Does Diversity really matter?

13. Juli 2017

Am 23. Februar 2017 waren Brigitte und Sombra von We Shape Tech Bern als Speaker an den Voxxed Days Zürich zu Gast mit einem Vortrag zum Thema «Does Diversity really matter?». Der Vortrag wurde als visuelle Reise durch die Diversität gestaltet, mit einer fiktiven Persona, die ihre Karriere einmal in Mordor durchläuft und einmal in der Unicorn world. Brigitte hat dazu die Visualisierungen erstellt.

Den Talk haben die beiden in Englisch gehalten, deshalb ist nachfolgendes Transkript ebenfalls in Englisch verfasst. Das dazugehörende Poster kann aber in Deutsch oder Englisch heruntergeladen werden.

Does diversity really matter?

Introduction

We both are women in tech with several years of experience. For this talk we try to make a retrospective our our last years in IT. Not everything has been as easy as you may think, but it is not that difficult either. Having been part of the gender minority for years now, the question still is «Does Diversity really matter? Or shall we just forget about this topic and accept the way it has been?»

Anyway, we like to share with you guys some our our favorite stories and anecdotes we came along. But remember, all names and characters are ficitious. All similarities with reality are completely intentional :-).

Mordor

For example, imagine you know a woman who has been working in IT for 15 years. Just imagine. Let's call her Sarah. Completely fictional name. Let's go back to the beginning of her career, when she considered working in IT.

Career Choice

Once upon a time Sarah came across her first tough business decision: she had to choose a carrer path. «I love Maths and figures... but I am not a nerd or a gamer, and I am not as good as a guy... Additionally, all my girlfriends think I'm weird. And... isn't it a dead end job anyway?»

Contrary to all external advisors, she decided to give it a try anyway.

Mordor - Career Choice

University

On the very first day of university Sarah started hearing voices: «Look, there's a girl!», «She must be in the wrong room», «I bet she won't last more than 2 weeks» and «What is SHE doing here?»

Again: contrary to all expectations Sarah got through university and she even made some friends! :-D

Mordor - University

1st Job

What do you do after university? - Let's find a job! (or a non-payed scholarship, or a non-payed apprenticeship or something else non-payed...)

It's not that there are not plenty of open positions out there, but finding one not searching for «ninjas» or «geeks» has taken a while. After finding the desired position, getting the job was not that hard. After all, what company nowadays can afford not having a woman on a team... seufz - quotas - seufz.

Sarah was aware of that fact, so she was prepared to work 150% to prove herself - and guess what? - she actually did it!

Mordor - First Job

1st Promotion

After a few years being ignored in all promotion rounds, she saw herself good enough for the next level in her career. So she asked for a promotion. Be aware that - opposite to her male colleagues - she has to ASK for a promotion in order to be considered.

Mordor - First Promotion

Changing jobs with 32

Changing jobs every once in a while is considered a good thing if you’re pursuing your dreams. But changing job as a 32-years old woman is close to suicide. Despite the fact that companies are not supposed to ask the «Pregnancy» question, it is usually still the elephant in the room, whereas a military career for men is still considered normal.

«Don't you want to start a f...ramework?» or «What do you think about inheritance?»

Mordor - Changing Jobs with 32

Returning after maternity leave

After working several years in cool projects and with big clients, Sarah did get pregnant, she did start a family, she did enjoy a maternity leave.

And after that, guess what, she did come back after only four months, and the company was soooo considered with her situation at home that she only got easy projects without responsibility because everybody knew, she would leave again anyway. An even if not, she is a mother and has other things to do.

Mordor - Returning after Maternity Leave

First executive position

Some years later Sarah came to another crossroads in her career. She got her first executive opportunity. She took the opportunity but she knew it would - again - be hard to be taking seriously. Actually, the easiest way would be to become a man... Afterall there must be something wrong with her. She looks more like an assistant, doesn’t she? (hear the irony in that?)

