Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Women in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments?
459 points by z_shell on June 5, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 474 comments
The JS job market in STL just isn't cutting it for me so I'm thinking of moving to CA and jumping into the tech scene there. Women, non-binary, people of color, how do you vet companies for not having horribly toxic work environments? I feel like I keep getting the same canned PR response of how great the culture is (for assumedly white dudes), but ping pong tables and free beer doesn't mean shit to me if I'm going to be underpaid, harassed, or viewed as not-technical enough on the regular.

What kind of interview questions have you found useful in weeding out unsupportive environments? What factors attract you to one company over the other? What other tips can you provide for reassuring me that I'm not just multiplying my potential abuse factor by jumping into a sea of ego-inflated tech bros?

Disclaimer: I am women, but never stepped the foot in CA. Geography matters.

I see ping pong tables and free beer as a red flag of sorts and seek workplace that is more formal. The idea is that the less it attempts to be personal/cool/cultural the less personal things (e.g. gender or peoples attitudes/biases or who-likes-who) matters and the more actual work matters. I have no stats to support this, just my guess and some experience.

I also try to find what exactly am I going to do, whether there are clear responsibilities etc. It is easier to prove what you can do if responsibilities are clear and if you can work autonomously so your work is clearly your work. (I don't like true agile partly because then too much depends on impressions and politics and assumptions.) Moreover, clear responsibilities mean people have harder time to act on "women are not technical" assumption. Plus, fluid team structure pretty much guarantees a random collegue will try to micromanage me (like when they have ambition to be leader they tend to think I am good place to start) - then I had to fight for having normal work. Although I am usually able to get rid of that collegue, it is way more pleasant when I dont have to go through it.

On interviews: if it is technically and business oriented, then it is good flag. If they are too cool or personal or seem to be reacting to my gender (includes also being more friendly then I would expect on interview) then it is bad flag.

The part about ping pong and beer vs a more formal workplace is really interesting.

I've been reading more about this lately. One story that struck me was about a journalist whose newspaper was purchased by a tech company, and the culture changed. She went from having a private office to working in a huge, open office environment. I'm putting this together from memory, but I remember her talking about how strange it felt to have so many people able to see her screen, not knowing where to put her bag if she wasn't at her desk watching it, and having to take it with her to the bathroom (feeling somewhat self conscious about how her more frequent trips appeared to her younger, generally male coworkers).

I'm starting to think that there's something more insidious going on with an almost aggressively enforced "open office" culture in high tech. I also think tech is starting - but just barely - to wake up to the the value of the formality that we discarded and disdained.

I'm really mainly interested in hearing more from you on this, if you're interested in writing more about it.

My wife's in law rather than tech, but she's commented many times about how much she appreciates the formality and process in law firms. E.g. when there's no pressure to socialize with coworkers, nobody has occasion to know that you're a mom with a kid. And your supervising partner may not even be in the same office as you, in which case you're a basically genderless entity represented by an email address and your work product.

No pressure to socialise with coworkers? What kind of law firm is this? Lawyers are by a huge margin the most social people I know. I know a lot of lawyers, and not one of them doesn't go out for social drinks on a Friday at 430...

I think that is very different to the "Tech Happy Hour" and what feels like contrived events you see in "open office, culture (or people?) first" tech world. I have found, personally, that I formed more authentic relationships in those "stuffy", "formal" settings. Because you know what. When I go out on a Friday with my work mates, it's because I like them. Not because when I don't I'm viewed as anti-social or stuck up. I'm a lot of fun. Just don't force it down my throat or I'll give you the middle finger and show you just how unfun I can be.

Ugh. Why must things always coalesce at one end of an extreme or another?

Formality is bad. It is another layer of separation between you and the work. Way back when the original meaning of 'informal' simply meant your employer didn't care about non-work-related stuff like attire -- but its morphed into a culture of its own, destroyed perceptions towards those who really are results-oriented, and sent a lot of people down this path thinking formal is better. A lot of don't want suits at our workplace, but neither do we want ping-pong tables, or even beer (gasp!). We want to be left alone to do our work so we can go home on time and live a happy life.

I think we can thank business-management types, this obnoxious brogrammer culture, and all the not-really-a-computer-nerd-but-I-learned-to-code hacks for the culture we have now. Leave it to the muggles to ruin everything...


Formality is bad because it locks people into a restrictive environment, but it's good because the rules are clear to all who are playing the game. Ideally, we would have clear rules that are not restrictive, but those are very difficult rules to come up with.

I think you should re-examine the notion that toxic workplaces in tech (particularly w/r/t sexism) result from forces entirely unrelated to the behavior of "actual" computer nerds.

So well said. Personally, I can't stand beer. Just give me anything that tastes good on ice and I'm happy. It's so interesting seeing you state the not-really-a-nerd thing. I am a true nerd that was coding at 11 in QBasic, but at the same time I played rugby and partied hard with my friends.

The laughable thing is that I worked with my first female programmer in 1999 and to this day believe she was one of the best programmers I ever worked with. I'm willing to bet she never thought of us as a bunch of "brogrammers". And I worked for a company owned by ultra-conservative Afrikaans South Africans. She was just another programmer like the rest of us that worked hard and got shit done. We all got paid on merit there and I don't think gender ever entered the equation.

But then this wasn't in America and I've come to understand and accept that America is about ceremony over authenticity. I see it in everywhere in the culture. Ceremony and labels. Oooooh American's love their labels. Let me label you and put you in a box, then I understand you, then I know how to treat you in a "politically correct" way. I grew up in South Africa while apartheid was still in effect. I was privileged enough to see it break down and Mandela elected president during high school. Maybe I just kid myself but, personally, I've always just seen each person as an individual and rather got to know them before branding them based on gender, race, religion or what not.

Or maybe the drugs were just good and I loved everyone...

Could not have stated it better!!

>I'm starting to think that there's something more insidious going on with an almost aggressively enforced "open office" culture in high tech.

Hanlon's razor is useful here. The most likely reason for open offices isn't because of discrimination; it's simply cheaper to pack everyone in a single room than to give everyone a space of their own.

Yes, but it's a good point nonetheless — perhaps "unintended consequence" is a better description than "insidious".

> [...] and having to take it with her to the bathroom (feeling somewhat self conscious about how her more frequent trips appeared to her younger, generally male coworkers)

Get one of these kitchen timers [1].

Set it to about 25 minutes.

When it goes off get up from your desk and spend a few minutes walking around the office.

Return to your desk, reset the timer, and go to prior step.

When you wish to visit the bathroom do so on one of your strolls around the office.

Coworkers will ask what you are doing (this is one of the reasons to use a physical timer instead of something running on your computer...it will be noticeable). Here are three reasonable explanations for why you go on a stroll around the office every 25 minutes or so.

1. It is unhealthy to sit for extended periods. If you get up and move around every 25 or 30 minutes or so most of the bad effects of sitting can be eliminated or greatly reduced [2].

2. When solving problems it is best to have a mix of "focused mode" and "diffuse mode" thinking. Get into focused mode and then when the timer goes off you can take a break and let diffuse mode take over. That walk around the office is perfect for some diffuse mode thinking. There is much more about this in the "Learning How To Learn" course available at Coursera.

3. There is a time management technique called the Pomodoro Technique [3] built around breaking tasks into 25 minute chunks paced using a timer.

Once people see you doing this I'd not be surprised if several other coworkers start doing the same. Reason #1 alone will get a lot of people.

Once several people are doing this no one will have any idea how often you visit the bathroom (well, except for those people whose can see the bathroom from their desks). And as a side effect you'll have better health and productivity.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/60-Minute-Kitcher-Timer-Tomato/dp/B00...

[2] http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/cuesitstand.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

If I had someone sitting in an open office with one of those tomatos ticking all day, and buzzing every 30 minutes I'd punch them.

By all means, do a pomodoro, but don't use a ticking, vibrating noisy kitchen clock.

or do because open offices are stupid, maybe the ticking is soothing to me! if you value your control over the sounds that surround you, maybe you should push for a more private office setup?

I'm not going to start an elaborate timed exercise ritual so co-workers won't notice when I go to the bathroom. That's ridiculous.

On a side note, I used to work in a small software startup where I was the only female. I was on my period at the time and also wanted to fix my hair, so I just brought my purse with me. I crossed paths with one of my co-workers on the way to the bathroom and he asked "Are you leaving?" I told him I was just going to the bathroom. He said "Why are you bringing your purse?"

I just looked him straight in the eyes, smiled, shook my head slightly, and said "Dan, never ask a woman why she's taking her purse to the bathroom." I'm pretty sure he walked away more embarrassed than I was ;)

But yeah, I'd rather do THAT once in a while than keep a freaking timer on my desk.

When you are self-conscious doing a silly show of yourself for rationalization will only give you something more to be self-conscious about. Merely taking a walk once in a while would pass and is a good idea for other reasons, but this clock thing definitely crosses the line.

I also don't believe that everybody would jump on this bandwagon and totally share the sentiment expressed in sibling comment by maccard.

The clock is to remind you to take a walk. To prevent the bad effects of prolonged sitting you need to get up and move about every 30 or so minutes.

Most people can easily, effortlessly, sit much longer than that before they start to feel stiff or restless and so naturally take a break. It is very easy to unintentionally end up sitting too long.

You posted this in response to some woman being self-conscious about men knowing when she is going to the restroom and I swear it sounds like your intention was to provide her with a disguise to solve this problem of hers. And apparently I wasn't even the only one to interpret it that way.

It almost feels like you are doing the exact kind of post-rationalization I said is an unhealthy thing to do :)

Sometimes I use an unlicensed Jetbrains product - it closes automatically after 30 minutes of action

Sounds like you're not a programmer who's ever gotten in the zone. Because if I had a Fing 25-min timer around me I'd get nothing done.

Nothing beats coming out of a 3 hour programming blur when you realize you haven't eaten anything and have to pee real bad... but you re-wrote that entire module that everyone hates and thought would take weeks to fix. MIC DROP

Or just try working on not being so self-conscious. I'm pretty sure most people really do not care about how often you use the restroom.

> When you wish to visit the bathroom do so on one of your strolls around the office.

But then they will notice that your break did not coincide with the timer, and (depending on the floor plan of the open office), that you did not head for a walk, but straight for the toilets.

Part of the point is to deliberately coincide with the timer.

Why is everyone concerned with how often they piss? I drink 3-4 liters of water a day and take many bathroom breaks. Who cares? Everyone does it. I think it's more concerning that people aren't drinking enough water.

Funny you say that. So many men in tech cos often means lines at the men's room. So it's a time sync. Smart phones do alleviate

> not knowing where to put her bag if she wasn't at her desk watching it, and having to take it with her to the bathroom

I find this bizarre - what do you think the people you work with are going to rob you or go through your stuff? I seem to recall one place had a couple of iphones nicked off desks once by someone who'd managed to shoulder surf inside but I mean of all the complaints that's an odd one to me

Some women keep tampons or pads in their bags, and don't want to rummage through their bags to retrieve the tampon or pad before visiting the bathroom.

Yeah, I've worked in many offices of various sizes and have never been worried about my stuff being stolen. I tend to be a little more relaxed about the fear of theft than most, but the office seems like a fairly safe place.

I really don't think it's insidious - the negative effects are obvious. The issue is that open offices are cheaper and you can put a lot more people per square foot in them. They also often look visually more appealing.


In my experience, "bro culture" is simply a sign of an immature corporate culture that hasn't figured out how to address true diversity. It means that the workplace is not likely to be supportive of people who don't fit a mold (ping pong and beer are not things I care about). They'll pay some lip service to diversity, and they'll point to some gay guy who is exactly like everyone else (except he dates guys) as an example of "hey look, we're inclusive!".

Your experience meshes well with mine -- when the company leaves the culture out of it, employees have more freedom to be themselves. If you try to cater to one type of employee, anyone not in love with that "culture" is going to feel left out -- so it tends to become self-reinforcing over time.

"Bro culture" also usually involves people without the humility and communication skills to properly band together and rise to the occasion when the going gets rough. Yet another reason to avoid these companies.

I'm not sure if we ever manage to escape the equivalent of high school cliques. Even the the culture of professionalism is still a culture: it places emphasis on professional interactions at work and looks down on playing beer pong on wednesday afternoon. The bros aren't going to have the freedom to "be themselves" there, and would probably be happier at a more lax company. Again, going back to their own clique.

