Glenn Gillen

Self-reflection on diversity

I worked at a company that had a problem with diversity, or more correctly the lack of it. That in itself isn't surprising these days. While there were a vast number of groups that were very underrepresented across the organisation, the lack of gender diversity was a very obvious problem. I think at one point we might have had 10X more guys called Matt than we did women in engineering.

So when I had the opportunity to hire people on my team I was adamant I wasn't going to maintain the status quo. This time it would be different. I'd try my hardest to not add a second guy called Matt to my team.

And then the applications started flooding in. Guy, after guy, after guy. I guess everyone was right, it's a pipeline problem. The disparity of gender within tech roles means it shouldn't surprise me that the applicants for the role would be as diverse as those currently employed in said roles. Well, actually, zero women applied. It probably means they've all got jobs they love already and aren't looking to change. Right? I mean, what else could it be?

Some time away

We placed someone in the role and I decided I'd take a few weeks leave before he started. I spent a lot of that time pondering the process we'd been through. How the candidates that applied had found us. What it was about the role that had them excited. Why they wanted to come and work with our company.

Not a single person I spoke to approached us completely green in terms of their knowledge of the company. Most were customers. Many knew one or more of my team mates from their open source contributions, public speaking, writing, or social media presence.

Were we just not speaking in the right places? Were we not getting in front of the right people? Where did we need to be to change the status quo?

Being part of the problem

I did a bit of a manual audit of who I followed on Twitter. Ascertaining as best as possible what gender the people I followed identified with. It was pretty confronting. I can't recall what the exact split was but I'd estimate at least 90% of the accounts I followed were men. Of the women, if you removed the ones I knew personally via school/friends/previous employers, then you'd probably be left with less than 10 total.

So as a start I unfollowed many of the male #thoughtleaders I was following. Most of them had been regurgitating the same shit for years now, and I was sure if they said something new or interesting someone in my network would retweet it. Then I took to what felt like hard work at the time, finding some new role models. Promiment women in tech. It was a very gradual process, the public advocates fighting for diversity were the most obviously discoverable ones. And over time observing who they interacted, following the people who seemed to have similar interests.

Within a few weeks I had at least 5 applications from incredibly talented women. People I wish I still had a job to offer, but we'd filled it and stopped advertising months ago now. That also meant their applications weren't a response to me shouting out into the internet that I was hiring, those messages were long ago buried in my timeline. The only material differnce between now and a month or three previous is who I followed on Twitter. Not my audience. Not the events I was presenting at.

It was less about where I was speaking, and more about where I was listening.

The least you can do

The Australian Federal Government recently announced $3.4M in grants being award to projects that are helping to address the gender imbalance in tech. 24 projects in total, run by amazing and motivated people.

People who understand the problems in this industry, and who have ideas along with the passion and determination to fix them. If you have even the slightest interest in helping address problems with gender diversity in STEM the least you could do is take the time to listen to them.

Literally, it's the least you could do. Because I just spent the past two hours collating all their Twitter details so that all you have to do is click the follow buttons below:

Glenn Gillen

I'm an advisor to, and investor in, early-stage tech startups. Beyond that I'm an incredibly fortunate husband and father. Working on a developer-facing tool or service? Thinking about starting one? Email me and let me know or come to one of our days to help make it a reality.