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Ask HN: Women in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments?
459 points by z_shell 8 months ago | hide | past | web | 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...

sigh


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.


Absolutely.

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:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_employment_discrimination...


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.

Peace.


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.

Peace.


"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:

http://ncase.me/polygons/

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.


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!


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.

https://www.fastcompany.com/28121/they-write-right-stuff

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.)


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?


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.


Really?

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.


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.


I'm not a woman but I have a few ideas that might help:

* Check glassdoor.com to see what current and former employees have said about the company and how they rate it. While the feedback may not be specific to gender / diversity concerns, you can probably get a good feel for whether or not it's a happy place or a disgruntled place.

* Ask how many women work there in developer roles.

* Try to find a publicly traded company to work at verses a startup. A publicly traded company has a real HR department and potentially a lot to lose if they get sued. In a startup, there typically is no HR department. There might be one person who is in charge of some HR-related things like benefit administration, but that person is not equipped to deal with things like handling sexual harassment allegations. That person is also likely be friends with the founders.


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.


Disclaimer: not a woman, but this exact question just recently came up among several of my female friends in another forum I follow. I'm not sure I like or agree with their conclusions, but I'll pass them on in the hopes they'll be useful.

They came up with two big questions that have surprising predictive power:

1.) Do you have daughters?

2.) Does your wife work outside the home? (Probably couched in more neutral language like "Oh, what does your wife do for a living?")

[The women in question were director/VP level, and so were directing this toward CEOs and C-level execs. Presumably they'd be asked of your direct boss. Both questions can be easily worked into basic rapport-building smalltalk, i.e. you don't directly ask them this in the interview, you just casually inquire about their family. Also, this assumes a male boss; the conversation mostly ignored the question of female bosses, other than to note that women who had to fight hard to get where they are during the 70s and 80s can be surprisingly tyrannical towards younger women coming up.]

The daughter effect has been pretty well-documented in the media [1][2]; it appears that even the most sexist men want their daughters to succeed, and that rubs off in how they treat women in the workplace. (See eg. Ivanna vs. Ivanka Trump.) The reason for asking about whether the wife works outside the home is that in two-career couples, the husband necessarily needs to take on a larger share of the housework & childcare, which makes them more sympathetic to the constraints & sacrifices that a working mother has to make.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/fatherhood/1093...

[2] https://www.fastcompany.com/3032432/why-men-with-daughters-m...


Such line of questions would pretty much disqualify you in my eyes, regardless if I'm the interviewer or the candidate. Not just because of the improperly personal nature, but also they require a lot of assumptions and random chances in order to be remotely considered useful. Note that I'm not challenging the statistical correlation with certain outcomes, but I'm questioning the mindset of someone who would use them to make a decision.


Upvoted. I'll tell about my family sometime later.

One possible reason I came up with however in defense of the women who said this (yeah, old habit) is maybe this is more relevant in VP / CEX level hiring processes were I guess a certain amount of socializing takes place before contracts are signed?


Socializing may happen at all levels, for example if the candidate is taken out to lunch. In that context the information may come out.

The big problem is that the margin of error for judging an individual case on such factors is enormous. If the CEO is a guy and has daughters then there's a 16% chance he will treat his female employees better, or close the wage gap by 3%, than he did before having daughters. If not, then... what? The stat is only applicable to "CEOs that have daughters"... how do you compare with other kids of CEOs? If you are not careful, your brain will start filling in the gaps, creating false correlations, and worse yet, feel encouraged to look for or come up for more, even less substantiated correlations. It's a very slippery slope.

Or maybe I'm only saying all this because a long time ago, I thought the fact that my future CEO liked to play the violin meant he cared about the art we were going to produce. You won't believe what happened next! ;)


I think we agree. I just tried to come up with an explanation as to why this would be suggested.


Wow. I would decline to answer any question related to my family or family situation. It's inappropriate for the interviewer to ask this of a candidate and the reverse is equally inappropriate.


The reason for asking about whether the wife works outside the home is that in two-career couples, the husband necessarily needs to take on a larger share of the housework & childcare, which makes them more sympathetic to the constraints & sacrifices that a working mother has to make.

It is a lot more complicated than that. My ex was very idealistic and sincerely saw himself as pro women's lib, yet we had this 1950's style marriage. And he just could not follow basic logic concerning things keeping me trapped in "barefoot and pregnant" mode (so to speak).