The bros can play pong Wednesday after work without others even knowing about it. What bros do out of work matters less, so they can be bros while more conservative colleague can go to church without someone being disadvantages for it. That is why I find it better.

As for happiness in lax company: it might make people happier if they get money and promotions while actually working less (while moving socialization and fun from home to office), but it is neither meritocracy nor fair. Regardless of whether they are bros or chatting over coffee.

> Even the the culture of professionalism is still a culture: it places emphasis on professional interactions at work and looks down on playing beer pong on wednesday afternoon.

In a meritocracy, where people are supposed to be judged on their work output and ability to generate results, the professional "clique" is far more preferable to the beer pong clique.

As an openly trans woman, I've observed that the more traditional and conservative a business is, the more likely they are to provide a pleasant and non-discriminatory work environment, while freewheeling "look how modern we are!" startups are more likely to provide hostile working environments.

My current employer is the best company I've ever worked for, and they are a highly conservative B2B telecom in Collin County, the fifth most conservative county in Texas (and B2B telecom is a highly conservative industry where nobody will deal with you unless your culture is highly corporate). Nobody has ever given me the slightest iota of shit for being trans, and I have never once felt discriminated against for being a woman. The environment is best described as "highly corporate", the office is a cube farm as far as the eye can see, etc. A huge amount of the people at the company (not everyone, but a lot), especially those in senior and/or management positions, are both Christian and conservative. Until very recently, the TV in the break room was always tuned to Fox News (and they experimented with OAN for a while, too).

On the other hand, the single most abusive company I've ever worked for was a freewheeling early-stage startup.

I've heard similar things from other people as well. It's a paradox: traditional conservative companies are by far and above friendlier to women and minorities in their employ than freewheeling ultra-modern startups are. The upshot is that if you are a woman or a minority, you'll be treated better at a company that's associated with politicians who want to oppress you. Like, tradcons are horrible to us in every other sphere of life, but in the workplace they're beneficial.

I'm just an average woman (edit: that may come off as a funny way to phrase that. What I meant was I don't have the experience of being trans or queer in the work place. Apologies if that came off in a negative way.), but I could not agree more. I worked for a large, centuries old manufacturing comany in their corporate HQ. The work environment turned sour before I left, but it wasn't due to me being a woman. It turned sour for almost everyone. I feel like a lot of these highly established companies have all the checks and procedures in place that even large startups do not. In addition, they have the attitude "We are X. We were here before you and we will be here after you. One individual is not larger than the company." It may get a bit harier for women at the very tops of some of these organizations, but for the rank and file employees it is often a pretty straightforward work experience.

I am not a woman, a person of colour or of fluid sexuality or identity, so disregard my comment if it so pleases you, but the older I get the more I seem to want the exact things you are looking for. A little formality seems like it might be a wonderful thing and I won't have to pretend I care about the owner's bitching new Tesla. I work in tech currently and tend to dress in shorts and a Tshirt, which is comfortable I grant you. It would be a small price to pay to havw to be overly cordial with only my team members amd not trip over scooters strewn about, if it meant I had to wear a button up and slacks. ... Christ I sound like a curmudgeon, but I do think some general personal bounderies would keep people's socio-political views from peeking out in an inappropriate arena, including my own. It sets a tone.

Formality of environment need not extend to dress code. Remember, dress codes are used against women (by men telling the woman how she should be dressing) far more often than they are men.

You can have a formal office without a formal dress code. Yesterday I wore jeans, a t-shirt, chucks and a blazer to work at a formal company. I only wear the blazer because I am physically small and look young, so I feel it enhances my professional image. But it's my choice what to wear; not my employer's.

It does help though. It doesn't need to be overly formal, but putting on nice slacks and a nice shirt with dress shoes helps you go "I am at work. This is different than when I wear my casual clothes. These people are my colleagues and not my friends/family." I'm not saying that it is solely down to the clothes, but that small bit of separation helps.

I do agree with you on a personal level (I wouldn't wear shorts or jeans with holes in them to work, but I do on my own time); but I feel strict company-enforced dress codes are unnecessary for this.

People tend to self-adjust to the norms of their workplace. More than once I have had a male colleague ask me how to address a female employee who wore clothing that they considered too provocative (too short of skirt / low cut shirt).

My response? Say nothing; it's usually a junior employee who is trying to figure out the norms of what to wear at work. Women's fashion is a lot more complicated than men's, and it can take some time to find a professional dress style that works for you. Mansplaining women's fashion to her isn't going to help.

Oh for sure. (I am a woman, btw.) I don't mean specific instances like that. I more mean business casual vs casual as a whole. I went from a business casual to a casual environment. In the winter especially, I wear the same sweaters just with different bottoms (jeans instead of slacks or skirts) and shoes (casual boots or sneakers vs dress boots or heels).

My larger point was that a dress code tends to establish those norms. In addition, a dress code tends to create a floor for what is acceptable. There is always that one person who pushes the minimum. Finally, to me, it helps create a differential mindset. Work is different than home. It is part of the reason I put on real clothes while working from home instead of my PJs.

Dress codes create hostile environments for transgender people, though.

Before transition, I went out of my way to wear baggy unisex clothes. Wearing anything that screamed "male" was a sure-fire way to induce dysphoria in me. That includes business casual clothing.

At my first job, we didn't have a dress code 90% of the time, but whenever we had a customer visit or a board meeting, the CEO would send out an email telling us that as long as the guests were there, we all had to wear light button-up shirts with dark slacks. The idea made me so dysphoric that most of those times, I fabricated an excuse to be sick. I'd smoke a cigarette from a three-year-old pack that I never went through because they were exceedingly rough even when they were new, and then I'd call my boss with an utterly horrendous cough. Then one time I had something to take care of that day, and I couldn't do it from home (it involved hardware), so I carefully studied the CEO's email and realized it said nothing about nails. So I came in dressed in the awful shirt and slacks that made me so dysphoric... and black nail polish on both hands. Just because it was something to take the edge off the dysphoria.

I'm also sure that my dysphoria affected my ability to interview, as well. Before transition, I was terrible at interviewing, and I once had a two-year spell of unemployment where I couldn't have an interview go well for the life of me. And it felt like the suit I wore to the interview was choking the life out of me. But after I transitioned, every single in-person interview I've had has resulted in me getting an offer. In fact, both my current job and my last job were the results of the first in-person interviews I had after I started sending my resume out each time.

Though there was the time when I tried to interview after I began medically transitioning but before I socially transitioned... not only did the suit make me dysphoric, but I spent the interview utterly paranoid that my blazer wasn't enough to hide my growing boobs. Of course, I didn't get the job. That was the last in-person interview I failed.

Maybe it is a generational or just personal thing.

I feel restricted / unnatural and generally unhappy if I have to wear those sort of clothes.

I've noticed a lot of people in the current generation wearing more formal clothes at work, I guess this is a cycle, and us 40ish year olds in T-shirts were doing the opposite of those who came before.

Honestly I find it weird to hear what seems like quite young guys on the train to work having a conversation about the best shoe polish.

Yeah, pretty much this. When I said formal I did not mean to exclude metal kid or force that kid to wear tie. It was not supposed to be about dress code.

I recently started a new gig after having been at a remote startup for several years. New gig is very formal from both process and business perspectives, yet I can still wear jeans and tshirts when I go into the office. I much prefer it over your typical startup experience.

Zizek argues that personal/cultural/cool work environment is for oppression: http://www.businessinsider.com/slavoj-zizek-says-your-office...

Yep, but then so is enforcement of stuff like business casual attire, it's just more obvious.

> Geography matters

I'd really stress the geography aspect of the job search. As a transgender job-seeker, geography has become my first filter. The company culture matters, but so do the city culture (where a number of employees may be drawn from), state laws, and local laws. I look at maps like this one:


Interesting test case: the military has no free beer and I've seen precious few ping pong tables. Yet Marines United is a thing.

The military also shaves everyone's hair the first day then yells, drives you like a dog, and puts them in the best physical shape of their life for the first two months after they join.

Somehow how I think a drill sergeant is inappropriate as a job role in a software development shop. But every other Tuesday were I work we get a visit from the Grill Sergeant. Mmmm... Ribs and Brisket.

I think you misunderstand military culture. Basic training is about preparing you to survive battle. The reason skin color matters less to the military is because they are "blood brothers" -- they have each other's back and keep each other alive, which is an effective means to help people stop sweating the small stuff, like how much melanin the skin of various members contains.

I was just simplifying. I get that Basic is supposed to bring people together. I think the blood brothers things is a bit extreme for most but totally accurate for those unlucky few seeing combat directly. The majority of our armed forced sit in office chairs and man logistics records.

FYI, I worked on a military base, and my Father and Mother were both military. I don't have conventional biases against it.

Basic training does a great many more things than bring people together. And I was also trying to simplify. I see no real need to get into this tangent and nitpick it to death. It isn't really pertinent to the topic at hand.


I totally agree with you. Because I only wrote 3 or 4 sentences I left most of what it does out. I only included it because I the mental image of a Drill Sargent acting like a drill Sargent on a software dev team was funny.


"Do you want children ? " This question makes me run away.

Now that I'm over 35 (but childless), I've taken it as my duty to privately and gently advise younger colleagues who ask that question that there is absolutely no good answer, especially if the person being asked is a woman over 30.

My flippant answer: "Well, you can't exactly order them from Amazon..."

In my case: yes, I wanted children. The wanting does not always lead to the getting. Any further details from me on this subject might ensure that you never, ever ask that question again, unless you're in a serious romantic relationship with that person.

I bring up children in almost every interview at some point. I want to subtly hint as to where my allegiances lie. It's better when my son has to come home sick from school, and my wife is in some other part of the country.

In the UK that question can't be asked or it opens the employer to liabilities.

While it may not specifically be illegal in the US, it's certainly opening the interviewing company up to huge potential liability. All the interviewee would have to do would be to show that it's more likely than not that they were intending to discriminate based on gender / likelihood to get pregnant.

Definitely not a question that should be asked.

> The idea is that the less it attempts to be personal/cool/cultural the less personal things (e.g. gender or peoples attitudes/biases or who-likes-who) matters and the more actual work matters.

Really? I've always worked in casual environments (not free beer casual lol) and have never experienced this.

Thanks for sharing!

Woman in high pressure tech here.

First, the most important person is your direct manager. Ask recruiters specifically "did I meet with the person I'd be reporting to? If not I would like to meet them." This is the most key person, and if they are not your ally, no matter what the rest of the company thinks, you are sunk.

Ask about other women at the company, or if the team has had women but they've left. If they think that question is stupid, that is one of the biggest red flags.

Of course, try to get a good vibe from everyone you talk to, and if they like you as a candidate, they are likely to be willing to spend extra social time after extending an offer, such as a lunch with the team or something like that.

In the end, I'm sad to report that because good people leave faster, that most likely if you have a great manager that respects you, it's likely if you stay more than a couple years that they might be replaced. You may or may not have a say in that, and they may not be supportive. Always be on the watch.

> First, the most important person is your direct manager.

In my experience, this is good advice for everyone. No one else in the organization will have as much input, weight, and sway as to what happens to your professional self in the next couple of years as your direct manager.

+1 direct manager importance

Also, ask the manager about their plans. Are they trying to move up? Move to a different department? Grow the team? Get back into coding? Make more money? It doesn't matter if you hire on with a great manager if they end up replacing them two months later.

direct manager is number one most important thing

Woman at a ~100 person startup here -

Wanted to comment because there are a lot of posts on here that seem to promote some idea that the company has to really push for women-friendly policies/activities to be a great place for women to work, which I happen to completely disagree with (save for policies that could be classified as human-friendly such as leave and flexible hours).

I work at a mediocre startup (first engineering job, don't judge!) and therefore we have some trouble hiring people. We've got the ping pong and kegs, which I couldn't care less about, and plenty of brogrammers and other bromployees, but day to day those really are irrelevant if you're getting interesting work and have a good manager.

We absolutely have a diversity issue - I'm the only female engineer on a team of about 20, the company as a whole has maybe 1/3 women, it took the company about 6 years before they had their first woman go on maternity leave (many men are fathers, though their paternity leaves were short), and I don't work with anyone who would be considered underrepresented in tech.

