So, You Finally Have a Woman on Your Team?

odd one out

Some unsolicited thoughts (OK, advice) for managers who finally have a woman reporting to them.

1. Meaningful Projects

None of us got into the tech industry for the casual misogyny and the rampant sexual harassment, and we don’t go into work excited for the possibility of someone mistaking us for the help. Same as the dudes, we want to build cool stuff.

Advice I give all the time, and tell myself repeatedly when I’m making a decision that means I can’t do something for the “collective good” – the best thing that any technical woman can do for the plight of technical women is be happy in, and awesome at her job.

As a manager, the best thing you can do for women on your team is give them something that they will find meaningful, where they can show their awesomeness. This goes double if she’s just had a traumatic experience – remind her why she got into this industry in the first place.

This is called sponsorship. I’ve noticed white men often struggle with this concept, but they often don’t have a word for it because it’s just something that happens for them. Make it happen for the women on your team, too.

2. Accept the Possibility of Bias

All the data shows that women (for the most part) are not treated equally. Take the time to admit that statistically, it’s unlikely that you are without bias. And given those statistics, the probability that everyone around you is without bias is a vanishing impossibility.

Depressing? Yep. But this is the world we live in.

I would never advocate giving women on your team more reason to worry, but as an internal consideration this can be helpful to have. If they’ve internalized enough statistics to worry, never deny that worry – the statistics show that it is entirely rational, and in this industry we pride ourselves on rationality, right?

Things to look for: Ideas being repeated without credit. Judging women on past performance and men on “potential”. Code reviews can be a place for men to exert, or resent (perceived) dominance.

Overall

Here’s the thing – women don’t want to be treated differently. These suggestions are not about “special treatment”, they are about the internal work that we can do to ensure that women are, actually, treated equally. Or at least more equally – because truly equally is a long way off.

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