I would talk about wanting to go to college and live elsewhere during the week and see him on weekends since he hardly saw me M-F anyway and there wasn't an acceptable local college that met my needs, and he would accuse me of trying to destroy the marriage. I would note that his job frequently took him away from the family and he would rebut that with "Someone has to support the family." He just could not see that this was sexist -- that the reason he had a career and I did not was because if his job took him away from the family, well, that was to be expected. If my ambitions took me away from the family, that was somehow nefarious, traitorous behavior and "LA LA LA NOT SEXISM, this is merely because I am the breadwinner and you are the homemaker, that's all." (Insert huge eyerolls here.)

We divorced for other reasons. He's a great guy in many ways. But there were things he just could not wrap his brain around.

So if the guy has a little wifey at home, even if he means well and is idealistic, you can find yourself dealing with this kind of shit. And it may not get any better (unless he gets divorced and remarries or something -- my ex apparently learned to cook after we divorced, shock of shockers).


I meant it (well, they did...I'm just passing along conclusions) the other way around - having a boss where the wife has a career equal to his is a positive indication, while having one with a stay-at-home wife is a negative indication. The idea is that someone who has chosen to marry and stay married to a career woman is quite literally putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to women's equality: he's making concrete sacrifices with his time to ensure that housework & childcare is split between partners, because otherwise it just wouldn't get done. And because of this, he's more likely to be understanding & empathetic when faced with employees who have to make the same trade-offs.


Oh, I know which way you meant it. I was agreeing with you and saying "Men with old fashioned marriages are often incapable of putting their money where their mouth is, no matter how much they would like to see themselves as enlightened and egalitarian. It is a dance they may have zero experience with. Imagining they can do this dance and actually practicing the dance steps is where their ideals and their choices part company."


Is there any actual evidence of this?


It is a general truism that people with zero experience doing X are incredibly bad at figuring out how on earth to effectively cope with X. It isn't something intentionally malicious, but it can cause all kinds of problems. I recall reading about some group setting up a meeting to try to reach out to Jewish people in the community and scheduling it for a really major Jewish holiday the equivalent of something like Christmas. No Jewish people showed up for this meeting, the whole point of which was "We know so little about what Jewish people in the community want and need that we are soliciting their input and trying to build bridges, but can't even be arsed to check a Jewish calendar before blithely picking a date that works fine for non-Jews."

This is the sort of thing women routinely deal with that creates problems because having to explain to your boss that this is even a problem for you is such a huge and fundamental issue.


It was anecdotal, and I'm not going to reveal the identities or experiences of the women involved. The OP asked for experiences & advice, and so I passed along as much of the experience & advice as I could. If you (or any reader) finds it helpful, great; if you don't, well, ultimately you are the only one responsible for deciding whose advice you act on.


It's known as a stereotype. "Men who do not have career wives are trouble/red flags/misogynist pigs." Unfortunately, this stereotype appears to be perfectly acceptable on this board.



This seems like terrible advice to me. "Men with daughters are less sexist" and "Men whose wives work are more sympathetic to working mothers" are extremely vague, only loosely correlated to what you want to know, and pure anecdata. Someone could make up an equally plausible counter-argument (say, "men with young daughters are more likely to infantilize female coworkers"), but it would still just be story-telling.

If you want to know how your possible-future boss treats the women he works with, how about, "Have you had any women report to you? How'd that work out? Were there conflicts, and if so, how did you resolve them? Do you think they'd be happy to work for you again?" I'd be happy to answer those questions. Asking what my wife does for a living will get you a very awkward, "Er, let's get back to the interview."


I will happily acknowledge all of your criticisms, since I agree with them.

But I'll also point out a big problem with your suggested other questions: employers know that this is a hot-button issue for some prospective employees, and they will adjust their answers accordingly. There is a right answer when a female interviewee asks "Would your previous female reports be happy to work for you again?" - could you imagine anyone answering "No, actually they hate my guts"? And so the only way to get accurate information is to either ask indirect questions, or to ask them to indirect people (eg. finding other women who have worked for this person and asking them what they thought, which is suggested elsewhere in the thread).

Same reason that no sane employer gives interviews that consist of asking "Do you think you're a good employee?", and only slightly better is "Tell me why I should hire you" or "Tell me about your biggest weakness". Sure, you'll get an answer, but it's very likely to be a.) predictable and b.) not highly correlated with how you eventually evaluate their job performance.


