Demanding diversity at workplaces

As a female developer, if you are in an IT field like me, you might have found yourself working in male dominated teams and workplaces. The lack of diversity might not seem like a huge problem to most startups which are trying to survive in a hostile business world. Obviously, sales and growth take precedence and definitely valid. Consequently, very few startups prioritise the issue at hand as it is difficult to measure the value or impact of having a gender diverse workplace. Additionally, most startups are also run by men.

I have noticed from instances from the past that if this comes from the horse’s mouth — the leadership team, it is more effective and becomes a norm than unusual.

In most cases, diversity is not a talk of the town and begs the question even though the laws advices companies to strive for a gender diverse workforce, the numbers are unimpressive and highly slopsided.

I strongly believe the diversity problem needs to be addressed from day one when the company is found because gender diverse workplaces offer unique benefits according to statistics published by top companies and we know it’s becoming more of a fact day by day. The company culture, communication and general vibe should be professional and sensitive in inviting women entering the workforce. If fellow women developers don’t ask the right questions about diversity during interviews, recruiters will only think of closing the positions than look harder for a female developer.

Three unique questions I like asking hiring managers at an interview:

  1. How gender diverse is the team, engineering department and company in general?

If I find the workplace is not so diverse. I ask the HRs to elaborate on the reason for the lack of diversity. Most answers I get is it is hard to find women developers which is the case in Berlin. The main intention here is to understand if the company cares about diversity and what action are they taking as I believe it is a huge factor in driving the company culture.

2. What is the level of proficiency you expect from the candidate and of the current team members?

If the answer does not include junior developers, I ask to elaborate on why there are no junior positions. Because as a programmer trying to help fellow women engineers to enter the workforce, I would like to know there are enough junior positions available to welcome newbies as today’s juniors are tomorrow’s seniors. A healthy combination of all proficiency levels has proven to improve productivity as to having only juniors or seniors especially in bigger companies. In my opinion, in some ways it also demonstrates the company is mature enough to understand and invest in the future of the employees.

3. How do you handle cases of sexual harassment?

Personally, as a woman I want to feel safe in a workplace environment. There have been several casual racism, sexism and a sexual harassment cases in my past experiences which I let some slide or escalated based on the severity. But most good companies have code of conduct that ensures safe working environment and are mindful about enforcing basic decency that is expected out of the employees. I also consider companies which educate employees on ‘sexual harassment’ care about protecting their employees and have a plan in place for prevention before they happen and not wait for something to go wrong.

If you are wondering if the last question is related to diversity in anyway allow me to explain. When there are few women at a workplace there are fewer voices to speak up or raise a particular problem that exists in general. Many times I have heard women say they don’t speak up because they don’t want to be judged by their other male counterparts which is a valid fear.

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