A few months ago, I was spending one of my first Fridays in the office in ThemeKeeper’s Melbourne HQ; I’d recently been hired as the editor of the new ThemeKeeper blog. I had claimed a spot on one of the neon green bean bag chairs, lined up in a semi-circle on the second floor of our open-plan office building.
Women in Tech & The Hoodie Archetype: An Updated Guide
It was winter in Melbourne, so I was sporting my brand-new ThemeKeeper hoodie.
I was catching up on emails – perhaps reading a newsletter, the Ann Friedman Weekly – when I stumbled upon her article about ‘How to fix tech’s women problem’. The introductory line read:
The first step is, throw out the hoodie-wearing boy-genius and build a new archetype.
I read this. I looked down at my ThemeKeeper hoodie. I looked up – at the circle of hoodie-clad, headphone-wearing, Macbook-typing guys next to me. I looked back down at the article. I noticed, then, that it was published in 2014. 2014! That was two years ago! And yet, here I was, reading about issues of diversity in tech that felt more relevant than ever. I simultaneously thought, has the tech industry really made any progress since then?, and, wait, should I stop wearing this hoodie? It’s really comfortable.
Here’s where I should mention that ThemeKeeper is impressive in their efforts when it comes to tech and diversity, particularly as it relates to the issue of gender diversity. The CEO and leadership team are advocates for diversity, and it’s written into our company values. ThemeKeeper has received awards like Coolest Company for Women, and in 2014, they were the first Australian startup to release their diversity figures.
But does that mean they’ve solved the diversity puzzle? Not quite. ThemeKeeper is the first to admit that there’s still a long way to go. We’re working on taking a more in-depth look at the systemic and unconscious issues that contribute to the lack of women in fields like technology and design. We’re elevating the voices of smart women in the design industry, taking a look at our diversity stats & figures for this year, and highlighting women in our community.
Today, I still wear my ThemeKeeper hoodie around the office – but I’m also more aware than ever of the challenges that women face in tech and design.
Meanwhile, I’m sharing a list of my personal favorite articles, blogs, and podcasts about women and tech: the stories that stuck with me, the ideas I refer to regularly, and the advice that has resonated with me most.
Is diversity in tech an actual, real problem?
If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention, from Rachel Thomas
When researcher Kieran Snyder interviewed 716 women who left tech after an average tenure of 7 years, almost all of them said they liked the work itself, but most were unhappy with the work environment.
This research-heavy article looks at unconscious bias, tech culture, and the issues around pointing to things like hiring processes and education systems as the only reason for the issues around women in tech.
The New Subtle Sexism Toward Women in the Workplace, from Fast Company
Take it from years of behavioral research: implicit biases have an overwhelmingly negative effect on women in traditionally male professions.
What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women, from Newsweek
I almost didn’t include this article in the list, because it’s harsh and detailed description of the sexism and bro-culture of Silicon Valley almost borders on the not-safe-for-work territory. But that’s the issue: for a lot of women in Silicon Valley, is it the reality of their work.
Okay, but what are some experiences of women in tech actually like?
“But you’re too cute to code!” — experiences of a female freelancer in the tech industry, By Sarah Brown
As I’ve continued my career, I’ve been very aware of this ever growing chip on my shoulder: my quick assumption that if I’m in a room full of men, I will need to fight to prove myself.
I love this analogy from Sarah Brown, who likens micro-aggressions and small instances of sexism to water torture: “one drip of water on your forehead will not bother you, but a constant series of drips will cause a person to break’.
The Priority Problem, from The Intern (podcast)
Allison Behringer is a podcast producer stationed inside betaworks, an NYC-based startup studio. This 40-minute episode is one of the best explorations of the issue of women in tech — Allison is bold, brave, and straightforward as she interviews her coworkers, and leaders in the tech industry (like entrepreneur and technologist Anil Dash, an advocate for diversity in tech who once spent a year only retweeting women) about how to confront issues with diversity in technology.
This experience shook me and made me want to run back to nonprofits where — even if I was making little to no money — I always felt safe and was never attacked in such a way. But then I remembered why I chose to become a developer: I love coding.
Pretty simple, really: people don’t like being in hostile work environments.
What are some ideas for improving diversity in my workplace?
Approaching the topic of diversity can be difficult. This guide from Label A on their process includes gamification via bingo cards, a catwalk, and office discussions.
Obama’s Female Staffers Came Up With a Genius Strategy to Make Sure Their Voices Were Heard, from NYMag
Female staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called “amplification”: When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.
Shine theory is the idea that successful women should work together and support each other, instead of seeing each other as rivals. Obama’s female staffers banded together and elevated each other’s ideas, using a tactic known as ‘amplification’; today, half of all White House departments are headed by women.
Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified, from Harvard Business Review
I’m reminded of this article every time I have an inbox full of article pitches from only men, or when we get a stack of mostly-male resumes for new positions at work. The general idea: many women tend to apply for things (jobs, promotions, career opportunities) that they’re 100% qualified (or overqualified) for, while men are more likely to send in that application, even if they don’t check all the boxes in the job description.
Who are you trying to hire? Why might your career page not attract the talent you are looking for, or folks who empathize with them? Why are you so obsessed with ninjas?
Writer LaToya Allen’s piece about issues with the stereotypical career pages of tech companies — where free beer might be a more prominent perk than paid maternity leave — raises some good points, and it’s a good read to check against your own company’s messages around hiring.
What about that Google manifesto?
We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo., from Recode
The “anxiety gap” exists for a reason, and it is not about biology.
Let’s just start with some science. Sigh.
What I am is an engineer, and I was rather surprised that anyone has managed to make it this far without understanding some very basic points about what the job is.
An article from an ex-Googler about why that Google manifesto is sexist, and also misses the point about what it means to be an engineer.
In the end, focusing the conversation on the minutiae of the scientific claims in the manifesto is a red herring. Regardless of whether biological differences exist, there is no shortage of glaring evidence, in individual stories and in scientific studies, that women in tech experience bias and a general lack of a welcoming environment, as do underrepresented minorities.
As a woman in the tech industry, this writer cites fatigue as a reason for the outrage around the Google memo: the onslaught of ‘endless skepticism’ is exhausting.
Sexist assumption 2: Women’s issues are not relevant to men at all. Sexist assumption 9: Men should be able to promote sexist views with impunity.
Sexist assumptions and different treatment create significant obstacles to women’s careers in tech.
Grace Hopper, ‘The Queen Of Code,’ Would Have Hated That Title, from NPR (podcast)
Women were responsible for programming early computers, and Hopper led the charge.
A four-minute radio piece about Grace Hopper, the woman who played a pivotal role in the computer programming revolution.
Ostracizing people for expressing their opinions creates isolation — the opposite of inclusion.
Stuck in an ‘ideological echo chamber’? Let’s just grab coffee and talk to each other. Maybe about ideas other than diversity. ✌️
This article was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated in August 2017.