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Don’t Hire One Woman. Hire Three.

Diversity
Hiring
Internal Communication

9 April, 2018

Jack Danger discusses how hiring three women at once not only helped to ensure the women were comfortable in their new team, but also improved the attitude of his DevOps team.

Problem

When I was working at Square, I was leading an all-male team of eight engineers who were pretty deep into the technology stack. They were a DevOps team, and this is often where people who are a little grumpy and frustrated with software gravitate. This meant that the team had a sarcastic and reserved spirit about it, and people with this type of personality did well in that team. I was trying to close a candidate for the team - a woman - and I suspected she wouldn't thrive in the existing culture.

Actions taken

I realized that if I added her to the team she'd have a terrible time, and if the team improved culturally it would be because she would have done all this extra hard work that she wouldn't be paid for. I needed to find a way for the team to still function, and for her to thrive in the team. The solution I found after asking other people in the industry was obvious, but a little difficult to do practically - you don't hire just one women for a team, you hire three. We closed the candidate and added her to the team. At the same time we added an intern and a bootcamp graduate. The intern had already been closed but was slated for a different team. Moving her wasn't hard because her manager had the same concern about her ability to thrive on his all-male team. It was more difficult to convince the company to hire a bootcamp graduate, as they were concerned we would be lowering our standards by doing so. I took personal responsibility, offering to mentor and manage the graduate. All of the women started on the same day, and the culture of the team shifted dramatically. The men started to open up and relax, and it became a much more enjoyable team to work in. At the end of the summer, when the intern went back to studying and the bootcamp graduate moved on to a different team, the team stayed friendly and open.

Lessons learned

There's no real replacement for giving someone more people like themselves in close proximity. It's an easy shortcut to fixing some kinds of diversity problems, and they had the support they needed, as they could go to each other to talk through issues they were facing before bringing them to me. In addition, a team of only men are probably not having as much fun as they think. Inclusion and diversity doesn't just help certain minorities, they help everyone. The team hadn't been much fun before people joined, but diversity helped to make everyone more open and less defensive.


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