Mordor - 1st executive position

Unicorn

But as we said, not everything has been so bad. Actually we haven’t been in Mordor in our lives. But our unicorn moment have been scarce. Let’s imagine a - hopefully not so far in the future - world where everything is possible, unicorn exist and agility actually works.

Unicorn - Career Choice

Career Choice

Let’s go back to those days when Sarah thought about the possibility of a technical career. Questions about «boys» and «girls»-jobs didn’t even came to her mind. It’s only a matter of passion without any stereotype. Are you still there? Do I see some unicorns on the back?

Unicorn - University

University

Let’s go on. Imagine we’re back to university days. There are almost the same number of girls and boys on the class (just like in a party where everybody wants to stay). Even professors are equally divided between men and women. And the best: your absence is not immediately detected just because of your gender. You’re not longer the girl of the class.

Unicorn - 1st Job

1st job

After enjoying a few highly interesting and rewarding years at university Sarah started her job search. There are so many appealing opportunities that she has a hard time choosing. And after womenlead interviews (not HR women but technical women) it was even harder.

Once she started in her new position finding her place in a team was not even considered a challenge, she was there because of her skill. Is that not amazing?.

Unicorn - 1st Promotion

1st promotion

Since she fit so perfectly in her team and she had no pressure proving herself continuously, she could concentrate on her skills and duties from day one. Therefore she got considered for a promotion in the first round. Nobody asked «why?», instead everyone said «why not?».

Unicorn - Changing Jobs with 32

Changing Jobs with 32

As in Mordor, changing jobs every once in a while is still considered a good thing. But opposite to Mordor, there are only unicorns in the room - no elephants. No questions about family planning, no awkward pregnancy questions, no forecast for your next 10 years are required. Only your skills and your experiences are considered - just as for men.

Furthermore, the maternity/paternity leave is equal for men and women… that means extended leaves (indifferent for the reason) are not considered a disadvantage.

Unicorn - Returning after maternity leave

Returning after maternity leave

After more-than-just-four-months maternity leave she deserves to leave her daughter... with his father. And do you know, there are already some «rainbow» countries in Europe where you can share your maternity leave with your partner. Unbelievable.

After her time-out she managed to work part time sharing job with somebody else. A different personal situation but same responsibilities. Nobody ask her if she would like to work less. Because flexibility is over presenteeism.

Unicorn - 1st executive position

1st executive position

And after years of working hard, continuous education, being a working mom, she became Chief «Bla bla bla I like it so much» Officer. And that’s all. No questions, no pain, no weird looks. Just normal. And remember, BOSSY is the new sexy.

As you have seen Sarah’s journey has been a little bit more enjoyable. But just as fictitious as the one through Mordor. Let’s forget about evil orcs and colourful unicorns and let’s take it a little bit more serious.

Conclusion

conclusion

We often hear «Diversity is not a men's problem, women are just not interested enough in tech». We disagree to a certain point, after all, we chose the tech world ourselves and we strongly believe that it is absolutely important to include all kind of people in the development of our future - independent of gender, age, colour, culture, religion, ...

Although the diversity issue has been worked on for several decades now, it is still among us. But we are all part of the problem - and the solutions. But, how can we foster diversity?

  • As an individual: Be aware of the unconsious biases we all grew up with and avoid to perpetuate them.
  • As a woman in IT: Make your own work and your passion visible. Share role models and participate in intitiatives about this topic.
  • As a company: Do not only think about quotas and positive discrimination. Create a safe and suitable work environment for all your employees giving equal opportunities. You can also support organizations and projects that foster diversity, i.e. Girls Who Code, Django Girls, Rails Girls, ...
  • As a government: Support education inititatives to avoid biases. Develop specific programs sto foster the interst of both girls and bos in technology and sciences.

As we both said, not everything has been so bad. Actually we haven’t been in Mordor in our lives. But our unicorn moment have been scarce. Let’s imagine a - hopefully not so far in the future - world where everything is possible, unicorn exist and agility actually works.

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