Where are the Jobs? Where are the Opportunities?

As is typical for events such as these, mention is made in comments related to the “Beautiful code” book about providing a list of women–the typical “where are the women” these discussions always break down to. How many times do we have to do this? And in how many places? Are these genuine questions? Or just a convenient way to put the burden of the lack of diversity back on we women?

A better way of looking at this is, where are the jobs? Where are the opportunities? Where are the companies that genuinely want to hire more women in technology because they want to diversify their workplace? Where are the editors or conference givers who want to provide a richer experience by ensuring a balanced offering?

What we need is to start building a list of companies who are actively recruiting women techs. The same for conferences and books. Then we can publish these, with requirements, location, and other information, and let the women who are interested come to you–because you sure as hell are not coming to us any time we build yet another list.

If you think diversity is important, and you’re hiring, let me know and I’ll publish your job. I’ll put these into a separate category so that women can search on jobs, and close the job post when the position or positions are filled.

If you think diversity is important, and you’re looking for an author, writer, or conference presenter, let me know and I’ll publish a post about your book, magazine, or conference. Again, I’ll put this into a separate category so that women can also search on writing and presenting opportunities. If your conference speaker list closes, or you find the author of your dreams, I’ll close the post so you won’t be bothered, and the item no longer turns up on the active list.

Yes, I could create a wiki or an application and do the same thing, but that’s focusing on the technology; focusing on the technology has not worked once in the past. Enough with focusing on the technology, time to focus on finding a solution.

So, where are the jobs? Where are the opportunities for women?

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26 Responses to Where are the Jobs? Where are the Opportunities?

  1. “focusing on the technology has not worked once in the past”

    Fantastic point. I don’t think people want to admit they’re keeping their eye on male artists, speakers, producers, writers, pundits, and thinkers, at the cost of women who do the same work. This is one of the roots that needs to be exposed.

    Re: your third to the last paragraph. So you’re laying down the gauntlet, eh? Good for you.

  2. Shelley, don’t bite me for this, but it sounds like you’ve really got the core of a business proposal there, something the BlogHer folks or those who are funding them might be interested in:


    Frankly, blogging “If you think diversity is important, and you’re hiring, let me know …” is not going to work. Because the moneybags aren’t reading you, or anyone besides *maybe* the A-list conference-club. But if you go to them with a (business) proposition, that’s another story.

  3. Doug Alder says:

    thunderous sound of applause – well done :D

  4. aruni says:

    Interesting approach. I agree with the fact that a different approach has to be made….although I’m not really sure what that is. Having been a part of Association for Women in Technology – Austin – http://www.awtaustin.org – (formerly WITI) since 1998, I have noticed that many of our members do not actually have a technical degree but work for technology based companies (e.g., Dell, IBM).

    When founding my first tech company I was surprised to hear that we had a unusually high proportion of women at the company. I was even more surprised when I met peers who either had no women at all or very few women.

    I would have loved to hire a woman programmer but I don’t recall any female candidates applying for our open positions at the time we were hiring (1999-2001).

    You might want to check out Working Mother Magazine’s Top 100 companies to work for and you’ll notice that very few of the company’s are tech companies.

    The other questions to ask are: Where are the candidates? Where are they applying?

  5. Kevin says:

    It seems that this completely ignores the core of the problem. The person doing the hiring should pick the person who is best suited for the job, no matter whether they are male, female, white, black, or other. To do anything else is to do a disservice to all involved. If we both apply for the same position and I am better qualified but they hire you because they want to “diversify” then they are screwing everyone. You because you are more likely to fail, the company doing the hiring because their project is more likely to fail, and me because I actually deserved to get the job.

    Ultimately it is no different than a company hiring a man who is less qualified because they don’t want to diversify.

  6. Shelley says:

    Melinda, I will be curious if I get any listings. And Doug, thanks!

    No Seth, I have no interest in approaching the Blogher folks. Thanks for the suggestion, but it wouldn’t be comfortable. Others can, if they wish. But I don’t want this to be ‘monetized’.

    aruni, chances are, with women dropping out, you’ll have less of a chance to hire one.

    Kevin, how many applications do you know of, how many services, are for men only? How can anyone even judge what makes a good application for women, when the teams involved are completely male?

    Plus, how efficient are the applications? How much of the code ends up becoming code, for code’s sake? Typically, women are more practical about code, have less of their ego tied up into it.

