Panel: Supporting women in tech means recognizing unconscious bias

FORT COLLINS — To create an office culture that champions women in tech and a diverse workplace takes a group effort, full of speaking up and recognizing unconscious biases.

The “Women in Tech/ Diversity/ Unconscious Bias” panel at Fort Collins Startup Week unpacked how people might start creating a more inclusive office.

“If we want things to change, we have to take steps to change them ourselves,” said Darlene Rouleau, a software engineer at Schneider Electric. Across her 13-year career in software development, Rouleau said she has worked with three other women and currently has no female co-workers in her department.

One reason why there might be fewer women in tech stems from before they’re even hired.

“There are a lot of statistics out there about the way women communicate and how women are likely to undersell themselves,” said Stacey McBride, marketing director at Pivvot. “Women are only likely to apply for a job if they feel they are 110 percent qualified. Men will apply if they feel about 60 percent qualified and then will present themselves as more qualified.”

McBride said it’s important to be aware of inconsistencies while looking to hire. If a stack of applications shows mostly men, it’s probably not because men are more qualified but because fewer women felt like they could apply.

What is more, a study showed that when names were blocked off resumes versus times when the names of women was shown, there was a disparity in the number of callbacks and interviews female applicants received when their gender was obvious versus when gender was hidden. That disparity is felt even more when women of color apply.

“It’s important to really try to base hiring on the merits of the person,” said Mickey Hayden, a cloud engineer at Schneider Electric.

The fact is that within everyone lies some unconscious bias that has been ingrained into them. The key is recognizing that bias in yourself and in others, the speakers said.

Hayden said that when he was younger he was part of the tech bro culture, until one day a female manager with whom he had a good rapport sat him down and engaged him in a casual conversation that helped him realize some of his comments were problematic.

“It opened my eyes,” Hayden said. “If you see it, find a way to make people aware of it. Without that conversation, I wouldn’t be where I’m at in understanding the detriment those kinds of conversations can bring to an organization.”

The panel suggested that in events where there is bias being recognized, a good way to handle it might not be in the moment — especially if doing so makes you feel more uncomfortable — but in a casual setting that doesn’t put the person on the defensive. However, Rouleau said, the best way to handle a situation is whatever way is comfortable and true to you, and perhaps that is calling it out precisely when an incident happens.

But having those one-on-one conversations constantly can be exhausting. To start changing the culture and not take on the burden of emotional labor alone, it’s important to partner with coworkers who feel the same way.

When Rouleau started pushing to make a change at her workplace, she started a meeting group with the 20 other women in her company — out of an 80 person office — where they studied articles on gender bias. Then Rouleau presented their findings to the entire organization, which she said was difficult but got the attention of men in her office who wanted to help her bring more parity to their workplace. It turned into not just her and the other women having the tough conversations when they recognized gender bias, but also men in the company calling each other out.

Having those conversations can feel difficult, especially if a person feels like they’re in the position of having to nag. But those feelings could often be coming from internal cues rather than a reflection of how people actually see a person speaking up.

“I have thought internally that I’m the nagging one and I’m so annoying,” said Vivianna Davis, a digital marketing strategist at Brillity Digital. “But I was the only one who thought that. I think we have a tendency to assume people have ill intent or are doing things on purpose to make us feel worse. They don’t want to be bad or mean or hurtful, they just don’t know they’re doing that. Say something when you think you need to go out of your way to make a change, instead of just taking it in.”

 

FORT COLLINS — To create an office culture that champions women in tech and a diverse workplace takes a group effort, full of speaking up and recognizing unconscious biases.

The “Women in Tech/ Diversity/ Unconscious Bias” panel at Fort Collins Startup Week unpacked how people might start creating a more inclusive office.

“If we want things to change, we have to take steps to change them ourselves,” said Darlene Rouleau, a software engineer at Schneider Electric. Across her 13-year career in software development, Rouleau said she has worked with three other women and currently has no female co-workers in her department.

One reason why there might be fewer women in tech stems from before they’re even hired.

“There are a lot of statistics out there about the way women communicate and how women are likely to undersell themselves,” said Stacey McBride, marketing director at Pivvot. “Women are only likely to apply for a job if they feel they are 110 percent qualified. Men will apply if they feel about 60 percent qualified and then will present themselves as more qualified.”

McBride said it’s important to be aware of inconsistencies while looking to hire. If a stack of applications shows mostly men, it’s probably not because men are more qualified but because fewer women felt like they could apply.

What is more, a study showed that when names were blocked off resumes versus times when the names of women was shown, there was a disparity in the number of callbacks and interviews female…