Being a woman in tech hasn't been an easy journey, between us we've experienced a fair (unfair?) amount of discrimination in this male dominated profession over the years. From being passed over for promotions because we had young children, to colleagues being offended when we weren't grateful that they'd explained our job to us when we hadn't asked for help. From having to fight for the flexibility to do the school runs two days a week, to a culture of mocking people as a method of communication. From being asked to take on “more social” tasks, such as arranging the welcomes for new starters, to being perceived as lacking leadership potential because we displayed more feminine traits, such as sensitivity, agreeableness, and humility. It's been a rocky road to get to a culture like Deeper Insights, so what makes it worth it?
It's taken us over a decade to be on a team working with at least one other woman, but today we lead our teams of amazing software engineers and data scientists, and at least half of us are women (50% for the software engineering team and a whopping 67% for the data science team). We also work closely with the DevOps team, the architect, and our AI solutions consultants, meaning that overall our entire technical department is 44% female.
Like many companies, we have a set of core values, chosen by the employees and snazzed up by marketing, and they define how we interact both with our customers and each other. So, now we're going to talk about what it's really like to work here, as a woman, by using our DEEP values as the framework (because we actually love them, they're amazing).
It's easier for women to believe in their own chance of being promoted when there are clearly women in higher positions. There are two issues at play here: first, there's whether or not the company does have some form of glass ceiling, even if they don't believe they do; second, there's the issue of perception. How can you look at homogenous leadership, knowing that you're different, and truly believe that they want that difference? Because if they do, why don't they already have it? The women we interview and who join our teams know that this is a company where they can succeed and be promoted because they can see that we have. And knowing that you're not going to be facing any potential discrimination issues alone can be a major factor in how confident you feel raising issues. It's a small thing, but it makes a massive difference.
It's easy to talk a big talk but then never listen to what people say. One of our core values is that everyone has an equal right to be heard, and everyone works hard to make sure that the quieter members of our teams still get heard in the way they feel most comfortable expressing themselves. We have weekly Open Door sessions where anyone in the company can ask questions of the Senior Management Team without fear of repercussions and these have resulted in real, positive changes in policy.
Our managers take the view that their main job is to unblock and support people, helping them be able to do their best work however works for them. Our home-first, async-first, flexible working hours culture gives parents the ability to work around school runs, dinner times, and childcare emergencies. Obviously, this isn't just beneficial to women, but women are often disproportionately affected by policies that limit this kind of flexibility.
Working in a more diverse, representative workplace also helps us become a smarter and more innovative company, ensuring we achieve excellence in everything we do. Research indicates that teams made up of members from different genders, nationalities, and races, tend to be more aware of their own biases and become more objective and factual when analysing problems. They also tend to come up with more innovative solutions, which is key to staying competitive in the market. Basically, you get Deeper Insights when working with a more diverse team.
Talking of gender, in particular, evidence from research seems to suggest that having more women in teams brings lots of benefits. Teams with more women are better at collaborating and less prone to facing unforeseen project costs due to miscommunication. And while women are more likely to face discrimination about the quality of their code, research suggests that female software engineers actually write better code (as assessed by men, who didn't know whether they were women, obviously).
We also do our best never to confuse confidence for competence, either on the job or during the hiring process. Is asking questions and admitting when you don't know something a sign of weakness? No, it's a massive strength, which should be encouraged. It not only aids learning but ensures that issues are resolved faster and teams are unblocked quicker.
We have an amazing culture of collaboration and support here at Deeper Insights. We don't end up with public slack channels being a place to be afraid of asking stupid questions, because no one at this company will ever tear you down. They'll ask clarifying questions and offer suggestions and further support, but they'll never belittle your question. Problems get resolved quickly and efficiently, because everyone cares about unblocking others and making sure they ask questions again in the future. Once the balance swings towards equality you get much less of the toxic sniping and showing off as a method of communication than you normally get in tech environments.
We also have a fortnightly Women in Tech meeting, alternating between a structured topic and an informal chat. We're a small company, less than 30 people in total, but we genuinely have enough women working here that even if half of us are busy there are still more technical women in the meeting than any of us have ever worked with before.
It may have been a long, hard road to get here, but today we work at an amazing company that truly values diversity and equality. As further evidence of the impact of a company's values on promoting equality, we've added a few quotes from the amazing technical women who work at Deeper Insights and have experienced firsthand the effects of living these values:
“I never realised how much not having female co-workers impacted my job satisfaction until I came here and actually got to work with women.”
“Working alongside other women has been transformative. Both communication and collaboration became easier and I also feel more comfortable and safe being my true self and voicing my opinions.”
“This is the first place I've worked where I don't feel worried about posting questions in public channels. It's amazing what a difference having a supportive culture can make.”
“Seeing other women with senior roles in the organisation was a critical deciding factor in deciding to work at Deeper Insights. I hadn't even realised all the ways that I had slowly been influenced to behave in a more ‘masculine' manner in all-male teams previously, in order to be heard. For instance, I had often been advised by my male managers to wear my hair up rather than down, to lower my voice, and dress in certain ways in order to be taken more seriously. This has not been my experience at DI at all, now I see women who look and talk like me, and they are judged on merit alone, which is a wonderful feeling.”
“I can truly say that I've never felt discriminated at Deeper Insights by senior management. Our DEEP values simply do not leave space for discrimination.”