    Diversity isn’t just a word in the Ds. Even when you say ‘more qualified’, I have to ask: by whose standards? Some other guy, just like you?

  7. Kevin says:

    Wow… Don’t even know where to start with this… So I’ll just dive right in:

    Kevin, how many applications do you know of, how many services, are for men only? How can anyone even judge what makes a good application for women, when the teams involved are completely male?

    Unless you have the privilege of working at a very small company or at a startup your average developer, even your average lead will have nothing to do with these decisions. You’re talking about design and marketing, not about software development. On a side note, a good company will have a QA and Test group that is based around the products target audience be that house wives, tweeners or frat boys. And if you plan on targeting a product to a specific demographic then you bring in experts in that demo/field during the design process. Optimally this should happen before a single developer is hired.

    Plus, how efficient are the applications? How much of the code ends up becoming code, for code’s sake? Typically, women are more practical about code, have less of their ego tied up into it.

    Wait, so women are more practical? That’s a fairly large generalization (some would say stereotype), and one which I don’t think would hold up under any type of close scrutiny. This is really no different than my saying “Women aren’t good developers because they are more emotional than men.” Let’s do the mature thing and lay both of these claims aside since they are completely silly.

    Diversity isn’t just a word in the Ds. Even when you say ‘more qualified’, I have to ask: by whose standards? Some other guy, just like you?

    This will vary, but I’ve found that the best companies leverage the employees who will be your direct lead and your peers to make this decision. Finding someone who fits into a team is about more than qualifications (obviously), but first you have to get to someone who is actually qualified. The very best places won’t waste their time (or yours) with more than a phone interview until they are sure you meet the technical qualifications for the job in question.

    Look at the interview process for places like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc… Do you honestly think any of them would turn down a qualified applicant because they’re a woman? Seriously, would any company do this who had the best interests of their future in mind?

    If you don’t trust perspective employers to be objective based on things like sex, race, or religion then they probably aren’t worth wasting your time interviewing with in the first place. After all do you want to spend your time and effort working for someone/someplace that isn’t ethical (and this is a question of ethics)?

  8. Shelley says:

    Kevin, even with designers, the developers have a subtle impact on how the interface functions. You can’t completely cut the two off.

    As for the hiring process, you’re assuming explicit bias, and completely disregarding implicit bias. People tend to hire people like themselves. If all the people creating the employment tests, questions, and doing the interviewing are men, if a male and female candidate are equivalent, who do you think will be perceived to be the better candidate? The one who can ‘talk the lingo’ of the dominate interviewers? Or the alien in their midst?

    So how do you determine who is qualified? Resumes? Recommendations? Interview? Any one can trigger bias, and the worth of all can pass through a value filter that can leave women at a disadvantage, particularly if the organization is predominately men.

    Not necessarily related to you Kevin, as much as several comment added together, but what a disappointment these discussions have been today: I’ve always assumed that most men in tech would prefer a more balanced, diverse work place, but are ignorant of how to bring such about (or lazy about being proactive in support of such). But between this post and the last related to this topic, what I’m reading is that you guys really are basically just as happy there are few women in the industry. That none of you would really care if all women dropped out. That there would no loss, because you really don’t see that we’ve contributed much to this field.

    That you, frankly, don’t care.

  9. ralph says:

    I suppose I’m not most men, but there’s no question that I prefer a more balanced, diverse workplace. I have a lot of complaints about the company where I’ve spent most of my career, but lack of balance and diversity isn’t one of them. The company has gone to great effort to include women on the management and technical career paths. The current CEO is a woman. One of my two bosses is a woman, and their boss is a woman. I’ve spent by far the majority of my 20+ year career reporting directly to women or to someone who reports to a woman.

    I spent the better part of a year working for a startup a few years ago. In many ways it was preferable to the bureaucratic nightmare of the company I’ve spent most of my career with, but when it came to diversity regarding gender, it was by far the worse of the two. Fifteen people working there, all male. I damned near died of testosterone poisoning. Okay, joke, but really, the atmosphere was so incredibly different, and I’m sure few of my cow-orkers even realized it. It really made it clear to me that I was taking the kind of diverse environment at the other employer for granted, whereas it didn’t seem to be the default out in the rest of the world.

  10. James says:

    Some quick googling turns up http://infohost.nmt.edu/~val/hiring_women.html

    Google’s been trying to increase its diversity for years – http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05327/611384.stm and http://www.inf.ethz.ch/news/spotlight/google give some details, including a goal of 33%.

