Word on the streets of Silicon Valley is that companies want more femgineers… And sure we can all invest in the future and motivate young boys and girls to become engineers, like Facebook, Microsoft, and many other companies are doing today, but what about right now? And why is this even important? Well I’ll tell just say two things about the current approach most companies are taking:
- Bringing in a motivational speaker isn’t going to work. You can hire Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and whomever else you can cajole to spend time at your company, but you’ll still be stuck. Why? Because it’s all inspirational. There is no plan. Young ladies don’t think “Hey I’ll become Sheryl or Marissa!” Many don’t even know what the first step is besides learning how to code. It’s not their fault. All that is touted lately is that they need to learn to code. Yet there are so many more steps to the process like networking, interviewing, negotiating for a salary, working with a team, producing quality code, you get the gist. But of course none of this is talked about, and there aren’t any clear steps and strategies. So how can companies expect to attract more femgineers right now?
- Simply hosting hackathons and showcasing that you have some femgineers at your company will fail too. In the short term you’ll see a little spike in interest, and people will pat your company on the back for being female friendly. However, if you don’t actually implement a support structure in place one that has clear performance review criteria, mentorship, role models, and a flexible work environment then you can and should expect turnover.
I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but good intentions are just that good. If your company really cares about fostering a female friendly company to attract femgineers (believe me it will benefit males too), then just like you build and maintain a product systematically, you need to have a systematic approach for attracting, recruiting, and retaining femgineers.
And why is this even important? We can continue to crank out coders through a number of methods, but we also need to breed leaders. The only way to do that is to keep people in the industry long enough for them to hone their skills, and learn management strategies. The key to doing that is to have a supportive system, otherwise people will just leave, be disinterested in advancing, or worse yet not even know how to advance themselves! Right now tech is at the forefront of most industries for being known as progressive. We also have the unique position of being able to compensate well for high quality talent. But if we want to keep people in the industry, and maintain quality talent we have to put some processes in place.
Now I know what you’re saying: “Come on Poornima, give us the scoop!” Well here’s the deal, I’m usually one for spilling all my strategies, but this is one issue that I’m dead serious about. It’s NOT a marketing gimmick. You cannot pay lip service to a growing trend because you’re desperate for talent. And don’t make me out to be the bad gal in thinking that I’m holding out on femgineers, I’m not, I’m doing this for their own good too. I care about them working in places that will support their long term career growth and lifestyle. I’m willing to share my strategies with those who have the best intentions, and are willing to invest in putting a strategy in place.
So if you are interested you can reach out to me, and I’d be more than happy to host a Femgineer Forum at your company.
If you’re curious as to what that it entails here’s the approach the folks at CoverHound took. First they reached out to me, asking me to host an event for them, but they said it was really important that their current engineering team participate. I wholeheartedly agreed, and said it was a requirement. Next, we brainstormed topic ideas, and finally came to an agreement on what to focus on. CoverHound wanted me to focus on how females within organizations can change the culture from within in order to attract more females. I agreed to it. I’ll be hosting the next Femgineer Forum on April 2nd at the CoverHound office. You can see additional details here.
Let’s work together to foster companies that are friendly to folks!