Because we have trouble hiring, we've tended to get people who are super green but excellent coworkers, or who are great programmers with mediocre-to-awful people skills. Of the latter, 2 had very clear misogynist tendencies, and both were fired after complaints made by men. One of the two made my life really uncomfortable when I surpassed his skill level, but only for about a week and then he was fired. I didn't even have to complain - my manager saw it and acted immediately.

We don't have a very active diversity group, though we tried to at one point and it fizzled out. But honestly, my boyfriend works at a company with a diversity group and they do the most ridiculous, cringe-worthy activities that really do not make women look very sensible, unfortunately (arts and crafts, etc).

Basically, my company looks like the exact type of place you might want to avoid if you want a female-friendly workplace, but it's been a wonderful place for me to grow as an engineer. It has some major problems, but is really trying to take concrete steps to improve. I'd love to have some female role models and a more diverse group of coworkers, so please don't discount companies like mine for looking like the stereotype!

> But honestly, my boyfriend works at a company with a diversity group and they do the most ridiculous, cringe-worthy activities that really do not make women look very sensible, unfortunately (arts and crafts, etc).

That would make me uncomfortable. Not people who like art and thus do art&craft together, that is cool. But people who tie that to femininity for no good reason.

Maybe controversially, I'm going to suggest that this kind of diversity culture and brogrammer culture are both manifestations of the same misguided mindset - one where people try to engineer a culture from scratch, but end up creating something that only works for the kinds of people they're personally comfortable with.

The comments about more formal workspaces are interesting. Adult-oriented workspaces may be more bland and superficially less creative, but a space where you can be left alone to get on with your work and where "culture" isn't being forced on employees seems like it could be more likely to give everyone freedom to simply be professional.

How would you describe brogammer culture? I haven't really considered this topic at all so I may be entirely blind to it.

It seems similar to tying ping pong or beer to masculinity.

Oh, I agree. Besides, I find that puzzling. Women drink too. (Tho girls that wear girly high heels are at disadvantage at ping pong.)

One of the two made my life really uncomfortable when I surpassed his skill level

Can you give us a sample interaction that concretizes this, if it doesn't compromise the anonymity of you, this individual, or your company? I think some men can fall prey to perpetrating this even subconsciously, and it could be very useful for a lot of people, myself included, to see an example.

It started when our manager gave me a project that this coworker struggled to make progress on (the transition was made in a way that allowed the coworker to save face, if he wanted to). Prior to that, he tried to talk to me as though he was a mentor, which I mostly just nodded at - some of it was useful, at least at first. After the project transition though, he complained that I made gratuitous style changes, opened several PRs to try to fix the problem before I could and then in response to my code review publicly told me that he had more experience than me so maybe I should listen to him.

All of that might be attributed to his own self-consciousness if it weren't for the fact that he was deferential to male engineers in code review, and during the height of the tension with me, during scrum he started openly criticizing/mocking a female contractor's work (on an entirely unrelated project that he knew very little about).

This is a pretty egregious example, but I could imagine that a much subtler version happens more often (possibly it's happened to me but it seems more pragmatic to assume it's not related to sexism if at all possible).

One of the things that's always interesting to me about these kinds of issues is how the inappropriate behaviour is usually inappropriate regardless of the reasons the person targets someone. I see this kind of stuff all the time on teams and it is really frustrating. In a very strange sense, it's actually nice if the person is targeting only people of a particular gender or race because then you can easily fire them. It's much, much, much harder if these people mistreat others indiscriminately.

In my home country I'm part of the racial majority. In my adopted country, I'm a racial minority and I've worked in offices both places. I've experienced bullying in my home country and racism in my adopted country and it really doesn't feel any different to me. If someone is targeting you for abuse, it doesn't really matter what the reason is. I wish both were recognised as being inappropriate in the workplace.

Thank you. This was useful to have articulated for me (and I hope for others).

Being willing to fire people for "just" sexism is a great sign, and one many Big Name companies fail to manage.

Not a woman but just wanted to chime in and agree that just because a company markets itself as a great place for diversity, women, people from different cultures doesn't really mean much at an individual level. There are definitely companies where you see 'women in tech' programs and fliers on the wall while still incubating a chauvinistic, aggressive male culture in parallel during day to day operations. That's why everyone just needs to be very familiar with who they are working with on a daily basis.

From what I've seen 1/20 female engineers isn't something to be ashamed of for a small company. There just aren't that many available, and I suspect many are scooped up by Amazon/Microsoft/etc to pad their numbers, and that's hard to compete with.

Source: I worked at a ~75 person consulting company; we had two female recruiters who tried really hard to get more female engineers. I think we had like 4.

> company has to really push for women-friendly policies to be a great place for women to work, which I happen to completely disagree with.

Could you elaborate a little bit more please, beyond the cringey paper-scissor activities?

It is extremely common for something like "women-friendly policies" to be code for "we talk a good game, so shut the fuck up and quit making us look bad, you whiny bitch."

I do not have a tech job, but I have taken classes on things like social psychology. Attempts to address sexism, racism, etc often suffers from a problem of tokenism. This is not just the problem described in Dedeh Howard's "Black Mirror" of "We already have one black model on staff, so there is no room for you" but also just looking good superficial BS that amounts to metaphorically including pink decor, but not actually promoting women or taking them seriously.

At some point, I saw an article on HN by a woman who wrote that, no, she will not show up at your thing and be the woman talking about women in tech. It isn't her area of expertise. If you want her there to talk about the actual tech she actually knows something about, she is happy to sign up for that. But, no, she won't give speeches on women in tech. This is a widespread form of tokenism where women in tech only get invited to talk about the issues women in tech face for being women in tech while never being invited to actually talk about tech per se. It is hugely soul sucking and suffers from the problem of being belittling and demeaning in a way that makes it hard to rebut or complain about.

Tokenism is definitely an ass. I happen to come with a baggage of other labels (minority within minority within minority...) and even in so-called open environments, I often find myself on this super awkward scale:

- Ignored (only for the same idea to be suggested by another, receiving whoop-whoop, pat on the back)

- Disdained (do your job yeah but you're not supposed to do it so well it makes your colleagues inferior)

- Tokenistic photo add-on

I ain't taking that crap anymore so I'm flying solo now.

I basically also fly solo. I worked for a few years for a company with an excellent track record on things like diversity and I would go home to my sons sometimes and say "If this is excellent, good thing I don't work someplace average because I would be postal already." If BigCo with all the awards for awesomeness is as good as it gets, the only response I can come up with is "Fuck this noise. NO."

To be fair, I was usually saying this about some issue other than being a woman with a job. But I did decide I had no future there and could blithely move on after a senior programmer in the department I wanted a job in asked me for a date. He was the only guy at the entire company in five years of working there who even knew what GIS was without me explaining it and he did not go "OMG. You have a Certificate in GIS? My department could use your skillz!" Or even "Gee, I wonder if she is networking with me and hoping to further her career." Nope, he went straight to "OMG It's a girl and she is interested in some of the same things as me. I wonder if I can get a date!"

"other labels (minority within minority within minority..."

Your description has me curious and sympathetic. What is a "minority within a minority within a minority" in your case?

The more company advertises being woman friendly, the more they are not on the inside, and are usually trying to convince the public they are after multiple women have spoken out. In fact every company I've worked for who had a woman leave because of issues with men and the company realzied they handled it poorly, ramped up their we have lots of women bs campaign right after, and they bring SWE in once a month and all that crap but it has no effect on yoru day to day quality of interaction as a woman in the workplace.

ignore the hype, tune into the culture.

Thanks, I shot off my comment kind of quickly so should clarify that I definitely think that many policies touted as "women-friendly" are incredibly important but I think of them more as family/age-group-friendly or human-friendly (maternity & paternity leave, flexible hours, etc). My comment was basically just referring to diversity groups (as I've experienced them) and women-only events.

Ah ok, I was curious to know your opinion since for me, "women-friendly policies" mean consideration for pregnancy, childcare and so on!

Regarding diversity events, I slightly disagree with you. Ironically I became an advocate only after my engineering education, when I suddenly experienced 'different' treatment. Welcome to the real world, they say, but it affected me quite badly. I suddenly found those women support groups comforting. None of the meetups I went was ever "Down with the opposite sex!" although yes, I find myself wishing that there's more rad startups than just fashion and makeup. But there is something refreshing about just listening to leaders, entrepreneurs and hopefuls, all driven and comfortable with their identities, including being female. I mean, if they can do it, I can do it too, right??

Ah ok, I was curious to know your opinion since for me, "women-friendly policies" mean consideration for pregnancy, childcare and so on!

As a father, it bothers me to see those considerations described as "women-friendly." Why is it assumed that my wife is the one who has to leave early to pick our daughter up from school? The most "woman friendly" policy would also involve changing the expectations on men to allow women's partners to take on more of the care giving role (for example). I strongly agree with seaknoll in characterizing them as "human friendly" policies.

They're not "women-friendly" because they just cover women. The most women-friendly policy in the world is one that provides plenty of these opportunities to both sexes in equal, or almost equal measure.

If HR doesn't have to worry that I'm a bigger liability because of my gender (after all, the man sitting next to me also gets flex time and leeway to pick up his kids) that's a bonus for me.

The worst case is when there are no opportunities, or when they're so lopsided (14 weeks paid parental leave for women, 2 weeks for men) that you become a liability.

"Women-friendly policies" don't just cover things like maternity leave. Ultimately they do boil down to "human-friendly policies." How: they accommodate women more and thus balance a culture that's traditionally male-dominated. At least that's the idea.

(I was going to quote seaknoll's comment until I realised that you already mentioned it!)

It is possible that we are on the same page, but from your choice of language, I feel you are still subtly missing my point. You talk about "accommodating women more" in order to "balance a culture that's traditionally male-dominated." My point is that we also need to accommodate men more to balance that culture. Again, just for example, if I want to be an equal partner in raising my child (and I like to think I am), I need the same sort of considerations that a woman in my position does. In other words, it is not just about breaking women out of their traditional roles; we need to break men out of their traditional roles as well. I suppose that you can call these ideas "women friendly," but to me, that is putting the focus unfairly on women, when it should really be about accommodating both genders to help them meet in the middle, so to speak.

Considering that US federal law seems to be gender agnostic, from skimming Wikipedia, I'm not so sure about this criticism. At least there seems to be a ground work for caring for parents and not only mothers.

While I agree with your sentiment (as a father with ~18 month parental leave behind me) It would be nice to know if there are common policies that are problematic in your view.

You seem to misunderstand. I don't object to the policies; I am strongly in favour of them. After all, I benefit from them as well. I object to it being characterized as primarily a women's issue. That does a disservice to both sexes 1) by implying that women's gender is the problem when it is not, and 2) by failing to recognize that in order to live a balanced life, men need exactly the same policies. In other words, it is not a "women's issue," it is a "human issue."

You have a very balanced view IMOP.

I am a woman of color and to be honest I totally lucked into it.

From the perspective that I work for a large, old company:

* Get a sense of how the company embraces (or doesn't embrace) flexible work arrangements. Can an employee leave early to run errands or pick up kids and make up the hours that night or on a different day without having to jump through hoops and/or get looked at like they have two heads?

My theory is that, in having a mindset that can accommodate different working arrangements, this can extend to accommodating different kinds of people. I'm suggesting that an employee might be less likely to be ostracized as 'other' at a place like that.

* Do they have the resources to encourage your growth by supporting you taking classes, going to conferences, buying you books, etc?

My theory here is that this supports a belief that people are capable of growing and improving, which is at conflict with the belief of anyone not being "technical" enough or somesuch.

If you want to be around fewer ego-inflated tech bros I recommend a place where the leadership is not comprised of ego-inflated tech bros. This combined with what I mention above probably eliminates most startups right off the bat... anyway thank you for listening to my theories

> Can an employee leave early to run errands or pick up kids and make up the hours that night or on a different day without having to jump through hoops and/or get looked at like they have two heads?

One thing I absolutely love about my current employer is that it is written policy that if you're absent less than four hours in a day, you don't have to report it as PTO. Of course, that same policy also tells you not to abuse it. I think that's pretty fair.

It feels really good knowing that if I have a doctor's appointment first thing in the morning, I can come in an hour or two late, and I won't be either forced to burn sick time or stuck in the office at night making up the hours.

