Let’s get this out right up front – I have no question that there is discrimination in the tech industry. I gave an hour-long talk on this very subject at MIT a couple of weeks ago, where I pointed out that everyone’s first draft of pretty much everything is crap – your first game, first database – and some people we give encouragement and other people we give up on.
That’s not my point here. My point is that sometimes we are our own barriers by not applying to positions. Let me give you two examples.
First, as I wrote on my 7 Generation Games blog earlier, we reject disproportionately more male applicants for positions but yet our last four hires have all been men. This may change with the current positions (read on to find out why).
For the six positions we have advertised over the last couple of years, the application pool has looked like this:
We had one woman apply for the previous internship position we advertised, and we ended up hiring a male. If you look at this table, the odds of a woman being hired – 1 in 3, are greater than the odds of a man being hired, 1 in 5.5 . Yet, we hired twice as many men as women.
Why is that? Because more men apply. More unqualified men apply, which explains our higher rejection rate. If we explicitly state, “Must work in office five days a week”, we will get men (but no women) applying who live in, say, Sweden, and want to know if maybe that is negotiable (no.)
We have also recently filled 3 positions, and will soon fill two more, without advertising. In one of those cases, the person (male) contacted us and convinced us that he could do great work. All four of the other positions were filled by personal contacts. We called people we knew who were knowledgeable in the field and asked for recommendations.
We happen to know a lot of people who are Hispanic and Native American, so 3 of those positions ended up going to extremely well-qualified people from those groups. The one woman we hired out of those five positions was actually recommended by my 82-year-old mother who said,
“Your cousin, Jean, is a graphic artist, you should check out her work.”
As you can see from the photo of the 6-foot banner she made for us, she does do good work.
I see two factors at work here:
- Women are less likely to nominate themselves. While men will apply even if their meeting the qualifications seems to be a stretch (or a delusion), women are less likely to do so. I don’t know why. Fear of rejection?
- People are recommended by their networks and women seem to be less plugged into those networks. This is also true of minorities. We make no special effort to recruit Hispanic or Native American employees but since that is a lot of who we know, it is a lot of who THEY know and hence a lot of our referrals.
How do you increase your proportion of female applicants? You are going to laugh at this because it is the simplest thing ever. This time around, I wrote a blog post and tweets that specifically encouraged females to apply. And it worked! Well, maybe you would have predicted that, but not me. I would never have guessed.
Do you really want to hire Latino graphic artists or software developers? Come to the next Latino Tech meetup. Bonus: the food is awesome.
My point, which you may have now despaired of me having, is that affirmative action is a good thing on both sides. By affirmative action I mean being pro-active. If you are from an under-represented group, APPLY. Invite yourself to the dance. If you are an employer, reach out. It could be as easy as having a margarita during Hispanic Heritage Month or writing a blog post.
In both cases, you might be surprised how little effort yields big results.
Don’t forget to buy our games and play them. Fun! Plus, they’ll make you smarter.