The world of technology is constantly changing. Attitudes are diversifying. The days of women treading the path laid by men will one day be a historical anecdote, but we must be the change in getting there.
We spoke to one of our recent female hires in the Product space to understand how businesses and women themselves can begin to facilitate those changes. By evolving approaches to interviews, onboarding, internal policies and intra-office networks, Canadian technologist and entrepreneur, Kaia Myers-Stewart shares her experiences and subsequent insights into how those things could in fact bolster healthy diversity in the workplace.
While workplaces have evolved and eschewed many of the outdated notions of yesteryear, there is always room for improvement. Embracing a more varied cohort than the usual line-up of suspects will bring an array of new perspectives and ideas, and greater opportunity for creative thinking. Something that will ultimately set businesses apart from their competitors.
So, for aspiring technologists – female and otherwise – entering the tech space, or simply wishing to make a conscious lateral move for the better, what is the advice she has to impart?
“Back yourself,” she says.
What women can and should do, is take control of the interview process and make sure they are backing themselves from the start.
“When you’re in the interview process and the company is trying to woo you, don’t be afraid to call them out on their promises,” says Kaia, “ask them if they conduct anti-bias training. Find out what’s available to you as someone who’s coming into the industry as a minority. Assert that you understand the business wants more women in roles, but ask how you’ll personally be supported once you get through the process.”
Even before the interview and in between rounds and meetings there are things you can be doing. “Do your due diligence,” advises Kaia. “Try and find women who currently work or have worked at the places you’re thinking of targeting or interviewing with, and get the inside scoop to understand what the environment and culture is really like.”
Platforms like LinkedIn are a great source for this research, and once you’re in, “find your community; people who are willing to help drive change and make an impact,” she says.
Additionally, engaging with a well-connected recruiter to glean this insight into a company’s culture, will undoubtedly help you better understand the internal dynamics. Their network of established connections will enable you to be privy to any pertinent ‘off-market’ intel to help inform your decision-making process.
Furthermore, joining the F Factor, which is the women-in-tech community from tech gender diversity advocate Project F, will help support you through your journey and help you find the right fit for you. Project F works with companies to help them remove systemic barriers for women in their product, engineering and leadership teams.
Once you’re in your role, find your USP, your own point of difference that makes you a valuable asset to the business purely by virtue of your unique experiences, insights and perspectives. “Use the resources you have from your own personal experiences and background,” says Kaia, “this is what makes you special and stand out in a positive way and can make a significant impact on your colleagues and organisation.”
While managing a team of engineers in one role, she implemented a one-minute check in at the daily stand-up to give people a chance to talk about things outside of work-related topics. “They really responded to it and it became 3-minute check ins to talk about their kids or what they had going on, and it helped me understand why their work was a certain way and to unlock certain things; it was an incredible gift.”
Undoubtedly the road is hard, and it can be difficult to know how to get ahead without ‘playing the game’, which can at times mean ‘act like a man’ or employ power plays that may put you at a mental deficit because they’re impossible to win. But as Kaia has demonstrated an example of, women in particular can shine in ways that aren’t patently obvious and not even realise how helpful something small can be. The more businesses recognise the power of tapping into that, the more tangible real change becomes.
“There’s so much hanging in the balance right now that there is just no way things can’t change drastically,” says Kaia, “whether that’s resource shortage or something else, different skills are going to become more useful and those skills are going to be community based skills.”
Change is most certainly afoot, not least in a climate that has seen businesses forced to rethink their policies around flexible working, cyber security risks related to a remote workforce, and as we move away from traditional attitudes, diversity in the workplace.
Kaia Myers-Stewart was recently placed as a Product Manager by The Onset.