Compare that with the last employer I worked at, which was a defense contractor. For those of you who don't know how defense contractors work, federal law requires that every employee's hours be accounted for, so I'd have to either make up the hours or take sick time every time I had a doctor's appointment. Don't get me wrong: they were fairly progressive for a defense contractor (nobody bat an eye at the purple stripe I had in my hair at the time), but they were still subject to a whole ton of federally-mandated bullshit that I'm glad to be rid of. I sucked it up when I worked there because I got paid really well, but now that I'm out, I don't miss it.

>> Can an employee leave early to run errands or pick up kids

Your theory about accommodating different arrangements -> accommodating different people makes sense too, but I think this flexibility is also the direct opposite of some anti-woman bias. If people don't value them as employees because of the assumption that as (potential) mothers they're less dedicated or less reliable, being willing to accept that parents have other, more important things in their life regardless of gender and being willing to work with that is progress (for everyone).

Hm, there might be something on this. Best workplace I was at had dudes working 4 days out of five because of personal activities that fifth day - no repercussions. People tended to do their own thing in a lot of ways.

Question: are those two policies not bog-standard things that you'd expect from any tech company, especially a startup?

Maybe? Smaller companies might not have all the supporting infrastructure ready though. And even if a company claims to have those policies, it won't always be implemented the same way..

Thats very true and very important to be reminded of. You'd want to inquire about the specific structures to support that.

how do you know the 'great culture' is for assumedly white dudes (what does that mean even, white dude is not some singular set of human traits)?

I'm female, I've been the first and the only woman on teams. I don't give a crap about it. I do my job and expect my colleagues to do the same.

Any place with crap culture is crap culture for almost everyone, no matter gender-identity or race.

I look for places where the employees are passionate and care about what they're doing. Somewhere where code reviews are neither combative nor do they roll over and let things through. Basically somewhere I'll be working to be better for both me and for my colleagues.

Maybe that's something you could ask about. How are code reviews handled, how are implementation disagreements handled. Ask for stories about the last time something fell over. How do they handle call outs, all those stressful situations that people often like to brag about. How someone brags can tell you if you want to work with them or not.

> Any place with crap culture is crap culture for almost everyone, no matter gender-identity or race.

I can't agree with you. If you work for a company that makes negative assumptions about you because of your gender/race, you'll have a worse experience than when they make positive assumptions.

It's about things like when you bring up an idea in a meeting, and it's totally ignored, and the guy across the table brings it up and it's suddenly genius. It's people acting like you always need your hand held even though you're a senior dev. Stuff like that.

While it's true that "white dude" isn't a singular set of traits... what it really comes down, most of all, is what your direct manager assumes about you. They could be biased for/against you for any number of reasons (like what college you went to, your accent, etc). But being biased based on your gender/race is probably one of the most common and strongest.

Furthermore, people who see things the way they do - who don't see their behavior as biased or abnormal - tend to clump together, creating a discriminatory culture. People discriminated against by it tend to leave, so it can be self-reinforcing. Those involved in it don't see a problem - someone they expected to be a bad programmer couldn't handle it and left, from their point of view.

Of course, you can have a terrible culture that sucks for everyone, too. Been there, done that. But there absolutely are situations where certain people/groups are favored and others are not.

> I can't agree with you. If you work for a company that makes negative assumptions about you because of your gender/race, you'll have a worse experience that when they make positive assumptions.

The parent's assertion is trivially rebuttable. Here's an article written by the first woman partner at a major New York law firm: https://www.ou.org/jewish_action/11/2012/striking-a-balance-.... The firm in question has cultivated a reputation for its politeness and professionalism over 168 years.

The culture was great for favored people, even back in the 1960s. Ms. Kess speaks highly of her colleagues: "My colleagues were ethical, brilliant, helpful people." But not so for disfavored people. She writes of what happened after she got pregnant: "In those days, the firm did not offer maternity leave and I was afraid to say anything. I knew that secretaries who became pregnant were dismissed, but I was the first woman attorney at the firm to have a baby."

In the end, the firm was accommodating, and Ms. Kess went on to become the first woman partner at the firm. But hey, whatever happened to those secretaries?

I read your comment, and your linked source, a few times before coming to the conclusion that "the assertion" was the original one by thisone:

> Any place with crap culture is crap culture for almost everyone, no matter gender-identity or race.

And not your direct parent JimboOmega. (I made the comment in case anyone else is also confused.)

Thanks, I definitely meant to agree with JimboOmega.

A place that allows discrimination is not a positive environment for everyone who is not part of the discriminated group.

People who are not part of the discriminated group do see what's going on. However they are often powerless themselves to do anything other than leave. A toxic environment affects almost everyone exposed to it.

Oh, I agree. It's not automatically a good place to work for those who aren't directly discriminated against, and it can be really frustrating to watch.

Still, it's a better experience for the person who is blind to it, than the person who sees it but can't fix it, than the person more directly discriminated against.

In today's tech world it is possible for an organization - especially a small one - to remain discriminatory and not fall apart, while the discriminators themselves remain relatively blind to it.

It will never be as good an organization as it would be otherwise, though.

It is a positive place for people who value being able to discriminate.

"you'll have a worse experience than when they make positive assumptions."

Unless they're Asian and they expect them to outperform your peers because "Asians are just raised to pay attention in school, get good grades, and just be smart." Then, that person starts underperforming since they're average, not geniuses. Then the pressure or stress builds with a portion burning out or commiting suicide.

The Asian example of overly-positive expectations was one they gave us in diversity class I took. Quite common. So, both forms of bias can be really bad.

> If you work for a company that makes negative assumptions about you because of your gender/race, you'll have a worse experience than when they make positive assumptions.

What's wrong with just not making any assumptions based on gender and race?

Well that's ideal, of course! But I was just pointing out that it's not "all the same" when you're in such an environment.

The only problem with doing nothing is that it generally results in the status quo: organizations that are not diverse. This is not to say that positive assumptions is the answer, but that's not what most organizations aiming at better diversity are doing.

Also, you have the additional problem that some folks noisily pretend to be not making any assumptions based on gender or race: cf the numerous recent court rulings against North Carolina.

Those who believe that they are not biased (and likes to "noisily pretend", as you say) are actually the most pernicious.

Somebody who is blatantly and obviously biased is easier to deal with as the person receiving the discrimination - you can clearly tell that they are biased and that you aren't the problem.

Somebody who seems to be - but isn't obviously - leaves you constantly doubting yourself (especially in a culture that has rewarded/looks up to that person).

>Any place with crap culture is crap culture for almost everyone, no matter gender-identity or race.

Totally disagree. I've definitely worked at a tech-bro startup and they loved it there. I quit in a month.

I am a woman working in operations. Here is my opinion. It's just an opinion, but it's something.

I don't think work environments are singular entities that should be read as a whole. They consist of stories, experiences, individuals and the like. I apologize if this comes across as condescending. But I think you are feeding a personal bias or fear, and that you may limit yourself by thinking too broadly about the topic.

Think of your goal from the contrary. Even if during an interview, someone you are getting along with -- or someone you get "good vibes" from -- says exactly what you want to hear and you leave feeling awesome and respected, that cannot guarantee an absence of toxicity in the future.

So why even have a formal vetting process, I wonder? What more depth can you possibly get from a process like this? People come and go. People change. People make mistakes. People project their own insecurities. People have differing opinions and cultures. Unfortunately, that includes differing treatment of minorities in some cases.

I'm not trying to be a sympathizer to anyone who is bigoted, but human nature is unavoidable. Instead of trying to protect myself indefinitely (impossible, imo) I empower myself by reminding myself that I have a choice too.

If I'm uncomfortable or if I feel something is toxic to the extent that my personal life is going into shambles, I don't need to defend myself. I just make changes that are good for me. I'll turn down the job offer where I got 'bad vibes' or, if I'm already employed and going through discrimination that can't be solved by civil conversation or HR, I'll seek employment elsewhere -- I don't mean to imply jumping from job-to-job is easy, though. But if I'm really that miserable, it's probably worth it. Then -- I'll try to be wary of the things that made me miserable, and be mindful of them in future interviews/jobs, with the full expectation that things may change for better or worse.

It all comes down to compromise; and everyone has their limits.

I could use my own experiences to try and tell you how to read people or vet them but... it simply wouldn't be relevant to you as an individual. Ultimately, there are far too many subjective variables at play. If I rattle on and on about "red flags I learned from being sexually harassed", I'd be worried I'd give you irrelevant things to be biased about.

It sounds like you know which things you want to avoid. So I'd suggest to be candid, and initiate conversations such as "How does your team deal with discrimination? Have you ever had to deal with toxicity against a certain minority?" You have every right to want to discuss these things, but only YOU can determine what a 'non BS' answer is.

tl;dr ... YMMV. Be wary of personal biases. Try to be pragmatic, and maybe determine a list of "deal-breakers" for your workplace's social life / experience.

> I feel like I keep getting the same canned PR response of how great the culture is (for assumedly white dudes)

I am not sure what being white has to do with anything -- I find it a bit worrying that you're concerned about discrimination but are placing blame on one race and sex so easily. Don't play the same game you are expressing distaste for. That is not fair to yourself or anyone else.

Hopefully my perspective helps. Again sorry if this comes off as condescending, I mean the best, I'm just not super great with compassion in text. Good luck out there.

Minority woman here.

1.) If it's really a huge concern to you, the best thing to do is probably go to a women's coding group in your local area (try looking on Meetup.com) and talking to the women there. You can ask them pretty candidly how it is at their companies. Only downside is you might miss out on a totally fine company that doesn't have any females yet.

To those saying check if there's a woman on the team already as a metric---eh, if there is that's nice but if there isn't that's not necessarily bad. There are far more men in our field than women. I wouldn't write a company off for just that provided it's a smallish team. I was the first woman and minority on our team. It's fine.

2.) Google the company and maybe also your close team mates. Glassdoor is a good place to check. A bad review or two isn't the end of the world, but if you see a lot stay away. Again downside, a lot of smaller companies don't have many reviews.

3.) You're gonna know if they're lowballing your salary right off the bat when you discuss it during interviews. Make sure you get offers from multiple companies.

4.) You generally can tell a lot from the interview and sometimes you'll have lunch with the team too. Seriously if it's that bad they'll probably show their true colors pretty early on with snide remarks, talking down to you, flirting, etc. I know on a day-to-day basis we women have to brush this off a lot because the world has a lot of creeps. This is not the time to brush it off. Go somewhere else.

5.) No matter how much you try to research ahead of time, sometimes the work environment is just bad. Just as most jobs will have you under a probationary period, you need to do the same to them. Be prepared to leave if it just isn't right. I've seen some people (men and women) just get really wrapped up in the "ideal" of a certain job. Don't fall into that trap.

Disclaimer/warning: Straight white male responding.

But it seems to me that an environment that is toxic for women is also an environment that I would find at least somewhat toxic - not because the crap is hitting me, but because there's a bunch of crap. So what I look for might be useful to you.

I'm older - 55 - and some of what I have is just "hey, this feels like that place that I worked, and it was pretty crummy". But I think there are some specific things you can try to look for.

Look for ego in the interviewing process. If the interviewer (even one of them) is trying to show how smart he/she is, that's a red flag. If one of them can't handle it if you disagree, that's a red flag.

Look for what they say about their culture. Or maybe, look for how they say it. It's fine if they have a ping pong table. At least, it's fine if that's an "oh, by the way". If it's a big part of what they have to say about themselves, that's more of a red flag.

Beer is a bigger red flag. The more their description of their culture sounds like a recruiting pitch for a frat house, the more it's probably toxic to someone who doesn't want to live in a frat house. ("We like to party together after work" is also a red flag.)

I don't know your age. I don't know how much of this is just "Get off my lawn!" But you might find some of it useful.

White girl here - I totally agree with this approach.

Look for the egos! Ask what happens if a developer disagrees with PM requirements, ask if they do code reviews/how they run code reviews, ask how they interact with QA (some times unfairly perceived as lesser teammates), etc

I find workplaces with a wide range of backgrounds, ages, married/unmarried, kids/no kids, university educated/self taught, are the most accepting/professional environments.

I'm a white dude, but I feel the same way. I have experienced first-hand that the attitude and vibes that make a workplace toxic for women or others will also make my time there unpleasant. For instance, frequent sharing of risque videos and lecherous comments about women are fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

For the specific situation I experienced, interviewer ego would not have been a tip-off. Some of the other posts suggest asking questions that I wouldn't dream of asking in an interview - they border on accusatory.

