By Rachel Lerman
The Seattle Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Several tech companies who have had some success in changing the gender balance of their workforces say the “not-so-secret” secret to change is to treat diversity challenges much the same way as tech challenges: Test solutions, kill those that don’t work and implement those that do as companywide processes and systems.
Bridget Frey was the only woman on Redfin’s engineering team in Seattle when she joined the online real-estate company more than six years ago. She wasn’t surprised, having worked in the male-dominated tech field for much of her career.
But Frey was determined it would be a short-lived imbalance.
One of the reasons the tech field is so heavily male is that people tend to hire job candidates who remind them of themselves, feeling immediately most comfortable working with similar people, studies find. So Frey made it a mission to participate in many of Redfin’s interviews with potential hires, and she called several female candidates herself to recruit them to the company, reasoning that more women were likely to accept job offers if they knew they wouldn’t be the solitary woman on the team.
Her attempts, together with multiple tactics the company has employed, are starting to work. Women now make up 31.7 percent of the company’s technical workforce, up from 12.5 percent when Frey joined in 2011. In Redfin’s upper ranks, the number is even higher: Women hold 46 percent of positions at the manager level and above.
“Now I walk around, and it’s rare that I’m the only woman in a meeting,” she said in the company’s downtown Seattle headquarters.
Tech companies are notorious for the dearth of female employees in their ranks and for the treatment of those women, something that has been put in the spotlight in recent months with the gender-discrimination lawsuits against Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Oracle.