Giving Notice: Why the Best and Brightest are Leaving the Workplace and How You Can Help them Stay (Amazon) is an eye opening book. It was written a while ago, about corporate America, but it is very much applicable to the tech industry today and the poor representation of certain groups of people. If I have had reservations about the process being taken, this book confirmed those reservations – and more. I can’t believe people presiding over things have read this book (because I have to think if they had they would have changed their behaviour), and they should have. There’s also a great checklist of questions to help evaluate environment, which is useful for anyone who is job hunting.
It took me a long time to get to reading this book because I thought I wasn’t ready yet – I found it and bought it shortly after I left, when I was just starting to crawl out of burnout, or perhaps just accepting that I was. I didn’t really want to understand how common and predictable it was yet. I definitely found some of the later chapters hard-going emotionally as a result. But I’m so glad I did read it, and if you have anything to do with creating an inclusive environment at work (so – if you have a job), then I recommend reading it.
- “Studies have found that too many individuals spend their careers trying to establish visibility, proving that they can belong, and overcoming stereotyped idea about their lives and work habits. The effort is exhausting and slowly takes its toll.”
- The chapter on the meaningless of “best of” lists is too full of zingers to quote from. Specifically calls out numerous instances of companies on such lists with on going law suits.
- “This, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: unfair treatment at work significantly impairs a persons ability to engage the very traits that are necessary to get ahead, such as set-confidence, willingness to take risks, and ability to ask for help. In a painful irony, those who are undermined by the chain reaction set off by experiences of exclusion or stereotyping end up acting out the sub-standard performance they were suspected of in the first place…”
- “Employees will blame bigoted CEOs and management teams, but this is rarely constructive. Is it a conspiracy of the “Old Boys’ Club” strategising to drive out women, people of color, gays and lesbians? No – the sad truth is that none of these groups matters enough to upper management to be the subject of any conspiracy. More often than not, people at the top are oblivious to the problems of their subordinates.”
Some things I wasn’t as keen on:
- Early on, she tells a story about being forced to study tech so that she could have input. This was presented like it was a good thing even though she described the amount of work as comparable to getting phd! I felt this was a clear example of other fields being seen as lesser.
- For PoC and LGBT (not that the T is ever discussed), the problem is stereotyping. For women it’s about babies and having a family (and the perception that must be what you want). I would argue in tech women also experience stereotyping but I am also tired of seeing “balancing family” presented as the main issue for women.
- Uncritical use of word “meritocracy”, although it also includes the phrase “mirror meritocracy” – example of choosing someone like them, who they feel “comfortable” with.