The number of women working is probably the biggest single indicator I can think of. Even if the problematic attitudes exist, they tend to stay hidden when women holding the same/higher rank are omnipresent.

So as someone in their mid 30's who loves programming and has refused any sort of "transition" to management, let me ask you this - how bad has "ageism" been for you in this industry? I've heard various things from various people and read conflicting articles. Just curious how you feel about it.

I'd hate to have to get another kind of job, to be honest, so kind of hoping I can keep at this for another 30 years or so. Thanks!

I don't think I've ever been rejected because I'm too old. Too experienced and therefore too expensive, yes, but not too old.

I'm in embedded systems. Here, experience tends to be valued more than it is in, say, web programming. I can come in and command better pay than someone with only 10 years' experience.

That is, I can come in a few places. Most jobs still list "senior software engineer" as 5 to 7 years, and that's where their concept of experience ends. I've learned to not chase those jobs, because they don't want to pay for what I have to offer.

At my current job, they wanted me to produce the piece that tied everything else together in six months. It had multiple threads of control and shared mutable state. They didn't have time for me to come "up to speed". They were willing to pay for the ability to deliver what they needed.

So, yes, there are places where you can program to 65 or 70. There aren't as many as you might wish, but they're out there.

Free beer is an attractor only to completely stupid people. Stupid, on multiple fronts. Firstly, even if you like beer, it's bad for your health to have daily, unfettered access to it. Secondly, it's cheap. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together puts an objective dollar value on these sorts of free perks. A beer is worth so many dollars; how many a week of them could you reasonably enjoy? You'd be stupid to be paid $5K per year less to have two or three free beers a week, and even stupider to quaff 50 free beers a week to try to make up the difference. Thirdly, don't some people drive to and from work? Or on errands in the middle of the day? What about the liability, good grief? What a terrible idea from a legal standpoint.

If people are drinking on the job, that is going to affect social interaction, in the same way that it affects social interaction at parties and in clubs. It will make people less socially inhibited, which means that tiny dickheads that normally have decent self-control will behave like big dickheads.

> Firstly, even if you like beer, it's bad for your health to have daily, unfettered access to it.

Only if you lack the maturity and self control to handle that.

In my home, I have daily, unfettered access to bourbon, gin, beer, wine, tequila, and more. And, yet I am as healthy as I have ever been. Because I'm an adult and don't choose to get wasted every day simply because I can.

If you have the self control not to actually drink, or not much, then there goes most of the perk, doesn't it. We have a benefit where I work: free beer! Only, oh, I'm mature, so it translates to three dollars a week for me.

Also: it's not hard to imagine that people who do lack that maturity and self-control would also be more likely than the average person to be drawn to that type of workplace.

> Because I'm an adult and don't choose to get wasted every day simply because I can.

Negative health impacts of drinking kick in way before "wasted every day". People drinking what appear to them to be moderate amounts are sometimes drinking lots more than they should be.

Albeit, I'm talking about UK where a glass of wine after work is normal.

"It will make people less socially inhibited, which means that tiny dickheads that normally have decent self-control will behave like big dickheads."

Even at the offices I've worked at that were beer friendly, you'd find yourself in deep trouble if you drank enough to get that drunk during work.

I am a woman of color. Unfortunately I do think location does matter quite a bit as I've heard of all these horror stories from tech scene in the U.S. but so far I have encountered nothing but respectful working environments, and some really good ones where I feel highly valued and have a lot of room for growth.

I think some things good to look out for during the interview are: - when you ask about their culture, what's their response? Beer and ping pong are not culture, they're at best fun stuff that young, hip bros like to do. If beer and ping pong is all they give you as an answer there might be a redflag there, it's possible that they'd discriminate against people who are not like them (people who don't drink etc.) Good answers to hear are how they want their people to succeed, what's their plan on taking their product and company up a level, what do they value and how do they carry out those values on a day to day basis? Do they provide any opportunities for employees to learn? - look at your to-be direct manager, from talking to him do you feel a sense of huge ego? do they think they know everything and is better than you at everything? or do they show a sign of humility and genuinely want to learn about your background and what you can bring to the table? - everybody else that interview you, are they behaving appropriately throughout the interview? ask them what they like and dislike about their job, that usually tells a lot. Again, if answer is "I love the free beer and pizza" something's wrong. They should be telling you what kind of opportunities they're getting at this company. Ask about work-life balance, during one of my interviews someone actually told me "the work life balance here is pretty good, some people have young children, it's not really fair to ask them to stay late everyday", and that's how I got a feel that the employer does encourage life outside of work. - I'd also watch out for companies that hire women for the sake of filling the quota, they're hiring you based on your gender, not your skills. Can you really expect that they'd value your skills enough to be supportive in your career development when you actually work there? Someone that hired you based on gender, would they really want you to get promotions in the future?

I wish I could explain better, but I think if someone is ego inflated it's fairly easy to tell just from some simple conversations, and I tend to avoid those people (I think even if I were not a woman, I'd still avoid those people).

I am a woman and work in Boston as an engineer currently programming web apps for a consulting company. I had plenty of good experiences but also had a couple of bad ones. I could always catch something during the interview and or when you walk in. I would first evaluate the employer before I evaluate the team. You will need to find an employer that think highly of women. The founder of my company relies heavily on another female leader. Half of his staff are women Another CTO that I work with only has one full time staff female support person and he relies heavily on her. On the other hand I went for an interview where there are no female engineers and the vp of engineer was suffering from unconscious bias. I later heard that other male employees actually disagreed with him for not hiring me. There was another guy that changed his mind half way through during the interview. You will catch it but if there are no strong female leaders/female staff that are heavily relied on then you probably shouldn't work there.

Somebody also has to be the first strong female employee in any given company. Obviously headcount is a huge factor here, but in isolation I honestly think that kind of reasoning can be misleading.

If you are interviewing and discount an otherwise promising potential employer out of hand for not having enough women onboard already, what can they do to rebalance the situation beyond continuing to bring a diverse range of solid candidates in for interview?

Which assumes that there isn't a strong female employee to start with.

Someone has to be the first employee.

You need a filter that removes the toxic people, and moves you closer to potential jobs at the same time. I agree with some commenters here that this is a problem for all sorts of people, i.e. including white dudes; given that many are entering the field that are mostly driven by money and coolness.

One suggestion: Search for events and meet-ups where people gather that are driven by a higher-goal idealism – depending on your interests this could e.g. be privacy and hacker's events, the sciences, NGOs, environment, political movements. Talk to the men and women there and find out where they are working. It is far more likely to meet people there that are intelligent and work in interesting jobs, and their idealism and progressiveness usually affects other areas of life, too (i.e. they are less likely to be racist or misogynist). Of course I am talking about probabilities here, not guarantees.

I agree with some commenters here that this is a problem for all sorts of people, i.e. including white dudes; given that many are entering the field that are mostly driven by money and coolness.

Yep that's a subtlety that's often overlooked: brogrammers are an alien culture that colonized tech. Old skool geeks were next to never misogynists, they might have lacked social skills but they were never malicious or aggressive. Geek culture was entirely about accepting people whoever they were and welcomed anyone who shared common interests, to play AD&D or watch Star Trek or whatever...

Geek culture has always been sexist, and much of it included malicious, objectifying sexism. Ask anyone who's been going to cons for 20+ years and you will hear stories that curl your hair. Even in the programming sphere, just look at the Mythical Man Month: it assumes the only woman on the team is the secretary.

I've given up finding that great company culture. Bro cultures, and yes even female jealousy, but the dealbreaker for me is work inflexibility. I get utterly exhausted working in open office environments, and I swing from absolutely crap in small talk to excitable gushing about last night's TV (that nobody watches.) People apparently don't like randomised personalities! I figured that the life of a salaryperson may just be wrong for me...

Now I split my time 30:30:30 on contracting, developing my edtech baby and reading/ art/ learning. The 10% is allocated for family and the blue days.

At the risk of misleading others, please remember that every person has a unique pattern. It seems a lot like retiring but believe me it's not haha. I have to work extra hard in finding and maintaining my contracts, just so I can support my edtech project with enough cash and time.

And, although flexibility is what I was looking for, it's very easy to become idle. In the first few months, I struggled - but this I suppose is a much needed exercise in taming my short attention span (!) It's still too early to tell - it's been ten months now - but as an individual, learner and founder, I think I'm happier and made far more progress than before. And at last my baby is growing! ;)

Hmm. So I ran away rather than deal with toxic/ mediocre environments ... but perhaps this is the best!

It took me two years to really apreciate the flexibility and the new life. Either that or two years to undo the harm the salarymen life did to me. I'm not sure but it gets way better.

Non-binary queer woman here. I can usually get a vibe at interviews about the company culture, from the people I talk to (my questions and their general personalities).

The only team I've ever felt "normal" at was one where one of the interviewers was gay. My boss there had hired a bunch of really talented queer developers from his network, so half the team was queer. I guess I really liked the personalities of the people I interviewed with (it was a full-day pairing interview, which is a lot better for getting a feel for a company than just whiteboarding), so I figured it'd be a good group of people to work with.

The challenge is that if you're interviewing for a larger company, you might not know which team you'll end up in if you accept an offer. Try to avoid this situation, and get a feel for the people you'd be working closely with.

I think if I were to interview for a new company now, I'd reach through my network and try to work with a friend (or former co-worker). I still have never had another woman on my team (after about 5 years in tech), so in the future I'd probably look for a company that has female engineers and high-ranking women within the company.

I've also found that companies that use pair programming tend to value empathy and teamwork, because when you're working that closely with your coworkers every day, no one wants to work with a jerk.

There are some bad companies here in the sf bay area, but there are also some really great places to work. Glassdoor has saved me a few times early in the interview process.

Aren't you essentially making the argument that you are most comfortable working with people similar to yourself?

Which is not a criticism. It's completely understandable. But how, then, do we get all of us (you, me, etc...) to feel comfortable working together, despite any particular differences?

(I don't have any easy answers, and I may not even be someone whose opinion means much on this subject. I honestly got so tired of workplace politics of any flavor that I left and started working for myself about 10 years ago.)

You might find this fascinating:


It's an interactive thought exercise that posits:

Given a mild preference to be near similar people, segregation will occur, unless there's also an explicit desire to be near dissimilar people too.

That is interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I suspect that diversity as a virtue is itself a culture that can exist, or there's some other cultural factor that ties a team together that happens not to care about sexual orientation or race or etc, but my current thinking is that people seek out cliques.

I remember reading some of the current crop of pro-diversity research many years ago. The benefits of an ideologically diverse company were clear, and highly positive.

An important caveat, buried in the analysis, is that the researchers noted that at least some of this benefit was due to the fact that people from differing cliques were less concerned about insulting other groups, which resulted in freer speaking, and thus a wider range of ideas presented. This, I think, is a very important point that has been lost along the way in the current discussion of what, exactly diversity means.

This contrasts with a more monocultural corporate environment, where an institutional blind spot may stubbornly remain, as too many of the people involved are all locked in to similar thinking patterns.

The professionals involved kept things professional- they were able to work together effectively. But not worrying about walking on eggshells (or needing to) appears to be an important part of the formula, and, well... I think we're far from that at the moment.

I'm afraid my google skills are failing me, and I can't find the original paper I am thinking of. IIRC, it is a highly cited one, so it should be out there. Maybe someone else will be able to link it. I first read a summary of in in Harvard Business Review ~2011.

>ideologically diverse

Do you mean being a wrongthinker? I got the sense that the only diversity that mattered was skin color, genital set, and/or gender affiliation.

I don't think many people in tech feel "normal" at work because of high cultural diversity. Racial and gender lines are less significant compared to nationality and primary language.

Tech has massive language and nationality diversity. I would guess that > 50% of software engineers in the USA are either immigrants or 2nd generation Americans (who grew up with immigrant parents). Because of this, many people don't find many coworkers that they have much in common with.

You raise a salient point. And FWIW, I agree with you. I certainly have noticed how siloed many groups of programmers are from one another. Not out of any malicious intent, but rather the simple, subtle pressures of it being slightly easier to work with people you share more in common with, and software work being difficult under the best of circumstances.