  11. Why is this an issue? What evidence is there that companies are choosing not to employ women with suitable qualifications? More pertinently, wouldn’t this open companies to claims of unlawful gender discrimination if they were to specifically solicit women for individual positions?

  12. The social contract for men and women is different, so there’s also a semi-legitimate explanation to men-only workplaces, that is people are not sure how to make the diversified collectives work. Maybe it will just work better by itself, but it’s people’s nature not to take perceived risks without a reason. Same applies to all the women choosing not to work in technology, who otherwise would.

    I can see only one good way to fix that — by example. Publicize how well (while different) diversified collectives work, publicize successful women in technology, explicitly state that both male and female applicants are welcome for the job opening, etc. This removes the perceived risk and generally works much better than trying to provide an incentive to override it, like provoking a feeling of guilt, talking about the unfairness of current situation or trying to solve it with regulations.

  13. Shelley says:

    Ralph, I would say from these comments that you’re not typical. Unfortunately, you’re heard about as well as I am.

  14. Kevin says:

    I would say that you’re correct in your statement that most men don’t care (or don’t care enough to be proactive), but bring up off-shoring and watch the fires burn (gotta love human nature).

    Those who do care (of which I actually am one) are stuck though. If an open position on Monster gets 100 equally qualified resumes, of which only 10 are from women, then there is only a 10% chance of a woman getting that position. If you want to call it 8% or 9% due to “implicit bias” I’m fine with that. The real problem is where are the other 40 qualified women applying to the job in the first place. If you want women to have an equal, level playing field then they need to be equally represented. I am far less concerned with the hiring practices of various companies (big or small) than I am with the truly sad number of women who graduate in this contry with a CS degree. Until that problem is addressed and delt with this will keep cropping up over and over. Attack the education system (external AND internal) which tells young girls that they shouldn’t get into these fields if that is what they truly love and enjoy. Heck even if it isn’t what they truly love and enjoy but is what they can “do” to make a paycheck (how many men do you think got into tech purely for the money vs love of the game?).

    As with all problems if you find the true cause, and not just the symptoms, and fix that, your problem will (mostly) go away.

    I added in the mostly to take into account human nature, yes we are always going to look out for number 1 and yes we are pack hunters who fear that which is different.

    Ok, I think that is enough rambling for the morning… I have to head off to my (actually very diverse) job.

  15. Phil says:

    I am far less concerned with the hiring practices of various companies (big or small) than I am with the truly sad number of women who graduate in this contry with a CS degree.

    I’ve mentioned this here before, but – I had a 12-year career in IT, from programmer to sysadmin via data analyst and DBA, and my formal qualifications are non-existent. I did an English degree & decided to try out computing because it looked interesting. I probably wouldn’t get in the door these days. Change *that* culture and perhaps addressing diversity issues would get easier.

  16. Seth Gordon says:

    I can’t speak for my Fearless Leaders, but I think diversity is important, and my company is hiring.

  17. Elaine says:

    Like Seth, I can’t speak for my employer directly, but I too value diversity, and we are also hiring. (Technical openings are fairly rare in our org!)

  18. Kevin says:

    I do understand what you are saying. In my (almost) 12 year IT career every one of my jobs started out as a generic tech job (helpdesk, sysadmin, etc…) which I turned into a development job through pure hardwork (and hard-headedness). I don’t have a CS degree, and this DOES hurt when you are trying to get a job in today’s market. This is one of the reasons that I am focusing so much personally on improving/expanding my skill set (it’s currently very python centric).

  19. Aruni says:

    I agree that it starts at a young age…the American culture for some reason doesn’t encourage women to pursue tech degrees. Interestingly, in other cultures (e.g. India, Sri Lanka) they have a much higher percentage of women graduating with engineering and medical degrees. My mother is a doctor.

    My husband has degrees in Aerospace and he said he might have one or two women in his classes at a time. So really I think the question is why aren’t women interested in pursuing a career in tech despite the existence of organizations like WITI, AWT, etc. I don’t have a tech degree. I have an accounting degree.

    As I mentioned previously, we didn’t have many (if any) women applying for open tech positions at my first company but overall we had a higher percentage of women than most tech start-ups. I hear they now have a female programmer there…which I was glad to hear.


