Keep Women in Tech, and Austin Weird

by Janey Zitomer
October 11, 2019

Returning to work after childbirth; transitioning into a field where you’re a minority; climbing the ranks in an industry still dominated by men: The barriers women in tech face are neither minimal nor inconsequential. 

We spoke with four companies who have implemented tangible strategies — including offering transparent equal pay data and providing generous maternity leave — for making those barriers that much easier to traverse. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats. 

 

Literati team working
Literati

At Literati, a membership-based book club for kids, employees abide by a few simple truths that center around the Golden Rule. While this practice may seem like common sense, it’s not as widely implemented as it should be in the business world. Head of Product Elizabeth Winkler told us how this mantra connects to their mission and what it has to do with women in tech. 

 

Pick one or two examples of issues facing women in tech and tell us how your company is addressing them.

One of the biggest issues facing women in tech comes as women progress in their careers into leadership positions. Women who enter tech leave the industry at a rate 45 percent higher than men do. And thus, they are less likely to grow into leadership roles. Often, they are not supported. Being the only person who looks like you in the room results in your voice not being given as much weight as those of others. This leads a lot of senior women to drop out of the industry altogether. The issue, as with many other things, hits women of color the hardest. 

Literati is owned by women, and we have proven that by offering a welcoming and supportive environment, we can attract incredibly talented women who are thriving in leadership positions. We have not gone out of our way to attract women. It has happened completely organically. 

We have zero tolerance for disrespectful, egotistical, or condescending people.’’

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

We do not have specific initiatives to support women since the support is there by default. What we do focus on is making sure that our work environment does not fall into the toxicity that plagues the tech industry. We have zero tolerance for disrespectful, egotistical, or condescending people. And unlike most of the tech industry, we will not put up with “the lone genius.”  

Overall, we focus on making sure everyone at the company treats each other with respect and does not let their ego get in the way of their collaboration with others. This goes way further than any HR-led initiative I’ve ever seen or been a part of. 

 

 

Blacklocus women
BlockLocus

Sandy Donlon, head of data science and business intelligence at BlackLocus, knows that talented women might not always come knocking at your company’s door. Of course, this might have to do with competitive offers. But it could also be a result of lacking resources as well as the self-doubt many qualified candidates have when looking for jobs in the tech sector – an industry that hasn’t had a stellar track record of welcoming women in the past. 

BlackLocus is helping pave the road to professional success with accessibility across the board. 

 

Pick one or two specific examples of issues facing women in tech and tell us how your company is addressing them.  

It is far too common for women to feel limited in opportunities for careers in tech, whether that means not even applying for a job because they don’t feel qualified enough or staying silent rather than asking for a special project. At BlackLocus, our leadership demonstrates their support of opportunities for women through action. We were proud to take part in the recent local Women Impact Tech conference, with executive representation from out product, engineering and data science teams there to discuss our open positions as well as career trajectories. Attendees who may have had reservations about applying to our job postings in the past now have an open channel of communication with the leaders hiring for those roles. As a result, we have seen an increase in engagement from those attendees. Events like these help us ensure a healthy balance of diverse applicants, which ultimately results in inclusive hires. 

Pay equality is another key issue in technology, and quite frankly, every industry. We rely on equal pay data in the offers that we extend to new hires. We also utilize that data during mid-year and annual reviews. We address pay equality from the very beginning of our relationship with a candidate, and we continually monitor our departments to ensure that we aren’t propagating inequality when it comes to career advancement and compensation. 

We rely on equal pay data in the offers that we extend to new hires.’’

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company? 

BlackLocus encourages the women on our team to participate actively in events around our community by identifying those that would be impactful to the team as a whole. We also share different events that we think would motivate certain individuals. We support career development with annual conference presentations and attendance sponsorship. 

We also love hosting local meetups, such as Women in Data Science and Austin Data Leaders, in order to connect with other women in tech to not only empower each other but also provide mentorship and partnership opportunities. 

Finally, BlackLocus provides six weeks fully paid time off for new parents and 12 weeks maternity leave for birth mothers, with continued flexible work-life balance and PTO. 

 

Courtney Branson of Square Root
Square Root

Square Root takes issues facing women in tech (and beyond) seriously. Look no further than the Radical Girl Crew, their women’s empowerment club. Courtney Branson, director of culture and people, told us why supporting women is such a priority to her and the team and how consistent education and training initiatives help shape employees’ experience, no matter the gender they identify with. In the photo above, Branson leads Square Root employees through a sensitivity training.

 

Pick one or two specific examples of issues facing women in tech and tell us how your company is addressing them.  

At Square Root, we pride ourselves on creating a safe space for folks of all backgrounds, making it possible for them to bring their full selves to work. But it wasn’t always this way. To help women succeed and lead in tech, we need to shine a light on the issues that face us: creating a physically and psychologically safe space so we can all be our authentic selves, promoting women on potential (not just men), and inviting men to be allies so they see the emotional labor we too often take on.

When this approach began as a mere idea back in 2014, we knew it was going to take intentional effort. We were on a mission to embrace traits often perceived as “soft” or “feminine” in all “radicals,” such as empathy, active listening, and clear communication. 

In a hip-hip-hooray moment, more women are stepping into leadership roles in tech, with 40 percent of leadership at Square Root being women. Unfortunately, promotions for women often come after they’ve already performed the job duties or placed a burden on themselves to work unsustainable hours. Once they’re in the leadership team, women may not have the same access to role models as men. In the day-to-day shuffle, companies forget to connect women to mentors and to nurture them to develop the next-gen of female empowerment. 

Inviting men into the conversation adds them as allies and keeps solutions from falling solely on women.’’

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

In 2017, the Radical Girl Crew, our women’s empowerment club, hosted a conversation dubbed “Being a Woman in Tech.” To kick off the presentation we asked people to raise their hand if they’d ever been catcalled walking outside of the office. Every woman shot her hand up in the air. The visual display grabbed the attention of the men in the room (note: no men raised their hand), highlighting the emotional labor women face at work. 

Whether it’s worrying about the gender pay gap, their appearance, fitting in with the “guys,” or safety in general, women face hurdles often unbeknownst to men. Inviting men into the conversation adds them as allies and keeps solutions from falling solely on women. 

Square Root is also a fair pay certified company, with sensitivity and resiliency programs designed to disarm folks regardless of gender. We keep our intent to build an authentic, empathetic, and radically different company culture front and center. Our initiatives include our In Your Shoes mentorship program, a $3,000 learn anything annual perk, executive coaching for up-and-coming leaders, non-management leadership tracks, the ability to take any “radical” out to coffee on us, and meeting magic, our whimsical approach to amplifying voices at Square Root. When it doubt, promote women!

 

Medici employees chatting
Medici

Healthcare issues, just like those in any other industry, aren’t unique to men. So at Medici, the company’s leadership teams aren’t homogeneous. Medici allows patients and providers to connect over a HIPAA-compliant messaging app, which provides users with tools offering everything from diagnosis to billing. Anne Hunt, vice president and head of product, told us more about how the company helps amplify women’s voices.

 

Pick one or two examples of issues facing women in tech and tell us how your company is addressing them. 

Women in tech are still challenged by cultures that don’t value their perspectives enough to give them a voice in leadership. At Medici, we actively recruit and promote women into our leadership and executive teams.

We actively recruit and promote women into our leadership and executive teams.’’

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

Medici promotes work/life balance with flexible hours so that women (and all employees) can take care of family commitments without sacrificing their ability to participate at work.

 

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