Hello! I am a woman in the bay area. Here's what I do:

There are multiple online resources, like women's only whispernetworks. I don't feel safe posting details of these groups on a wesbite like this, but a google search/asking around will probably do. If I'm interviewing at a new place, I usually post on said whisper networks to ask if anyone has heard anything (positive or negative). InHerSight.com <--- glass door for women http://goodforpocin.tech/ <--- I have heard mixed reviews, but the fact that something like this exists is great. The best way to find out about good companies is of course by word of mouth, talking to people who have worked there and getting input on pros and cons

Questions I ask: "What percentage of women, PoC, etc is on the dev team? <---I never expect high numbers, I'm more asking this to see how they respond and if they even know the answer "Are there women in leadership?" *One of my mentors refuses to move forward in the interview process if there were no women on her interviewing panel, which she says is a red flag that they are pretty clueless of how important inclusivity in tech is to her.

I think you are looking at the problem from the wrong angle.

You are a minority and assume your environment will be hostile for that reason. And due to confirmation bias, it will probably appear to look like it. The problem is that you might not be able to see the forest for the trees.

Toxic environments are usually toxic for everyone. And the cause is usually dishonesty, poor management, unrealistic demands, etc... High turnover, poor treatment of customers, etc... is a big red flag. Forget about your status as a minority for now and look at the big picture. Poor treatment of minorities usually go with it.

I don't have much experience here as I'm a white dude, but my wife asks "What percentage of your team is female?". I think this is a good question, it's straightforward and quantitative. If they are above the industry average that's probably a good sign. If they're below, but they pay lip service to the fact that they'd like to improve that's ok. And if they're below the industry standard and don't care that's bad.

Recently on a phone screen she asked the manager this and his response was "that's something you need to bring up with HR". That's a giant red flag and she saved everyone's time by not pursing the job further.

If you feel you're underpaid, I encourage you to negotiate aggressively for what you feel you're worth. Amazon is full of resources to help you with that.

As for culture, I'd say just ask. Ask what the team does for fun. That will more or less tell you if you will fit in or not.

I recommend not blaming individual women for the structural inequalities they face.

The consequences for men and women negotiating (particularly "aggressively") are different. At the very least, someone perceived as a woman has to be prepared for backlash in a way that people perceived as men don't experience if they negotiate.

Negotiation is a part of capitalism. I dont think I want to live in another system. I agree that no one should be denigrated for negotiating, but irrespective of current denigration women are eventually going to have to negotiate. Therefore recommending negotiating has nothing to do with the current structural inequalities, but rather is sound advice regardless.

Having to negotiate aggressively in order to get paid what you're worth is, in itself, a big red flag about the company's culture.

> As for culture, I'd say just ask. Ask what the team does for fun. That will more or less tell you if you will fit in or not.

How will that tell you if they are accepting of e.g. non-binary people?

Look for diversity in activities (ex: If all the examples include alcohol, i doubt they're very family friendly).

Some environments will say something like "Not much" IMO its a good sign too, because that means people are free to do whatever they want and probably clock in and clock out and leave their personal lives at home. IMO thats a good environment for diversity because the focus is on just performing, not on "Are you like me?" .

It would be a red flag if the team never did anything together, like their team events were solely an outing every 6 months.


Plenty of people like to keep a separation between work and a social or family life. My employer has an outing once per year, but little else -- most staff either have a young family to go home to, or a social life outside work.

[NB: European in Europe here.]

You never have team lunches? "a social life outside work" wouldn't stop you from having beer with the team or part of the team once every week or two. And I just said a red flag. If it looks like it's more "adults" on the team or more like a government job, maybe it's just fine. YMMV

Once a week? I think once a month is max for "organized" (as opposed to casual invites) team activities outside of 9-5. We do have fun offsites every few months though.

Yeah, in fact I think in more adult or government teams someone non-binary might be better off.

You'll have easy union and HR support if needed and most people in such positions just want to get the job done and stay out of eachother's way, that attitude leads to friction minimization as a strategy instead of personal lives getting in the way of things. So if not caring is good enough for you, then it's possibly a good move.

As others have said, a workplace that involves more intermingling of social and work lives seems more likely to cause problems.

Most of us eat lunch together at lunchtime, Monday-Friday. There are people that always eat at the same place, and others that change depending on what's on the menu, so the group of people at the table varies, but only one or two people regularly eat alone.

I'm not sure if you mean this, or if you mean a meal in the evening (or a weekend) every couple of weeks. I've not heard of any companies that regularly do the latter. We do this once a year, with a traditional Christmas meal -- pretty much everyone goes to that. There's also a summer event, about 3/4 of the staff go, mostly bringing their children as it's more likely to be a barbeque or picnic etc.

Sometimes, two or three or four of us go to a bar on Friday together, but it's not a team event. It's always less than half the team. It usually means leaving work 1-1.5 hours early, so my colleagues with children don't get home late.

One evening a two weeks is a no go for me - I have small hobbies I don't want to give up (sport to be healthy and little craft), I have long term friends I want to meet with occasionally occasionally and most importantly I have a family.

Why is that a red flag? Some people just want a career, not a new set of friends.

Sure, but a whole team/office where no one has lunch together ever?

I've been at this role for just over a year now and I've eaten lunch with my teammates maybe two or three times.

Firstly, I spend all day with these people as it is and while they are perfectly easy to get on with and have a laugh with, my lunch time is for me to eat and catch up on my reading.

I really dislike cafeterias in general. They're too noisy, bright, uncomfortable and I would much prefer to just go and eat in peace and quiet.

I've been out with these people like a dozen times for meals, nights out leaving parties etc. but once or twice a week? That's way too much. I have things I like to do in the evenings, like exercising, playing learning guitar or improving my development skills. I also have a partner I wish not to neglect.

I'm totally fine keeping my work and colleagues separate from the rest of my life.

I like people I can work with well but I have no desire to ever do anything outside of work with my colleagues.

Why would that be red flag? I was in team that basically never had team outings and it was pretty awesome to work with them - I ended up trusting them a lot and we respected each other a lot.

Mandatory company-prescribed fun would be a great big red flag. The company wants you to be loyal to it, but it won't ever be loyal to you. A certain Austrian had something to say about mandatory activities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJFtkHOZ7jw

Oh come now, I never said anything about it being mandatory.

Things like that have a tendency to become effectively mandatory, even if they never officially are. If you're always the odd one out on these events, how likely do you think it is that your ideas and proposals will be adopted, you'll be picked first for career advancement opportunities or important assignments, people will respond quickly and helpfully to your questions, etc?

In a perfect world, none of that would be affected by your social habits, but our world is an imperfect place.

"If you feel you're underpaid, I encourage you to negotiate aggressively for what you feel you're worth. "

You don't even have to negotiate aggressively. Most people don't even ask.

If you are open to other locations, I used to work for a NASA contractor near Houston and at that time (when the shuttle was actively used) some of the best programming minds/organization (at least measured by quality/process/number of errors) were the group at Lockheed Martin that made the Shuttle software and I remember it was roughly 50% female from top to bottom. I wonder what became of that group, someone here probably knows the story better than I do. I thought it was SAIC but this article says it was LM.


When I was there in the early 90's, all the NASA contractors were pretty progressive compared to the stories you read about Silicon Valley today (where I am currently living.)

Great question. Ask about age diversity. What is the average age of employees. You can ask for a range to give you a better idea. Also ask about maternity and paternity leave - this will tell you how much thought has been put into the care and personal lives of the people that are working for the company.

Ask about their core values, but ask for examples of how employees embody those values in their daily interactions and their work. How are those values reflected in a manager's leadership style? Ask if they have a public harassment policy. Ask if staff has gone through bias and/or harassment training, or has there been any company-wide discussion around such things. Also ask if you'd be able to speak to other women at the company (someone who is not interviewing you) about their experience working at the company. Equally as important, ask to meet other members of the team you will be working with and see how they are with you (especially male colleagues) to get a sense of if they speak to you or treat with you respect. Have a technical conversation with them (outside interview so the power dynamic is equalized). Remember, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. A good recruiter will treat this like a two way sell, because that's what it is.

Great suggestions!

The biggest issue is when guys use new incoming female employees as dating prospects because they don't meet females elsewhere. They may be nice and friendly but I don't want to have to shake off and turn down 6 guys who are fighting to get at me first everywhere I work, its really not ok. It happens at every place I've ever worked and watch the same guys do it to new girls.

They are here for a job, not to supply you with intimacy. It's even more sad to think about how much these women are not viewed as great additions to the team, but how likely you are to get a date with them. It's very frustrating.

Huh! Probably blind to this somewhat because I'm a guy, but I haven't seen this at the tech jobs I'm at in NJ.

Realistically, you speak to different genders differently without realizing it, but I have always worked in highly-diverse environments (I wouldn't want to ever work somewhere where I saw all XYZ gender or race working there) and it has been fine.

nah, I've worked with companies who rank incoming female Interns by hotness and argue over who gets to date her and try to bash other male employees and fight over them for projects before they ever have the first day at the office.

This has happened in 3 workplaces I know of.

What industry?

I've read many of the proposed questions in this thread - does the CEO have daughters, does the company send everyone to conferences. I personally would avoid asking "what's in it for me" questions unless the company has shown strong interest.

I remember one candidate who received an offer, then insisted on meeting with the CEO a second time and asking him a few more questions. She never got that meeting; the offer was rescinded. The CEO saw her demand as a bad sign.

Any weird question you ask during this sensitive phase will get analyzed and raise concerns. In other words, you have to gather your info via other means.

I look for existing diversity, and of underrepresented minorities not just gender diversity (IME this is often a better signal.) Especially in upper levels: the % of Software Engineer 1s matters a lot less than the % of architects and tech leads.

Second (and I kind of hate to give this one away), I ask "what do you sacrifice when recruiting to ensure diversity?" The answer should be either "it takes us longer to recruit, because we ensure a balanced pool" or "we have changed our process to allow many types of candidates to shine". If the answer is just "we spend lots of money on sending people to Grace Hopper!" it means they aren't willing to inconvenience or piss off overrepresented engineers. You can't fix culture problems by spending money, and when "diversity" is seen as separate from "recruiting" in general it's a clear sign of a problem.

I also use the Internet: I look on LinkedIn for people who have left the company, see how long women stayed and reach out to find out why they left if they did. Backchannel mailing lists are great ways to find a vouch. I check the social media profiles of their prominent engineers and search with keywords like "feminism", "women" and "she". See how they talk about women in the field, whether they follow women on Twitter, whether they posted angry anti-Hillary memes. I've found that a lot more effective than relying on direct questioning, because there are companies out there that will say whatever they think will let them add you as a shield against the accusations of sexism they are facing. Especially my boss: if my boss is going to be a white dude, he had better have publicly condemned sexism in a way that feels constructive and genuine to me.

One other internet trick is to look at where the women you respect are working and apply there. At the very least, you would get to work with technical mentors you admire and can learn from.

You can find good spots here. Seriously, though, trust your instincts, don't be afraid to walk away and don't be afraid to take an "unsexy" job at an old-school company with an HR department.

Oh, the other thing is that what you are looking for will change over the course of your career. Early on, you need to work with people who can effectively mentor you. Your direct boss and the technical leaders on your team will matter, but the rest of the company can be kind of terrible and it will probably be fine. Once you start moving into technical leadership or architect roles, the additional work you probably need to do to have an impact in dysfunctional, sexist organization will be a much bigger drag on your productivity and moral. On the up side, by that point you will have the skills and resume to pick and choose better organizations.

I believe that noticing when that transition happens and swapping companies is key to persisting in the industry.

Relatedly, the strategies I've used also change over time.

At this point in my career, I rely more on preemptive screening by employers. I list my talks about Cyborg Feminism and Feminist Software Development on my resume, along with my talk at Lesbians Who Tech on why imposter syndrome is a rational reaction to a lack of reliable feedback. I posted a blog post about how the decline of women in computer science is related to the rise of Internet culture and the disparate treatment experienced there. I regularly tweet about racism and sexism in tech. In my personal statement last time I was looking I said explicitly I was looking for an "intersectionally-feminist team".

This isn't a technique I would have used when I was starting out and needed Any Job. Now that I have a skill set in high demand, though, when people who don't want me around rule themselves out it just saves both of us time. And on the flip side, when a founder is excited that I name-drop Donna Haraway, it's always at least going to be a fun conversation.

