Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Women, Pt 1

In the blogosphere and in the press, there is an increasing notice about the lack of women in technical fields and management positions. Here is some data:

Why women leave tech: what the research says by Sue Gardner. Read Visualizing Silicon Valley's Lack of Diversity. Notice that tech is overwhelmingly white and male. It does not reflect the society in which we live.

It doesn't have to be this way. Our field got this way because we let our unconscious prejudices decide for us. Did you see this?

In Hiring Geeks That Fit, I talk about how you learn about your prejudices and how you account for them.

We know that diverse teams create better products. We know—and if you have been on a multi-gender, multi-cultural team, people-with-diverse-backgrounds you have this experience—creating products is more fun, faster, and easier. Why? Because you don't get into group-think. You have more opportunities for ideas. You have people who, while they fit the corporate culture enough, have diverse experience creating products. You discover and create your way to a better outcome.

Can you get a great product with—excuse me—all white males under the age of 30? Of course. Can you get it with a diverse team of all kinds of people of all ages? Yes. In my experience, it's faster and easier.

What can you do, if you want to keep or build the great culture you already have? You are sure you can't find any women?

First, don't be so sure. You might want to watch How Etsy Increased Diversity in Its Engineering Department: An Interview with Marc Hedlund. It's a long video, so here are the main ideas:

  • Start hiring women when you start your company.
  • Do not lower your standards. You should hire people who have the respect of their peers. People may have had fewer years of experience. However, that experience should be quite relevant.
  • Do not decide as men how to hire women. Ask other women in engineering. You cannot know what a female engineer feels, about jobs, about other culture.
  • Don't talk about “female” engineers. Talk about engineers. If you talk about women, talk about the percentage of women in the department.
  • Recruit personally. Don't leave this up to HR. Have managers reach out to candidates.
  • Watch what your ads say. Some people (men and women) find some ads quite confrontational.
  • They created different auditions. Instead of having white board auditions, where people had to stand at the white board, they had a collaborative approach to auditions.
  • They had female developers interviewers on the interview team.
  • Help people negotiate for reasonable, on par, salaries.

Marc had other things to say about Hacker School, the culture of recruiting, how candidates perceive you, the Pygmalion effect and more. You should listen to the entire 43-minute video.

What should you do? Well, you could read Hiring Geeks That Fit. In the book, I explain how to do all of this, except how to help candidates negotiate for reasonable salaries. I do some of that here, on this blog.

If you don't want my help, start with evaluating/assessing your interview process, from soup to nuts. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do we reinforce hiring of the same kinds of people we have now?
  2. How can we change where we hire from, our sourcing mechanisms?
  3. What do we need to change about our ads?
  4. What do we need to change about our interviews: the phone screens, the interview team, the questions, and the auditions?
  5. What do we need to do make a fair offer, based on value, to any candidate?

Ask yourself those questions. You will be on your way to increasing diversity for women. I'll deal with ageism in my next post. See Hire for Cultural Fit: It’s Time to Add Other People, Pt 2

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