When I started at Vonage (née Nexmo) as an Advocate, I was pretty new to Developer Relations. I discovered that it is a very diversity-sensitive area of tech, which was good. It has always been something important to me, or something I was conscious of or frustrated about. That is why it's important to have the opportunity of #shecoded to elevate International Women's Day.
Since working here, I've had the benefit of working with amazing people. They've helped me to better understand how myself and others can do more for underrepresented or marginalised folks in tech. And as a result, I try to be outspoken on issues in diversity, especially on inclusive language and general anti-douchebaggery.
Before I go on, though, it's essential for me that this post isn't about grandstanding or starting to sound sanctimonious. I don't need to show off my impact on diversity. I only need to know that my moaning to colleagues, friends and employees is making a difference. The motives of someone are fundamental, in my opinion, to what makes someone an ally.
So, my purpose here is two-fold: Help folks who are aspiring to be engineers, see that they're not alone on their journey. And, to help other diversity-conscious people act as allies, by learning from my recent experience.
Last year, I submitted a talk to a ton of large scale tech conferences that were looking for content on diversity.
My talk was "We Need to Talk About This", and it generally highlights the problem of access to tech for people from underrepresented or marginalised groups.
These include (and are not limited to) gender pay-gap issues in tech, low uptake in employment for non-males in STEM education, tech conferences avoidance of the problem with putting the same white-male line up on stage year after year and still selling tickets.
No one has accepted my talk. I'm okay with that–so long as that spot goes to a speaker from this area of concern. Let it go to a white, straight, cisgender, man talking about proportional representation, and you'll deserve what you get.
My advice to speakers–even aspiring speakers like myself–is to have a talk about doing better for our female and non-male colleagues in your toolkit. Use your privilege as a platform to help educate others.
Every organisation has speed bumps in improving their diversity and inclusion. I'm keen to tell you that we're no different and it's really healthy for an organisation to accept that it can do better.
On my first day at Vonage, I looked across the engineering floor to see a ton of non-male colleagues. That made me sincerely happy, to know I'd joined a company that took this seriously.
There have been occasions when headdesk occurred, usually down to individuals posting inappropriate content in Slack channels. Then a culture of "boys will be boys" when it comes to handling the issue. I am pleased to confirm this has stopped.
On International Women's Day last year (2019), I asked in an all-company channel for our gender pay gap information. As of April this year, it will be mandatory for us to share it. I hoped that we would already have had that information, but unfortunately, it wasn't something that had been compiled yet. It turned out, someone had asked in 2018, too.
The management team always responded positively when the question was asked. But, that didn't help me escape the feeling I caused raised eyebrows and wincing from colleagues, though.
Reassuringly, we use pay banding to ensure every one of equal responsibility and experience is paid the same. What pay gaps do exist are because salaries didn't work this way. So between pay reviews and natural attrition, any pay gap that exists is supposedly closing over time. When we publish our figures, we'll know for sure!
Whether you're new to the industry or not, do not be afraid to ask tough questions, especially of your employer. Ultimately, a company who you want to work for is going to acknowledge your concern and let you know what they're doing about it.
Too often, I see tech companies weaponising inclusion and diversity for marketing and recruitment.
Even a former employer only seemed to care about their perceived diversity and representation after they got dragged through an incident on social media. Then (only then, IMO), all of a sudden it became a goal of an entire rebrand to appear more inclusive. That shouldn't be how it works.
Please make sure your efforts are motivated by your desire to help others and to help improve our community. Be more inclusive and supportive because it is the right thing to do, not because you want to score some Glassdoor points.
This year for International Women's Day, I've encouraged my colleagues to write about their journeys into tech and to shout about their experience using #shecoded.
It's essential that aspiring engineers can see themselves represented in those who came before them. That is why my team are sharing their stories for #shecoded and why we're celebrating the success of our colleagues and the culture at Vonage.
And, to aspiring allies: Celebrate YOUR progress and the difference YOU can make, so that others can learn how they can make a difference themselves.
Being an ally isn't some achievement you unlock because you retweeted some outrage of the gender pay gap average in your country.
Yechiel sums it up great. He says that allyship is not a title you achieve or something you can become, but that it is something you DO.
It's not enough to be a bystander or cheerleader for diversity. It would help if you were a leader, whether you're part of a marginalised community or not. And your goal as a leader is to have honest conversations about the issues facing diversity in tech. And your goal as a company is to do better than only barely meeting the average for gender diversity in your industry.
So this year, I am going to do more. I am going to keep having honest conversations about diversity, keep asking difficult questions. And, I'm going to keep celebrating my amazing colleagues.