The Future of Women at Gravitational
Women’s history month is almost over, but it’s still important to consider the contributions of women, both in the tech industry, in general, and at Gravitational specifically. Women account for about 59% of the general workforce, but only 30% of the workforce in major tech companies (including non-technical jobs like marketing and human resources). The number of women at startups with all male founders is even lower, ranging between 10-12%.
Where we want to be is 50-50 because 1) women make up half of the world’s population and 2) it’s possible and there are plenty of successful companies that consistently meet this number, including Los Angeles-based Zest Finance and San Francisco-based 6Sense.
So where are we at Gravitational? We share these numbers not to celebrate our perfection—far from that. We have a long way to go, but are committed to improving. Improvement for us includes assessment of data, transparency, and attention to research and best practices. Currently, there are six female employees (not counting contractors/interns) who work at Gravitational out of 43 employees—around 14%. This includes one woman in our engineering department (5%), two in sales (14%), one in marketing (33%), one in design (50%), and then there’s me in Human Resources (100% of HR).
There are some things that we’ve put in place at Gravitational to support a more gender diverse and equitable environment and things that we intend to do in the next year based on our research.
Things We’ve Done
Changed Language in Job Descriptions
Subtle word choices can have a strong impact on application pools, so after getting this feedback a few years ago, we’ve been mindful of our language choice in job postings. According to research adjectives like “competitive” and “determined” result in more women perceiving that they would not belong, versus words like “collaborative” and “cooperative” that tend to draw more women than men.
Our goal is to continue to explore and see how word changes affect the pool—replacing words with something more neutral, striking a balance by using the same number of gendered descriptors and verbs, or going back and forth between words.
This year, we’ve partnered with Ada Developers Academy—an equity focused coding program for women and gender-diverse adults based in Seattle. Although our first Ada Intern doesn’t start until August, we have already benefited from this partnership through networking and learning from previous participants (both interns and veteran corporate sponsors) about what it takes to create a supportive and inclusive environment.
At a recent Ada conference, there were so many learnings and connections. In one presentation, Ada instructor and Engineering Leader at Uber Jeremy Flores said, “microaggressions are in your code”—challenging all of us to pay attention to the subtle ways that women and people of color are invalidated in our workplaces and to actively respond each time. From a fellow corporate partner, Senior Software Engineer at Convoy, Urmila Nadkarnii, she summed up setting up success for our ada intern as “the right manager, the right mentor, the right project.” That advice goes far beyond our Ada intern.
Founders for Gender Equality
Thankfully, here at Gravitational, we have leaders on board with creating and maintaining a gender inclusive environment. In line with our values, our founders, board, and senior leadership team look to do the right thing for the company by making thoughtful and organized decisions.
As stated earlier, we definitely have our work cut out for us.
Things We Plan to Do
It’s not enough to abstractly say we want a more gender-diverse company at all levels. Setting and communicating specific, measurable goals for hiring, promotion, and retention is key for actually moving the dial on a gender diverse team.
Require Diverse Slates for Hiring and Promotions
Research shows that diverse candidate slates can be a powerful driver of change. For example, when two or more women are included on a slate, the likelihood that a woman will get the position rises dramatically. Although this might slow the hiring process down somewhat, it’s worth it overall to meet our goals.
Attention to Unconscious Bias
Traditionally in our hiring process, any member of the hiring team can veto a candidate. The goal is that we want 100% buy-in for a candidate. With this power comes a lot of responsibility. For this reason, we have started providing resources and training to hiring team members regarding unconscious bias and the large role it plays in determining who is hired, promoted, or left behind.
Research supports this decision to focus attention on unconscious bias (also called implicit bias). In companies closing the gap in gender disparities, half of employees received unconscious bias training in the past year, versus companies not making progress where only a quarter of employees or less received training.
Establish Clear Evaluation Criteria
Part of our OKRs for human resources include tracking and ensuring we have consistent processes in place to prevent bias from creeping into hiring and reviews. This means establishing clear evaluation criteria before the review process begins and ensuring evaluation tools are easy to use and designed to gather objective, measurable data. One example is our continuing work in setting clear levels in our two biggest departments: engineering and sales—establishing solid criterias for success and expectations of how one moves from one level to the next.
These are four practices planned for the next year, but there is still plenty of work to do. Two additional goals are having women on every hiring panel and developing pathways for more women in Gravitational leadership roles. What are some things you’ve found to be helpful in closing the gender diversity gap in tech?
Let us know at @gravitationalco on Twitter!
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