  20. Aruni says:

    I was browsing around and saw that Oprah is hiring several technical folks and my guess is that they will be very open to hiring women. See http://www.harpocareers.com/jobs/jobsearch/Candjs.asp

    Linux Systems Administrator
    Senior Linux Systems Administrator
    Quality Assurance Manager
    Java Application Developer
    Information Architect

  21. Shelley says:

    Seth, interesting requirements for that job. Exactly what kind of ‘math’ is required? Elaine, would your place be willing to accept experience over degree?

    Actually, when I mention companies and offerings, I really am thinking of companies and HR departments that are willing to be pro-active in seeking diversity.

    So, folks listing jobs here: does that describe the jobs? I’m assuming so for the Oprah job. At least, I hope.

  22. Shelley, I’d very much like to find someone to replace me at my current main gig. We are hiring. We need someone who is experienced with PHP and with managing small teams. The main project that is coming in the next few months involves an API for a store for digital products. Sort of like Snocap. Ideally, the person would have the following:

    Experience managing others. This is almost more of a project management job than it is a programming job. I currently spend half my time talking on the phone and writing emails to people I’m working with or people I want to bring into the current project. The next project will have at least two other programmers and two graphic designers and a writer/editor. The person we hire needs to feel comfortable in the role of manager for a small team.

    Experience with client management. If the person did freelance work for awhile, and dealt directly with their clients, that would be a plus. Clients, like bosses, are difficult to deal with, and knowing how to do so is therefore a valuable skill.

    Some experience with MySql and tuning MySql.

    Some experience with CSS/XHTML. The person we hire won’t be doing any design themselves, but some of our less experienced designers turn to me when they run into a problem they can’t figure out, and the next person should also be able to help them.

    Some experience with Linux servers, though the person doesn’t need the full range of sysadmin skills. We’ve someone else we bring in when we need something demanding done, but the person we hire should know basic stuff, like how to ssh into the machine and edit the php.ini file, or how to edit a vhost file.

    One complete failure. Anyone who’s worked in the tech industry long enough has been part of one completely failed project. If the person isn’t able to name a failed project that they were a part of, I’d be damned surprised. I’d also have to wonder if they have enough experience. What I’d be looking for is an intelligent analysis of why the project failed.

    Some knowledge of XML encoding. There will be a lot of information published as XML. Yes, most of this will be handled by a library. As with so many programming projects, experience will be useful to handle the rare edge cases.

    Some knowledge of RESTful web services. They should read Ruby’s/Richardson’s book before they talk to us, just so we can have a common language. Bonus points if they’ve actually built such a system before. Huge bonus points, actually.

    Respect for designers. We generally follow the 37 Signals model of “Start with the interface”. We generally seek designers who avoid features for the sake of features. We generally seek designers who put themselves in the shoes of the user. We then need programmers who respectfully empower the designers with the code that the designers need. Experience working closely, and well, with designers is a big plus.

    Experience with PHP. If the applicant doesn’t have experience with PHP, they’d need to score highly on the other requirements, and they’d have to show they are a very good programmer with some other language. For instance, a great Perl programmer might be considered if they are clearly a great project manager, or have previously built a RESTful API.

    Experience integrating PHP with Flash. It would be nice if the person knew a lot about getting info from PHP/MySql to Flash.

    This company is a small firm (6 or 9 people, depending on if you count the part-timers) in central Virginia. We will consider people who are far away, but proximity to Virginia would be a big plus. Ideally the person could visit Charlottesville once or twice a month, for a staff meeting. Salary would be based on experience.

    I should also add that if someone knows PHP but has no experience with management or RESTful APIs, they should still contact us. We are looking for an additional PHP programmer.

    Anyone interested should contact me at lkrubner@geocities.com, and they should put “Bluewall Applicant” in the subject line. Or call me on my cell phone: 434-825-7694.

  23. Also, it occurs to me, we are looking for someone to help us finish this site: http://www.accumulist.com. This site was built in a rush back in 2005, then abandoned. It needs to be rebuilt from scratch. One can consider the currently existing site as a prototype of the site we’d like to build. The site had some features of del.icio.us. There was also talk of adding a Digg-like voting system. We built a WordPress plug-in that allowed people with WordPress blogs to add any post to Accumulist. We meant to also do a plug-in for MoveableType, but we never got around to it. I can explain the site a bit more to anyone interested in work with us. Contact me at the above email or phone number.

