership, and seniors are less diverse, impacting the confidence and sense of belonging of the new diverse junior candidates.
Hiring quotas can be beneficial — however we need to ensure that we don’t stop there, that we are giving women opportunities for advancement, and that we address the diversity issue at the higher levels.
The potential stigma
Furthermore, the culture of hiring quotas can inadvertently create a harmful environment for women in tech. While the intention behind diversity quotas is to increase representation and create more opportunities for underrepresented groups, some women may feel as though they were hired solely because of their gender, rather than their qualifications and abilities.
This can create a sense of doubt and imposter syndrome, where women feel as though they are not as deserving as their male counterparts for their jobs.
2) It starts with the interview process
A team is truly better when it is diverse. Studies show they are happier and more satisfied, as well as more effective. However, the current interview processes within the tech industry can often hinder diversity and prevent the best candidate from being selected for the job.
In my opinion: Interview processes should be designed to pick the best person for the role. If a woman really is the best person for the role — which we know is often true from the above studies — and our interview systems consistently aren’t helping them succeed, then something should be changing about our interview processes.
When I was applying for jobs, I had so many tech interviews with all-male interview panels. We should acknowledge the way that this can not only introduce bias into the interview process, leading to a disproportionate disadvantage for certain groups.
On top of this, if a candidate interviews for a role and the entire interview panel is homogeneous, and lacking diversity, it can send a message that they may not be suited for the role as they don’t fit in with the type of people currently at the company — leading to self-doubt and a blow to their confidence during the interview. We should continue to ask ourselves how we can make interviews a more inclusive and comfortable experience for our diverse candidates.
3) The Confidence Gap
Many companies already have talented women who are ready and able to step up into more challenging roles. However, they may not have the confidence to do so.
Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men, even when they are just as competent or qualified, and we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of this in their ability to succeed.
We should be empowering these women with the confidence to step into bigger challenges or roles. Some ways this can be done include:
- Providing mentorship programs for women where they can receive guidance and support from experienced professionals
- Offering leadership training programs to help women build the confidence to take on more challenging roles
- Developing a culture where women are encouraged to speak up and share their ideas in meetings or other group settings
My current company is really good at this and has programs to help engineers in minority groups to overcome mindset blockers and step up in their growth.
In conclusion, although challenges still exist, it is heartening to see the progress that society and companies have made in recent years to embrace diversity and promote inclusivity.
Diversity is not just a feel-good buzzword — it’s an opportunity for us to create a better, more inclusive world. I hope we can all work together to create work cultures that value and celebrate diversity in all its forms.
Thanks for reading!