Allies, put your career where your mouth is.
There is no fire under any tech company’s ass to change their ways. Over the past few years, we’ve seen every major tech company release a statement about their abysmal numbers, their token efforts to improve, and how much they value diversity and inclusion at their companies. It’s been a feel-good hug fest where everyone gets an A for effort.
Yet from the same companies, we see all this talk of not lowering the bar, tolerating of abusive behavior from their employees, and unwillingness to hire from the existing pipeline. How could this behavior be so pervasive when tech companies claim to be so concerned about diversity and inclusion?
The only way we can get the tech industry to change is to hit them where it hurts: recruiting. Tech companies are always scrambling for talent. This is what matters to them and we can leverage this because we are their precious resource. They haven’t internalized the value of diversity, so we must show them that their complacency will be a detriment.
Here’s an example. A couple of weeks ago, an engineering manager at Uber contacted me for recruiting purposes and I tweeted my response:
It’s simple: Thank you, I appreciate your offer, but I have these issues with your company and they affect me for these reasons. Bye.
Here’s another example. You’re in an onsite interview and you’ve reached the question portion — the part where they’re trying to sell you on why you should work for their company. You ask about their diversity policies and they give you a sexist answer or quibble about how important diversity is while being subtly racist. You tell them that this is unacceptable to you and you would not work at a company that does not value diversity and inclusion. That’s all you have to do. You don’t have to be rude, you don’t have to insult anyone. You just have to make it clear that there is a specific reason that they have lost a potential hire, and it is entirely within their control.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- Do you publicly share your diversity numbers in engineering?
- Do you have an executive reporting to your CEO whose responsibility is to oversee the diversity and inclusiveness of your company? If not, is diversity and inclusion one of your CEO’s stated goals for this quarter?
- Do you have numeric goals? Do you have plans to achieve those goals? What are the consequences if you fail to meet those goals?
- Do you rely on your minority employees to do diversity advocacy work in addition to their main jobs? How do you compensate or recognize them for their contributions? Do you have full-time employees dedicated to working on diversity programs?
- How do you ensure that people of color and other underrepresented minorities feel safe at your company?
- Do you track retention of underrepresented minorities at your company?
All I’m saying is that we as individuals can put pressure on companies to truly prioritize diversity and inclusion. No more defending of bad behavior.No more “We’ll do better next year.” No more head-shaking, passive disapproval when a company shows its true colors.
The great thing about this proposal is that it is a personal process. I’m not saying you must follow my personal blacklist of companies to avoid. I realize that every company has flaws. I’m saying you should do your homework and decide for yourself which companies are worth your time. You’ve always had the choice, and I’m asking you to consider another angle.
I speak from a position of privilege. I went to an elite school, I got the right internship, and I’m the “acceptable” kind of minority. To be honest, I know that I will never be lacking in job offers. That’s not true for all marginalized people, and I want them to know that this message is not for them. Everyone needs to earn a living. I’m using my privilege because I can afford to, and I know there are others like me. This is for the people who have an abundance of choices, who are sought after by every recruiter in San Francisco, and whose voices are taken seriously.
I’m talking to you, ally. You want to help marginalized people find a safe place in tech. This is it. Put your career where your mouth is and stop working for companies that don’t value the people you want to help. Don’t tacitly approve of their practices by participating in their recruiting pipeline. Put real pressure on tech companies to change in a way they understand. Make your reason clear. Maybe then we’ll finally see whether diversity and inclusion is a real business priority.