You can tell my strategies are possibly effective because of all the sexist men in these comments who are apparently deeply concerned that I will never work for them, or perhaps that they might accidentally end up in an organization that isn't sexist. Le horror!

Note that these attempts to drive our discussions and opinions from Hacker's News and deprive us of the opportunity to express our preferences all help maintain discrimination and the economic power a limited workforce provides. Men are so scared that they might have to compete on a level playing field, or possibly even be held accountable for their actions, that they externalize that fear onto women trying to get by in an actively-hostile world.

Dear men who are offended when people acknowledge the reality of sexism: I guarantee you, I have spent more time thinking about this than you. I had to, a fact of which I am already resentful, thanks everso. Consider before you comment that I know what I'm talking about, and that way you've assumed I don't? It is a manifestation of the very problem we are discussing. Every time you express your uninformed opinions that start from the assumption that the world is fair, you are proving that you are unprepared to contribute to this discussion.

I don't want to work in an implicitly or explicitly sexist environment. You want to somehow get to participate in the patriarchal norms, not face any criticism for that, and then still somehow have me want to work with you. As The Man In Black says, get used to disappointment. Your desired outcome isn't one of the options.

Instead of attempting reassuring your existing cultural cognition (http://www.culturalcognition.net/), try listening to the generous gifts of experience the women and marginalized people have offered in response to the question that was asked. You might learn that there is more to the world than you had known. That will make you a better developer, as well as someone I might someday be willing to work with.

i've been loving all of your comments. +1 to you! #rolemodelsmatter

> Especially my boss: if my boss is going to be a white dude, he had better have publicly condemned sexism in a way that feels constructive and genuine to me.

This is such a weird statement to me. If it works for you, fine, but I think it's bad advice: to demand that not only your boss be active on social media, but to actively pursue your preferred topics on same.

As David Morrison said, the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. "How to signal you are on the side of non-sexists instead of the sexists" is probably a different thread, though: the original poster wanted to know what strategies marginalized developers had found effective and I shared mine.

It is unsurprising to me that effective strategies end up rubbing people the wrong way. The reason social media posts work as a filter is because they are a minorly-costly signals to send, and the suggestion that people be expected to do extra work to appear trustworthy, rather than being assumed to be trustworthy even though probability isn't on their side, is going to feel threatening. Privileged men feel entitled to the benefit of the doubt, even when it is women who bear the costs when they fail to live up to it.

This isn't just "my preferred topic": this is my life. This is whether I have a fair shot at promotion. It's whether I have to be 150% sure with a giant pile of citations by dudes before I say anything, or people trust my technical judgement. It's whether I can be most productive at my job, or I have to waste a bunch of time managing the anxieties and insecurities of the dudes I work with instead. It's about whether I have to spend time and energy sending Comey-like memos every week to document the sexual harassment against my female coworkers until they all quit or are fired anyway. It's about whether my coworkers will refuse to speak to me for six months because I made work "not fun" by not wanting to hear about his pick up artistry, and still get promoted. After that last one, now I only work places that don't prioritize catering to sexist developers over catering to me. There are plenty of options out there; there is no reason to settle for anything less than an actively anti-sexist workplace.

Many men treat this like an intellectual exercise: it's not. These days, I only work for the ones who already understand that.

It seems to me that in an attempt to avoid one type of toxic environment, you've gone to another extreme. What you're really screening for is an environment where everyone is similar to yourself.

In that they don't think women should have to deal with sexism: damn skippy. Existing in an environment where some people think women should have to deal with sexism sucks. You don't get to be inclusive of both sexists and me, because their "beliefs" are about my actual life. My life is significantly better if the dudes around me will step up when sexism happens and deal with it without me having to even be involved. And it doesn't work if they are only objecting because "this will alienate women!"; it needs to be because they, personally, are hurt by sexism and don't want to be around it.

We also exclude programmers who insist on using nothing but GOTOs to structure their code, and sexism is way more annoying for me to work with than GOTO-filled code. You don't really think I should be inclusive of everyone: you just don't think sexism should be allowed to be a deal-breaker. Don't worry, if you want to work at a company that's inclusive of sexists that's way easier to find.

> You don't really think I should be inclusive of everyone: you just don't think sexism should be allowed to be a deal-breaker. Don't worry, if you want to work at a company that's inclusive of sexists that's way easier to find.

You're projecting and making a lot of assumptions about the person you are replying to.

Yes, thank you for commenting on this. There is a lot of this happening on this topic, being done by people who are otherwise clearly intelligent.

I find it interesting that this dynamic has so much in common with the deeply religious.

Yeah I cringed when I read that. Opinions like that are why we have Trump. Why do non white guys get a pass on sexism? The racism of lower expectations is so pervasive of white women in tech it's absolutely disgusting

Men of color don't get a pass on sexism, but that particular screening tool isn't effective because of the racism many of them face. The cost to them of publicly supporting marginalized people is higher, whereas it doesn't have any cost professionally for white men (citation from the Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/03/women-and-minorities-are-penalized-f...) Thus, if white men don't do it, it's a pretty good signal, whereas if men of color don't do it, it doesn't tell me anything.

"Second (and I kind of hate to give this one away), I ask 'what do you sacrifice when recruiting to ensure diversity?'"

I find it disturbing that you think hiring diversity entails a sacrifice.

> I find it disturbing that you think hiring diversity entails a sacrifice.

Of course it's a sacrifice. Under-represented groups are under-represented in standard recruiting channels. That's tautological. If you want a set of recruiting channels that represents all available talent, you can't use the standard set of channels. You need to go catalog all of the available sources of talent, including obscure sources. That takes effort. That's a sacrifice.

In addition, under-represented strengths don't show up in standard assessment techniques. Again, that's tautological. Standard assessment only measures over-repesented strengths. If you want to measure under-represented strengths then you need to use custom assessment techniques which, again, takes additional effort, which is a sacrifice.

These conclusions just fall naturally from the word "under-represented" and a presumption that there is room for improvement in recruiting channels and assessment. If there is no such room, the additional effort will fail to change the hiring demographics. Which will be evidence that your recruiting channels are representative and your assessments accurate, and you can ease up on recruiting pipeline optimization.

What's disturbing to you about any of this?

All of life is tradeoffs. It doesn't matter if people "value" diversity in some abstract sense; it matters how they will value it when it comes into conflict with something else they value. If they can't think of anything they are willing to prioritise below diversity, they are almost certainly going to end up with a homogeneous team.

Also, I want to know that they are willing to tell people who only accept universally-applied, context-blind systems to take a hike. It is impossible to fix a cultural problem of disparate experiences with anything pretending to "objectivity".

> Especially my boss: if my boss is going to be a white dude, he had better have publicly condemned sexism in a way that feels constructive and genuine to me.

Wtf. How is this not just becoming reverse racism. Guilty until proven innocent.

It's not what you said Bill, it's what you didn't say.

There was a ping pong table in my college dormitory common room, and I grew to loath it.

You couldn't do anything within earshot of it. Nobody could just tap the ball back and forth. Noooo. It's serve, back, SLAM! always followed by groans and whoops as loud as possible.

I wouldn't join any company with a prominent ping pong table.

We just sealed it off in a separate room, with the snack room between it and people.

I am on the other side of that table, in a different industry ,and in a different country with a different cultural context, but my 2¢: Can you identify any women, non-binary, people of color, etc who are in a position of power within the company, like a (co-)founder? I find that to be a big factor. Not that straight white guys are inherently creating toxic work environments but it's surprising how easy it is to not consider other perspectives on every day decisions.

"Who do they hand power to?" says a ton about people.

I'm an older white male, and it's hard for me to find a non-toxic environment, as well.

What has worked for you in the past? Or have you been able to improve things at places you've worked?

Manager is always the #1 most important, but some things like the company culture is hard to tell from just a few interviews. Also, people come and go, which really affect the culture and environment. If it's too toxic, the only thing you can do is move on, I think.

I would (without asking for it directly) gauge the already present diversity in the IT teams, by arranging to visit the offices during working hours.

Emphasis on in the IT teams, because from my personal limited experience, gender diversity in non-technical roles doesn't correlate in any way with environment toxicity/rigidity, while IMO it totally does correlate in tech roles.

Ping-pong tables aren't a red flag at all for me, the company I'm in has them, beer dispensers, nerf guns and all, and the culture is very friendly and welcoming to any kind of people. Our tech team ticks literally every diversity checkbox and everybody can integrate well, yet without being forced to, and despite a few "toxic" elements that don't ruin it for everyone (without being oppressed themselves). The key was that from the start, the first few engineers were already "diverse".

Disclaimer: I'm a while male and I'm leaving for an all-white-dudes startup in one month, so no agenda here.

Full disclosure: white dude, not a minority of any kind in my country.

Five years ago, I would have said that the percentage of women in an office isn't necessarily a good indicator of anything. Nowadays, this would be my first advice: ask how many women work there.

With maybe one exception, all the places I've worked in that had very few women were terrible places to work in. Most of them were unpleasant to work in even for men who think "bro" is not a word to be uttered after you turn 19.

Teams that have a strong bias against women act on it almost universally: they drive candidates away with shitty and/or unenthusiastic interviews and they make life hard for those candidates who do get through. They don't end up with all-male teams just because reputation preceeds them and no woman wants to work there -- they end up with all-male teams because prejudice and insecurity tend to tip the balance of their hiring decisions, too.

It's not a universal predictor, but I definitely consider it a red flag. Frankly, it's one that I look at, too. I'm not the SJW type, but when I got into this whole programming thing, hacker communities used to be inclusive and diverse, and I kind of like to keep that going.

Full disclosure: white dude

I would just add make sure you specify that they actually do technical work, and you would be working with them. One job I got I would say 80% of the cube farm were women. The only down side was they were all data entry people, and not treated well. The turn over rate was amazing. The 2 females on my team weren't actually doing technical work and was more or less just adopted into the team because they sat near us. I stayed for as long as my contract stated and left asap.

At what scale does this advice start? I worked for and with a few almost-all-male startups that just hadn't run into female hires in their first year / ±10 employees. Great work environments, ended up hiring women in the following years.

Yeah, if the company is less than ten people, I'd say that's probably fine. Even though it hasn't been all too difficult for our team (<5 people) to find women and people of color as interns or employees, I'm certain it can be more difficult for teams that aren't as lucky as we are.

I think the parent poster meant companies that have had a chance to choose from a large and diverse group of people; but have ended up hiring people of only one, less diverse group anyway; whether by making poor choices or by driving away the other groups of people.

Good point -- that's one of the reasons why I think it's "just" a red flag. The one place that I mentioned what exactly like that -- small company, couldn't afford too much wage, hiring mostly students or fresh graduates, often based on recommendations. The structure of the team was largely a reflection of our own social networks and of the bias inherent in hiring third-year students. For almost an year, it was a six-man effort. There was only one woman in our team.

After "5" I figure it's got momentum and/or reflects a structural problem with recruiting, and either way it is going to become much harder to fix in the future.

Just reading through these comments makes me wonder if its really the "Bro Culture" or just the reality of trying to force 100 people to work in the same place. It seems inevitable that the majority of "like" people are going to have the strongest social presence.

If you can't stand the environment this creates then it seems like trying to find a remote job would be ideal. That way, aside from the occasional off-topic meeting, work is work.

I've had a couple interviews where there was an extended conversation about diversity in tech (both initiated by the interviewer). One of these was from a well-known SV tech firm that's had a lot of controversy around inclusion issues, and I could tell from the conversation that the other person just didn't get it. At another smaller tech company, the co-founders seemed deeply committed to creating an inclusive organization. So a lot of it is just having these conversations with people and making your own personal judgments (a lot of people say the right things, but the reality might be different).

(for the record I'm coming from the perspective of cisgender black male in case it matters)

Could you ask this question directly in an interview? If you have to assume the response is actually talking about "white males" or that the respondent is confusing bias with ping-pong tables, perhaps you are not being direct enough or are speaking to HR instead of a manager?

Maybe it'd work best asked in an abstract, impersonal way: "I've had friends whose contributions have been dismissed because of their gender; what kinds of strategies can combat bias and create a positive environment for all employees?" Ideally this would lead into a nice 5 minute discussion where you could get a feel for their thinking.

