You got this, you’re a girl

A friend of mine, whom I consider to be one of the smartest people I’ve met, put it bluntly: “I don’t believe I deserve any job at all!”

This narrative is common across cultures. It took me many honest conversations on hiring with people across seniority levels to be more confident. Here’s an attempt to break this down.

Why do we care?

Why are we taking steps to have a diverse team in the first place?

It’s business, bro.

Before I raise social and ethical arguments, let me highlight a simple business motive: It is a strategic decision to build a team where people think in different ways. We’ve seen examples of successful women-led businesses that were able to cater to women’s needs very effectively (Zivame, Nykaa). Diverse groups make better products. Diversity creates bonuses, it’s not just a nice thing to do

Products for all should be built by all.

I was 15, it was in the middle of the city, fairly early in the night. My Dad was to pick me up from a party. He asked me to cross the road and walk about a hundred metres to the car so that he could avoid taking a long U-turn. I kept him waiting for about 10 minutes, and he was pissed at me for not being on time. Little did he know that I went back mid-way only to ask a male friend to accompany me. He did not consider I could have felt unsafe in such a busy street.

Creating a safer space.

Through the last few years, I found myself being the only woman on the table many times. There were 3 girls in a batch of ~60 in my Physics classes. There were two girls in the astrophysics club I led in college. I am the only female engineer in a team of ten.

Towards a more egalitarian society.

It’s a step towards better representation and support for women. Representation is powerful. It allows minorities to feel validated and have faith. It helps girls get the support they need from their parents because now, parents can be convinced that their daughter’s education could be useful. That she too, can make it on her own. Female role models improve girls’ beliefs that they can be successful in STEM fields and increase their likelihood of choosing a STEM career.

Is Diversity Hiring the way to go?

okay.. we need women, but shouldn’t this change be brought at the grassroots level?

Are we lowering the bar for women?

We are making attempts to make it easier for the girls to get started in their careers in tech. But, we are not lowering our expectations from the women in tech at large.

“The point wasn’t to lower the firm’s high standards: It was to realize that by sticking with the most rigid and old-school way of evaluating a new lawyer’s potential, we were overlooking all sorts of people who could contribute to the firm’s success. We needed to interview more students, in other words, before writing them off.” — Michelle Obama, in Becoming, on diversity hiring

Developer hiring is broken

Competitive coding tests are a poor indicator of your ability as a software engineer. So while more minorities might have been given interview opportunities, despite scoring lower on the coding tests — it does not mean they are underqualified for the job.

Max Howell, the creator of Homebrew, on being rejected by Google

It’s a rigged system in the first place!

A vast majority of hiring is through referrals. Harvard Business Review published a great article: A Lack of Sponsorship is Keeping Women From Advancing into Leadership.

An Acknowledgement

I think there are some issues worth explicitly acknowledging in the current campus hiring that has caused substantial misdirected outrage online.

We need to do better

The industry has typically taken the easiest route to score the most points.

Better hiring procedures

Developer hiring is broken.

Real Changes

There has been increased awareness, but have there been real efforts by companies to improve diversity and tackle core issues, or are efforts limited to entry-level positions for the inclusion points and good PR? Top companies (Google, Tinder, Apple, Pinterest, Microsoft, etc, etc) making it to the news for sexual harassment, and/or not treating their women well, make me a sceptic.

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