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  25. Shelley says:

    Lawrence, good job descriptions.

  26. You’re talking about design and marketing, not about software development. On a side note, a good company will have a QA and Test group that is based around the products target audience be that house wives, tweeners or frat boys. And if you plan on targeting a product to a specific demographic then you bring in experts in that demo/field during the design process. Optimally this should happen before a single developer is hired.

    Kevin, I hope you won’t mind if I pick at what you’ve written.

    I am curious, if you want to hire someone to invent something that you’ve never thought of, what are the needed technical qualifications? If you want to hire someone to think thoughts that you yourself would never think, can you easily write out the qualifications for that job? Suppose your company has a goal of hiring workers who will be “innovative”. What does that mean, exactly? If the company carefully defines, ahead of time, what they mean when they use the word “innovative” then it should be possible to hire people who meet their definition. But, I think we can agree, if the company defines “innovative” too narrowly it will miss out on a large degree of actual innovation.

    There is a saying, regarding fiction, that an author can never write a character more intelligent than the author himself/herself. In a similar fashion, I don’t think you can conceive of a product that only someone more intelligent than yourself can conceive of. But, likewise, it is said that authors only rarely write believeably about things they’ve never experienced or seen. So, too, it will be rare for people to invent products or services for problems they have not themselves experienced or seen.

    I believe that, in the excerpt I quote above, you are suggesting a design process (or R&D or innovation process) that looks something like this:

    1.) Folks in design, marketing or sales discover a problem that potential customers have.

    2.) Folks in design, marketing or sales realize a solution to the problem.

    3.) If the solution is focused on a particular demographic, people from that demographic are surveyed, to get their input. If the solution is not focused on a particular demographic, perhaps a general mix of people will be surveyed. This input is used to shape the solution, and to also ensure that the market is large enough to profitably support the solution.

    4.) Some one person, or a group of people, are put in charge of the creation of the solution.

    5.) The technical needs of the solution are figured out.

    6.) The qualifications needed to enact the technical aspects of the solution are figured out.

    7.) Someone is hired who has the technical qualifications needed to create the solution.

    I hope I’m not misrepresenting what you’ve suggested.

    There is no doubt that this process leads to new products and services. This is a fairly important process for creating many products that we now use and enjoy. But surely you can see the kinds of innovation that this process will miss? Just to name two:

    What about those innovations that demand a large amount of technical knowledge? These are innovations that can not arise from folks in design, marketing or sales. These are innovations that can only arise from people with a deep understanding of the mechanics of an industry. In the airline industry, it might be someone with a knowledge of the costs of repair crews who therefore realizes the economic efficiency of hubs. In medicine, it might be the nurse who got tired of sticking herself and who invented the no-stick needle. In the tech industry, it might be someone with a deep understanding of XML, seeing the need for a new kind of vocabulary. In his 1985 book, Innovation and Entreprenuership, Peter Drucker referred to this category of innovation as “Process Innovation”.

    This sentence of yours has an implicit assumption:

    And if you plan on targeting a product to a specific demographic then you bring in experts in that demo/field during the design process.

    What about those products that are aimed at the general population but which should actually be aimed at a particular demographic? An easy example would be cell phones that need big buttons for older folks who have bad eyes, but there must be thousands of examples that are more subtle and harder to see than this. You won’t bring in the experts until someone realizes that the general purpose product actually needs to be specialized for a given demographic. And who is that someone who makes that realization?

    I think the development model that you have in mind is the one most used by large corporations, but one doesn’t have to read too many issues of Fast Company to become indoctrinated with all the arguments against it. This development model has flaws, it misses out on large categories of innovation.

    There are many possible innovation strategies that depart from the traditional model that you’ve suggested above. One process starts by bringing aboard people whose viewpoints will be contrary to whatever viewpoints your company already has.

    I’m not sure I can tie this comment together in a way that will enable you to see my main point, but I’ll try.

    If you (or the CEO of your company) want your company to have ideas that you yourself are incapable of having, then you’ll have to hire someone who is different from you. There are many dimensions of differentness that you can try to capture. They include age, gender, intelligence, religion, ethnicity, physical strength, literacy, math ability, education, sociability, traveledness, country of origin, and a whole lot more. While no company can capture every dimension of differentness, it would be limiting to think that formal work skills (are you a marketer or a programmer?) were the only dimension of differentness that a company needs to worry about.