A great time and place to ask about diversity and inclusion

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There isn’t a single day going by right now where you can’t read a post or see a talk about diversity and inclusiveness in our market. And that’s a great thing. Most complain about the lack of them. And that’s a very bad thing.

It has been proven over and over that diverse teams create better products. Our users are all different and have different needs. If your product team structure reflects that you’re already one up against the competition. You’re also much less likely to build a product for yourself – and we are not our end users.

Let’s assume we are pro-diversity and pro-inclusiveness. And it should be simple for us – we come from a position of strength:

  • We’re expert workers and we get paid well.
  • We are educated and we have companies courting us and looking after our needs once we have been hired.
  • We’re not worried about being able to pay our bills or random people taking our jobs away.

I should say yet, because automation is on the rise and even our jobs can be optimised away sooner or later. Some of us are even working on that.

For now, though, we are in a very unique position of power. There are not enough expert workers to fill the jobs. We have job offers thrown at us and our hiring bonuses, perks and extra offers are reaching ridiculous levels. When you tell someone outside our world about them, you get shocked looks. We’re like the investment bankers and traders of the eighties and we should help to ensure that our image won’t turn into the same they have now.

If we really want to change our little world and become a shining beacon of inclusion, we need not to only talk about it – we should demand it. A large part of the lack of diversity in our market is that it is not part of our hiring practices. The demands to our new hires make it very hard for someone not from a privileged background or with a degree from a university of standing to get into our market. And that makes no sense. The people who can change that is us – the people in the market who tick all the marks.

To help the cause and make the things we demand in blog posts and keynotes happen, we should bring our demands to the table when and where they matter: in job interviews and application processes.

Instead of asking for our hardware, share options and perks like free food and dry cleaning we should ask for the things that really matter:

  • What is the maternity leave process in the company? Can paternity leave be matched? We need to make it impossible for an employer to pick a man over a woman because of this biological reason.
  • Why is a degree part of the job? I have none and had lots of jobs that required one. This seems like an old requirement that just got copied and pasted because of outdated reasons.
  • What is the long term plan the company has for me? We kept getting asked where we see ourselves in five years. This question has become cliché by now. Showing that the company knows what to do with you in the long term shows commitment, and it means you are not a young and gifted person to be burned out and expected to leave in a year.
  • Is there a chance for a 4 day week or flexible work hours? For a young person it is no problem doing an 18 hours shift in an office where all is provided for you. As soon as you have children all kind of other things add to your calendar that can’t me moved.
  • What does this company do to ensure diversity? This might be a bit direct, but it is easy to weed out those that pay lip service.
  • What is the process to move in between departments in this company? As you get older and you stay around for longer, you might want to change career. A change in your life might make that necessary. Is the company supporting this?
  • Is there a way to contribute to hiring and resourcing even when you are not in HR? This could give you the chance to ask the right questions to weed out applicants that are technically impressive but immature or terrible human beings.
  • What is done about accessibility in the internal company systems? I worked for a few companies where internal systems were inaccessible to visually impaired people. Instead of giving them extra materials we should strive for making internal systems available out-of-the-box.
  • What is the policy on moving to other countries or working remotely? Many talented people can not move or don’t want to start a new life somewhere else. And they shouldn’t have to. This is the internet we work on.
  • What do you do to prevent ageism in the company? A lot of companies have an environment that is catering to young developers. Is the beer-pong table really a good message to give?

I’ve added these questions to a repo on GitHub, please feel free to add more questions if you find them.

FWIW, I started where I am working right now because I got good answers to questions like these. My interviews were talking to mixed groups of people telling me their findings as teams and not one very aggressive person asking me to out-code them. It was such a great experience that I started here, and it wasn’t a simple impression. The year I’ve worked here now proved that even in interviewing, diversity very much matters.

Photo Credit: shawncplus

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