This year for international women’s day, Parallel wants to shine a spotlight on how we can foster more inclusive recruitment processes and develop best practices for hiring more women in tech, influencing employers, and educating managers in how to create healthier workplaces for everyone. Through a series of articles, we asked our employees, peers, and network about what they think can be done to support and empower women in the workplace in the technology industry and what employers can do to make a difference. Here, we talk with Anastasia Falce, a Python Developer in the United Kingdom, to discuss her experience as a female developer, how her school empowered her to pursue a career in technology and her advice to employers when they recruit women into their tech teams.
What preconceptions do feel people have about female co-workers in tech?
In my experience people can be either a little too impressed and/or push women aside. Both of these can be damaging to career progression and overall respect in the workplace. I feel lucky enough to say that the majority of the teams I have worked in have been very supportive and respectful.
Have you ever been asked unfair questions during an interview that you feel you were asked because of your gender?
Yes, I have, and I was too young and inexperienced to know how inappropriate those questions really were! I was asked about my living situation and if I was in a long-term relationship. I also had instances where I had to call in sick and was confronted with a lot of probing questions, some enquiring about the medication I take for my illness.
Have you ever felt that you were passed-over for a role because of your gender?
Whilst I have not experienced being passed over for a role because of my gender (that I know of), I have, in fact, had the opposite situation where I saw women brought into a team, despite not being the right fit for the team, just to “meet a quota”, which I feel was quite damaging in its own way.
What has empowered you to challenge bias that you have personally encountered, or witnessed someone else encounter?
My career ambitions. When I first started a career as a developer, I was quiet and less confident in my opinions and abilities. I have found that because I am usually surrounded by men, I need to be loud, give my opinions, ask for help and give help readily or I will be left behind. It truly depends on your team but if you act confident, even when you don’t feel that way, it makes it easier to challenge the “dumb blonde” or “meeting the quota” or “weaker team member” biases that some people may have.
Early in my career I had people write me off, so I decided to start designing methods and tools, such as extensively documenting my notes on procedure and terminology. This allows me to create positive changes within in a team, be confident when talking through ideas and provide a library of notes that can be referenced by myself and others in the future.
How have female leaders impacted your company?
I have actually found that the women who I have worked on teams with have been incredibly inspiring and very motivational. We all have this passion that you don’t see typically with some male developers, as generally women seem to chose this path despite the more “feminine” job roles that were prescribed to us. We want to do this job, and we all have a genuine interest in coding and tech. I will be starting a new job at a company where I will be working with a female lead and I am really looking forward to it.
Can you give us an idea of how bias impacts your ability to do your job, or an example of someone you witnessed being unable to do their job because of that bias?
Self-confidence plays a big role in what you do as a developer. You need to be able to go to the customer and talk about the application or feature that you are going to develop or the bug you are going to fix. Some of my female colleagues told me that on a few occasions, they had customers only address questions to the male developers during a call and instruct my female colleagues to do the more administrative tasks.
When asking for a promotion, do you feel as if gender bias or your confidence acts as a barrier?
The company that I currently work for is very into evidence and stats, so I would feel comfortable, even more so than my male colleagues, if I were to ask for a promotion because I knew I had the stats to back me. I think that this will always be a good way to measure performance and justify promotions. It is also unbiased because it is based on quantitative data and gives you the opportunity to set clear goals to work towards.
What practical things should employers be doing to support women dealing with gender bias, to create more inclusive environments?
Employ and promote more women into leadership roles. That being said, employers need to do the due diligence to ensure that these women are RIGHT for the job or else it will have the opposite effect that it is intended to have! Also hosting regular workshops or training to bring awareness of bias so that it isn’t “forgotten about” by people who aren’t affected by it directly.
What do you think can be done to support more women in tech?
I think that offering more mentorship opportunities would be really useful, as it encourages the nurturing of knowledge. I also think that offering more flexibility for employees to work remotely is another thing that would allow for more women, and men, who have family-related commitments, to be more interested in tech .
What can we do to boost gender diversity in tech?
Continue to encourage students to learn more about coding, robotics and AI in school. One of the main reasons I was interested in pursuing a career as a developer was because of all the amazing work Townley Grammar School did. I went on a computer science trip to Silicon Valley, I started a Robotics club with the help of my teachers and I was also encouraged by passionate female and male teachers to look into all the different career opportunities that I could pursue within technology.
What are the priorities for your organisation at the moment? What progress are you seeing?
My current team is made up of 9 men and 2 women, which is what you would expect to see in tech. I’d like to think that in the current recruitment cycle, applicants are being looked at as developers and not as genders.