Creating a culture that fosters growth, fairness and exploration    

Ways to break the bias, introduce fairness and balance in tech recruitment.

 

Have you ever imagined a gender equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination? If you have, then great news, because International Women’s Day 2022 is focused on creating just that. Forging a world where difference is not only celebrated, but valued. 

At ResDiary and Dish Cult we are proud that 65% of our Leadership and Management team are female. However, we are acutely aware of the lack of opportunities given to female talent working within the tech/software industry in engineering roles. In May 2021, women made up just 4% of our engineering team. Over the last year this number has steadily grown to 12.5%. While we are happy with this result, we still have a lot more work to do.

Earlier this month we caught up with Lexy Ray, one of our inspirational female leaders at ResDiary, and our first ever female Software Engineering Manager. She has been instrumental in leading the growth of our engineering team, and the amazing female talent within it. We discussed her own career path, her thoughts on the representation of women in tech, new processes, and what we can all do collectively to #BreakTheBias.

ResDiary: Tell us about your role at ResDiary

 

Lexy Ray: I joined ResDiary and Dish Cult as a Software Engineering Manager in May of 2021. I like to sum up my role as: it is my job to make sure we have a happy engineering team. This means that I make sure we have the right people, address anything that is causing frustrations or impediments that prevent engineers from doing their work, and ensure that our culture fosters growth, fairness and exploration.

 

RD: What has been your career path so far?

 

LR: Despite coming from a technical family (my grandfather was a programmer for Texas Instruments, and my mother a mathematician and hobbyist developer) and being heavily into computers from a young age, it never occurred to me to pursue it as a career. The first half of my adult life was actually working in hospitality! It was when I moved into office administration that things started to change.While working in offices, I developed a habit of identifying a problem, creating a software solution to address it, which would then be rolled out across the company. This happened many times before I identified the pattern and realised I was in the wrong business. So, while it was accidental, it was also inevitable!

 

RD: Have there been specific inspirations, influences or events that have contributed to your career journey?

 

LR: One of the main influences for the decisions I’ve made in all areas of my life was my great-grandmother. She raised me to be a fiercely independent woman that asks the tough questions. She gave me the voice to speak up for fairness, and that all voices need to be heard.The biggest influence in my shift to working in tech came from a blind photographer and programmer, Jan Bölsche. Together, we started a now-defunct coding school for women that helped them navigate the industry. We trialed our curriculum through what we called Kitchen Sessions in a flat in Berlin. All of our students went on to work in the Berlin tech industry.My move into leadership was thanks to a dear friend and co-worker, Alex Shaw. After hiring me as a Software Engineer at Glastonbridge Software, they saw the potential in me to help shake things up across the team. This was where my shift happened – from hands-on development to empowering others.And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my daughter. She inspires me everyday to follow my passions, do what’s right, and continue asking those tough questions.

 

RD: Women are under-represented in tech. Why do you think this is?

 

LR: This is really a two-fold problem. 

  1. Fewer women are entering tech, resulting in fewer candidates. There has been a lot of work around this area, which is great to see! In my experience, most companies focus their efforts here, with little result.
  2. Women are leaving tech at almost twice the rate of their male counterparts. From my perspective, this is the bigger (and most often ignored) issue.This means that there are fewer women to move into leadership positions, which discourages the next wave of women by perpetuating the idea that this is not an industry where they can thrive.

 

RD: What changes have you made at ResDiary to ensure equality in hiring and progression for women?

 

LR: The first thing I did was to create a Career Progression Framework, which allows all software engineers to know what’s expected of them and what they need to do to further their careers at ResDiary by fostering a transparent, unbiased and meaningful path to professional growth. It was important that the framework didn’t just recognise a single skill set, but all variations that we want to have on a happy and productive team. 

  • In connection with the Career Progression Framework, there is clear visibility on salaries for each role. 
  • Changes to the way we recruit:
    • When we work with recruiters and intern partners, we expect the candidates they provide to be diverse. If they aren’t able to provide that, it signifies that they may not consider it to be important themselves.
    • We don’t do any whiteboarding or live technical tests, as we know this hinders diversity.
    • We only ask questions that give us useful information. For example, I will never ask a candidate about breaks in their employment history – what useful information do I get out of knowing they left for childcare, a physical disability, mental health reasons, etc?

 

RD: What else can employers address to fix this imbalance?

 

LR:

  1. Stop. The. Whiteboard. Interview. (The same goes for live programming interviews!) The data couldn’t be clearer – technical interviews where a candidate has to perform in front of their peers isn’t a good indicator of someone’s technical knowledge, and they unfairly exclude underrepresented groups across the board.
  2. Create an unbiased and transparent means of progression.
  3. Review your benefit offering. Do these reflect what a diverse group of people might look for? For example, paternity leave is just as valuable as maternity leave to new mothers.
  4. It is your responsibility to create a safe environment. I have witnessed first-hand companies putting the responsibility on women to speak up when they are subjected to micro-aggressions. It is not up to us to fix the problem.

 

RD: What advice would you give to women considering a career in tech?

 

LR:

  • It’s worth it! Because I came to the tech industry later in life, I have a lot of comparison points. While it is obviously a lucrative and stable profession, in no other industry have I felt as respected, challenged and emboldened. 
  • Speak up! I know, I know. I just said that it is the responsibility of the company to create a safe environment. However, it is our responsibility to define what that means.
  • Seek us out! If you are considering a move into tech, are early on in your career, or want advice on how to progress in your career in tech, reach out to those who have gone through similar journeys. 

 

RD: Is there anything else we can do to #BreakTheBias?

 

LR: As a person who fits in multiple underrepresented groups (I’m a neurodivergent disabled queer woman), I think it’s important to recognise that a lot of these issues are not confined to a single group. You have to let the group(s) you are trying to include guide the conversation. If you want to be more inclusive (to women, people of colour, LGBTQI+ persons, those with disabilities, etc), let our/their voices be heard!


 Want to find out more about what we are doing to break the bias at ResDiary and Dish Cult? 


Email your questions to [email protected]