Straight white software engineering male here - I've never worked in an environment where I thought it to be sexist. Is the environment out there worse than what I'm seeing or seem to believe?

As another straight white man, let me suggest that we are generally the last people to notice discriminatory environments. We are all much more likely to notice things that harm us than things that work in our favor. The way to find out the extent of this problem is to listen to the people most likely to experience it.

Given how few women there are in tech, you can be extremely unlikely to have seen it and a woman can be very likely to have experienced it, both at the same time.

Your comment honestly reads a bit like a joke. Maybe it was meant as a joke, kudos to you. But if not....

"As a member of King Louis XVI's royal court and someone who spends every minute of their life in the palace of Versailles, I haven't personally seen any poor people in France. Do they really exist out there?"

You need to interview the company just as they interview you. Ask some questions like what kind of development processes they follow, how they organize themselves and what kind of offsite activities they have. You can tell a lot from the answers about the culture in general. For example do they respect employee's time and do they show good team collaboration and cohesion or are they a 'hero/special snowflake culture'.

If you don't like the answers, then it might not be a good fit for you.

If the C level including the CEO have (young) children, imo the workplace is saner.

Interestingly I'm not sure I agree with this. At a previous Job my boss (not CEO, but sub-org head) called from the hospital less than an hour before giving birth; showed up at work just days after. Without her, I think, actually intending it, this set up a quite bad precedent, that some people felt like they needed to follow. I think that got resolved after I left, but she'd not realized that other people thought she explicitly did this to set up an example. People feel it's a lot harder to complain about things if leadership lives through it as well, even if that's not comparable.

I've heard similar stories from others since.

I agree. Our CEO has children and his wife was due while I worked there. He only took a week off during the whole labor and recovery and was back in the office within a week.

I also felt like it really spoke to his personality and rubbed the workers in a bad way.

I would give her a slack. Having something that is not childbirth to think about actually helps a lot during period before it - when you basically wait in pain and boredom for long. I understand the leading by example issue there and would not promote the story as example to follow, but still.

If the things go well (e.g. no injuries), there is also aspect of feeling able to do things and feeling strong while being expected to be iddle most of the time (babies sleep a lot at that stage and you are not used to be iddle at home). It can be quite frustrating.

I think you're making a very fair point. I really don't think she meant it in a pressuring way - but then I personally liked her - even if it was understood as that by some. I think it shows a bit how a) communication is important b) women can't quite do it right around childbirth.

Binary dude here. My example of an awesome culture starts with founders who actually give a shit about people. I was hired and then the company was preemted on a series B. Rather than letting me start and telling me my options were going to be priced higher, the founders reached out with a checklist form the lawyers so they could give me work and get my start date _before_ the deal closed.

Another anecdote would be bring your kids to work day. Everyone went out of the way to make sure the few of us with kids brought them in and that we had a nice event. It's funny, I told the founders my wife was pregnant with twins while I was interviewing. I had kept this a secret from the job I was leaving because I didn't want them to have leverage over me.

We also have women on the leadership team, etc... but I don't really think that's the key (after all, 3 dudes founded the company and they hired women for key positions). I think it all boils down to not being jerks and really caring about the people you work with and the people your product helps (yeah, we've got an actual mission and not the usual silicon valley bs about trying to change the world).

And, our sales team has already hit their numbers ... for the year so we're hiring engineers to try to keep up with the growth. PM me if you're interested in learning more about the team :)

If you have an interview at their office (and you should), keep an eye on the decor and the body language of the people working there. Ask to see any common areas, the places where people hang out at lunch time. What kinds of posters do you see, what kinds of memes? Although to each their own, you can get a good sense of what's considered appropriate by how people decorate their space, and how comfortable they appear.

In the military we work with all sorts of people, at least with respect to gender, race, religion, and to a lesser extent sexuality. At the same time, admittedly most were Republican and none of us did drugs.

If you're willing work with Republicans and/or non-drug users (most tech people are super far left and absolutely will not) then working for an ex-mil manager or with ex-mil coworkers will likely be an extremely pleasant experience as they're very comfortable around people of color and women. On the other hand, if weed smoking on duty and membership in Antifa is also required (why?), the ex-mil department might not be as good of a fit.

On a larger scale piece of advice, even if you don't apply this specific match, it is useful to consider that its highly unlikely that your definition of the progressive stack perfectly and precisely matches everyone else on the planets individual definition of the progressive stack, so hopefully inspired by this post, you'll pay close attention to variations in progressive stack composition, assuming you pick your next job solely on political compatibility.

If you're willing work with Republicans and/or non-drug users (most tech people are super far left and absolutely will not)

The vast majority of tech workers either do not care or would dislike it if their co-workers did drugs. To say that they would only work with people who use drugs is preposterous.

Also, even at the Silicon Valley companies whose workers you are presumably referring to, political ideologies are, in my own experience, much more diverse than you may expect.

To be honest, if anything, your preconception of other environments does not advertise your own environment well. I can't even tell if there's actually a tech company somewhere stupid enough to say they require someone to agree with antifa, or it's just made up. But mentioning that as something more than a crazy outlier is silly.

I don't think the remark about antifa was meant to be taken literally. Of course, no one will put it in the job description.

Do you think it's easy to be supportive of the current US president, supportive of Brexit and sceptical of climate alarmism while working in tech (or in academia, for that matter)? I do not find it easy at all.

Supportive, or actively promoting? I don't think it's any problem to be supportive - there's no reason it needs to be known in the workplace. You don't have to engage with your peers about your political views. I worked with people I don't agree with and we just didn't talk about it. (at work)

It's a different thing if you want to actively talk about it, but then you need to be ready to receive the responses.

Not if that job relies on being able to evaluate evidence or change your beliefs on the basis of observed outcomes. But that's not because of value-less "political beliefs"; it's because people who prioritize partisanship over evidence, on either side of the political divide, are going to have problems in environments that reward responding to feedback. Anti-capitalist anarchists who don't believe in supply-and-demand probably have the same problem.

Though openly supporting racist, anti-immigrant policies in a field with so many talented immigrants may actually be a unique challenge. Promoting policies that attack your coworkers seems like it would alienate a lot of people, at least if you expect to be able to share your beliefs about how people like them shouldn't exist.

Evidence and outcomes?

There is evidence that current eco-policies are pushing industry and hence economic power into the hands of an insane totalitarian regime and nobody seems to be discussing possible outcomes of that.

There is evidence that H1B has been abused by body shops for a very long time now and nobody seemed to care until some Americans really got pissed and partisan about it.

He is talking about requirements the job seeker put on their workplace. I.e. "if you want to be able to do drugs on duty or if you want to be part of antifa then you will not fit."

...dude, what?!

You have an incredibly weird, and adversarial, opinion of 'most tech people'.

I'd work with Republican ex-military folks as long as they didn't force their political opinions on me, and I'd know that I should keep my (British moderate, so from American POV very far left) views to myself. I've worked on events with a couple of ex British army guys, and they are extremely competent and very interesting people.

That was not my experience working at a defense contractor, and it was obviously not because I do drugs. I haven't found military service a relevant signal for levels of sexism, either positive or negative.

I find that last observation very interesting. Decades ago, my Reserves unit was extremely diverse compared to every IT environment I've ever worked in since then. I had a female sergeant, a black SFC platoon leader... In my civilian career I had exactly one female superior and I worked with exactly three black people, ever, so far, as numerous people have noted IT is super non-diverse.

The prevailing strategy in the civilian world to improve things, under the assumption that non-diversity is bad, seems to be to bring the diversity numbers up, surely achieving military support unit levels of diversity is numerically impossible but a little higher would be realistic, and pounding out bad behavior although surely not as effectively as the military pounds out bad behavior. Then things will magically be better. Apparently at least sometimes that strategy is unsuccessful as the military is obviously vastly far superior to civilian environments by both metrics yet the result is not superior.

Of course there might be sample size anecdotal issues, etc.

If the observed primary civilian strategy is measurably and comparatively a failure mode, then what strategies DO work?

I suspect part of the disconnect is that not all the ex-mil folks I've worked with were coming from support units: overall the military still has a lower percentage of women than software development does, and it was even lower when some of the people I was working with were enlisted. Also, although as a civilian I would never make such generalizations, it does seem that different branches attract different kinds of people.

Military hiring, of taking all comers over certain transparently-published bars and then turfing out bad actors and training the rest, is a strategy I'm not sure any tech company has tried. I've long wanted to compare our interviewing strategies to "random" to see if our screening actually contributing anything to outcomes.

It's not that there is nothing that could be learned, but as a woman I wouldn't use someone's veteran status as signal on whether or not they are likely to be sexist.

> Military hiring, of taking all comers over certain transparently-published bars and then turfing out bad actors and training the rest, is a strategy I'm not sure any tech company has tried. I've long wanted to compare our interviewing strategies to "random" to see if our screening actually contributing anything to outcomes.

This is an amazing point. I've never really thought about it before. Thanks!

Make sure you will be a valuable and highly respected member of the team, and not "quoted in" (men/women quota).

TL;DR build your trusted network, ask friends, consider freelancing

There is no place or social group free of toxicity. There is always a chance you meet some bad guy or gal in the hierarchy, especially with some overwhelming majority. Unfortunately mostly you will find one by experiencing that yourself. What may save you from these issues may be peers selection and workplace flexibility.

Regarding the employment, the interviews I had most of the time were some kind of PR farse. No way the interviewer is going share to candidate the team's dirty secrets and company taboos, especially abuse issues. So far for me the good source of information with very low B/S levels are my trusted friends and their friends. Before joining a new place I usually do private research with them.

Therefore what I would suggest is to build your professional network, participate in local interest groups, meetups etc with people who share or accept your POV. Just e.g. in my nearby city (smaller than STL) there are several dev groups built by women who work for variety of companies. Activity in such groups may open you to new ideas, friendly opportunities, referrals. I believe even some successful start-ups were born from such gigs.

Also, have you considered freelancing? Being your own employer may make you professionally independent and significantly shield you from people who trespass into your private life. Similarly to the interest groups you can keep portfolio of clients who accept you as you are.

+1 for no place short of toxicity. Gender doesn't matter, workplace doesn't really matter... At one of my past workplaces, the most toxic person was a female C-level. Whole departments that were moved under her would quit, but she and the CEO were buddies and he'd never get rid of her.

At one of my previous workplaces, the owner was a particularly opinionated woman, who had her favorites and her non-favorites.

If you were on the good side, as long as you were even marginally competent, life was roses. If you were on the other, you could be virtually perfect, and she would find something to reinforce her negative opinion about you.

Oddly enough, it was mostly other women that were the focus of her ire. Not 100%, but she was blatantly harder on her female subordinates than on most of us men. It was an... illuminating experience across the board. I left after a year, and in retrospect I should have left a lot sooner. Toxic work environments really get to you, no matter what.

I second the freelance approach.

I've been working on my own, for myself for the past 10+ years, and the point where I finally had a large enough client base that I could afford to fire all my obnoxious clients, and only work with people I have a genuine rapport with, was as satisfying as anything else I've ever done for my career.

Now, I do IT for small businesses, which simply by its nature has its share of SHTF moments of stress. But when you know for a fact that the people you work with will actually work with you, together, to solve a problem instead of blaming/yelling/harassing... I'd happily deal with a hundred CryptoLocker hits with them than one with a client who treats you like dirt.

I also think it is important to note that this advice is 100% agnostic. It applies to anyone who might enjoy working on their own, regardless of dangly bits, need for supplemental vitamin D, or orientation. Just remember that it is people that make the job, and focus on working with ones you genuinely like.

I'd go to LinkedIn (or their About page if they are small enough) and just look at the people. The more diversity you see, the more they are walking the walk. You can also look thru past employees via LinkedIn (might require premium account) and reach out to diverse folks who've left the companies you're considering.

Funny thing about the beer-- we got draft cold brew coffee at work and went out of our way to design and laser-cut a tap handle that says "Coffee" so candidates wouldn't think it was a beer keg.

Other ideas: run their job post through Textio (https://textio.com/ ).

Disclaimer: I am a white dude, but my company of 65 (in Seattle) is about half women on the engineering side of things. It was a lot of work.

Side note: I find it funny that 9/10 of Textio's software engineers are men, but they do have two "customer success engineers" who are both women. No women in senior technical roles.


Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact