Hiring for Diversity, #1: Women and Other Traditional Diversity issues

There’s a push in the agile community to recognize women and see if we can’t get more women on agile teams. Whatever you think about the program, the goal is a laudable one. Hiring women creates a diversity that is difficult to match with an all-male team. Women tend to bring more collaborative skills and more empathy skills to a team. (That’s a gross generalization. I realize that.) Rick Scott in his, Response: Diversity in Agile twitter convo said something profound:

Diversity’s Not My Problem

Screw that, it’s everybody’s problem.

He’s correct. That’s why I have several drafts lined up to discuss diversity.

The problem with hiring women is that if only about 20% of new college grads in computer science are women, are there enough women to work on our teams? Do we need to find women somewhere else? Is that what we want to do? I don’t know. (I am getting involved in a program to talk with middle- and high-school girls, so they can see that technology is a field to consider.)

Women are not the only disempowered group. Look around your workplace. How many people are white men? How many are not?

I want to hire people who are capable of doing the job. I don’t want to hire people to fill a perceived type of vacancy, an unfilled diversity bucket. But we need to do a better job of finding people who don’t look just like us to work on our teams. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know this: if you are a hiring manager, look inside yourself. Do you discriminate against people based on their gender or school affiliation or first or last name? If so, please reconsider.

P.S. In case I wasn’t clear, I never advocate hiring anyone who is not capable of doing the job, just to fill a diversity bucket.

8 Replies to “Hiring for Diversity, #1: Women and Other Traditional Diversity issues”

  1. It isn’t just gender, affiliation, or name. There is a distinct problem in hiring for people in quality right now that I’d like to see some discussion on! I know multiple people who have been interviewed and asked NO questions at all on testing. Only coding questions. I also know people turned down for jobs based on skills they don’t need for the job, specifically writing java. I also was unable to apply for a job because they REQUIRED a 4 year CS degree. Instead, try CS Degree or equivalent experience.

    More diversity would be possible if rather than requiring a specific language because that is what THEY know, they required testing knowledge and understanding of CS concepts (or equivalent). There are so many applicants right now that companies can ask for eye of newt and get it, but can we please get back to who can do the actual job best? The filters in place are not filtering well for potential, creativity, or testing skills.

  2. I am a white male. Apart from that I have spent a huge amount of effort over the years to become and remain qualified to do the work I do .
    One of the worst places I ever worked had “positive” discrimination to achieve arbitrary non-white-male quotas. I won’t describe the system further than that. Suffice it to say that people were getting promoted without deserving it.
    Do you really need to have diversity on your agenda? How about simply hiring for talent?

  3. My sitebuilder is a woman. I can’t say anything lass than that she was the most capable candidate on the interviews and made a perfect fit into the team. But we’ve chosen her on the basis of skills and personality strengths and not to ease the pain of an all-male team.

  4. @Dominic If an equal percentage of women and non-white males try just as hard and are just as talented as white males, then there’s be a much larger percentage of women and non-white male working professionally and in higher positions. So actually, hiring for talent alone, would indeed reduce increase their chances and reduce yours.

    I think that the post -is- advocating hiring for talent, but very often there are multiple qualified, talented people for the same job. What often makes the distinction then is who fits into the “culture” better. The differences can be explained away: “We didn’t not hire her because she was a woman, it’s just that she didn’t dress in suits/nintendo shirts like us, and she didn’t get our inside jokes about sports/stocks/cars.” but it’s just plain old sexism.

  5. I am a white female enginee with a masters in EE and an B.S in Biomedical engineering. I have worked in two completely unrelated engineering environments a large defense contractor and now a medical device company. I left the defense contractor because I was stuck working with old white ex-military men that thought hitting on and degrading a female engineer was fun. Even though I had double the degrees they did and was the one doing the advanced engineering research they still had inside jokes that I just never thought was appropriate or funny. The company tried to retain and promote me because of my engineering abilities but at the end of the day I could not take the harrassment any longer. Additionally, now in this medical device company I am the only female engineer and work with mostly young college grads. I must say the younger guys are more respectful but it is a very difficult environment when it is all about male bonding and guy talk. You do feel left out. I had a very good mentor once tell me that at the advanced degree level the women usually mean business because they had to put up with a lot more on average than the male to get to where they are at.

    I do really enjoy engineering and I am very succesful at it however based on the engineering work environments I’ve seen I question almost daily leaving the field.

  6. The problem with hiring women is that if only about 20% of new college grads in computer science are women…

    Why are you looking for college grads when there are plenty of women out there right now with experience that are not even being considered for a position?

    I think it is a cop out for most companies. There are plenty of tech women out there.

Leave a Reply