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Engineers Team Up to Improve Gender Diversity at Mark43 and Beyond

08 March 2017   •   Kellie D'Amico   •   3 minute read

Blogpost_Genderdiversity

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m excited to share what Mark43 is doing to improve gender diversity in our engineering team and the tech industry more broadly. U.S. companies struggle with diversity across the board, but technology companies are known for having particularly poor diversity figures.

Let’s start with our numbers. These are based on current full-time employees at Mark43.

These diversity figures are consistent with the technology industry at large. Approximately 18% of computer science degree graduates are women, and major technology companies’ technical work forces largely track this value (e.g. 15% of Facebook’s technical workforce is women).

At Mark43, we want to do better than meeting the industry standard. We need to ensure that Mark43’s recruiting pipeline is as free from bias as possible, that Mark43 is a good place for people of all genders to work, and that all Mark43 engineers understand why these goals are important.

It is also critical to address how we can affect gender diversity issues outside of Mark43. A lot of the gender diversity problems that technology companies encounter are systemic, but even these systemic issues are worth discussing. Companies like Mark43 often have the resources to lessen this systemic inequality — for example, teaching local students to code — and we can be a part of mitigating the gender diversity in engineering problem beyond our walls.

Last year, I worked with my manager and the other women engineers to put together a presentation for our engineering “All Hands” meeting. The presentation covered the current state of gender diversity in Silicon Valley, our own company’s numbers, and our personal experiences as women engineers. We also sent out two articles for everybody to read in advance of the meeting — one narrative piece by Tracy Chou and one quantitative analysis of bias against women’s pull requests — so that we could have a significant amount of time at the end of our meeting to discuss action items.

We left our meeting with action items that were compiled collaboratively by the whole engineering team. Working with our VP of Engineering and our recruiting team, we narrowed down these action items into a series of immediate and longer term goals. We then assigned various team members to ensure that each goal was met on time, involving people of all genders in this effort. Too often, work to improve gender diversity falls disproportionately on women, which makes it harder for them to do the jobs they are fighting to diversify.

Most of our action items addressed our recruiting pipeline, because Mark43’s policies concerning current employees (e.g. sexual harassment and parental leave policies) were already comprehensive.

  • We committed to partnering with outside organizations — both at universities and locally — that support gender diversity in engineering. We hope that this will simultaneously benefit our recruiting efforts and provide resources to these organizations’ members (e.g. space in our office for one of their events) even if they never apply to Mark43 in the future.
  • We introduced a new standard requiring that every woman candidate be interviewed by at least one woman engineer during her technical interviews. In the long term, we want a woman engineer to conduct at least one technical interview for all candidates, not just women candidates. Google found that women were less likely to accept employment offers if they had interviewed only with men.
  • We implemented a blind grading process for reviewing our applicants’ technical take-home tests. All graders of these challenges are “blind” to any demographic or background information on the applicant; they are only told how many years of experience the applicant has.

We are proud of the policies we have already committed to and implemented, but recognize that any company efforts to foster greater diversity must be ongoing. Furthermore, we know that gender diversity is not the only diversity challenge our company and the tech industry face; there is a startling lack of racial and age diversity as well. As such, we will continue to think about how to make our diversity efforts increasingly intersectional.

Happy International Women’s Day from all of us at Mark43!