Have you done many interviews? The solution to "people lie sometimes" is not to rely on correlation-to-a-correlation Ouija board bullshit, it's to delve and ask for more detail until you're satisfied the person isn't bullshitting. I want to know if candidates are smart and hard-working; I don't ask them "Are you smart and hard-working", and I don't ask them what their spouse does for a living based on some cockamamie theory about how that relates to anything. I ask them to describe a project they worked on and their role in it and how it went, and I keep asking supporting questions and follow-ups until I'm pretty sure I know whether I want to hire them or not.

Candidates need to do the same thing: delve, ask for details, and keep going until they're satisfied that they know whether this is a job they want. I think those questions I posted are a good way to do that. If OP asks those questions, and then asks follow-ups, until she's pretty well convinced that this is/isn't someone she wants to work for, my suspicion is she'll very likely be right.


Again, I don't disagree with you. I will never be in a situation like the OP is asking for, because I'm male and so "how will my manager treat women?" is not a question that is professionally relevant to me. When I do interview employers, my procedure is largely as you suggest, except focused on engineering practices, capital structure, runway, and the specific role I'll be fulfilling in the company.

But I'll point out that what you're actually building, with the procedure you suggest, is a mental model of how a candidate is likely to perform in a role, given the information that you can find out about them. It is still a model, and you make a number of assumptions in it (notably, that past performance may predict future results, and that a candidate's description of how they handled a project is actually how they handled it, and that information about how they handled it is more predictive than asking them to do a shortened project in front of you). Some of those assumptions I'd agree with, some of them I wouldn't. My point is that these two questions are ones that a couple different women I know have found predictive of how a manager will treat them, and that these women are fairly high-up in their careers and generally satisfied with them. They are not necessarily the questions I would use, but because I will never be in the situation that they or the OP is in, they are probably a lot more relevant to the OP's situation than any mental models I use.


> this assumes a male boss

The second question further assumes that the boss is in a heterosexual relationship...


...and that they have kids. The women in question were actually called on this by another childless woman within the community, pointing out that single & childless employees may still also have family obligations or other reasons they have to leave work at a set time.

In my opinion, these questions are problematic in a number of ways (my other big beef with them is that they discriminate based on characteristics that the manager has no control of, which don't directly measure the attribute you're looking for). Nevertheless, employers make snap judgments about potential employees all the time based on indirect-yet-predictive attributes; it's not unfair for prospective employees to do the same thing about their potential employer.


Whatever works for you but these questions are very rude and unnecessarily intrusive. Imagine the questions with the genders reversed.


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).


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.


Glowforge?


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.


Asian female SRE here. I've never worked out in the Bay Area so I can't speak to it there, but I've found many places in LA are wonderful, encouraging, and not shitty to minorities in the startup scene. Maybe I've just lucked out, but everywhere I've gone I've been either the only female or one of a few female engineers, but everywhere I've had coworkers who encouraged and mentored me and didn't treat me differently because I'm queer or female.


Hi,

Google SWE here.

I think part of what you are looking for is unfortunately luck. I have a female coworker who had changed teams and she mentioned some of the problems she faced in her previous team, and she then mentioned she was much happier and valued in the new team.

What you can probably do is to try to find a female engineer within the team you'd be joining if possible.

As for Google, I am a male, so what i say wouldn't mean much probably, but my female coworkers and their work is valued - my management chain is pretty great in ensuring that.


I don't pretend to know the formula for success here, but as a gay female POC who has worked in tech since the 90s, I have managed to gain some spidey sense.

My #1 requirement is working for a people-focused organization versus a startup. At startups they are hiring to get to IPO or acquisition and often at people-focused orgs they tend to have maturity and long term plans (and understand value of diversity). I don't mean for this to be an umbrella statement, but just an observation.

When you research a company, check out their employee page and linkedin. See how many women are in leadership positions, what the diversity of the staff is, et al. Ask questions during your interview about their diversity, or goals for diversity. Be observant about who interviews with you, what the people in the office look like, and how they handle your questions. At my company, if a man interviews you, they always ensure that there is a woman in the room. They have a code of conduct policy and put in major effort into creating a diverse workplace.

Another possible avenue for you, would be to connect with the Anita Borg Institute. They are completely focused on women in tech and I imagine have great networking events, lists of top companies, etc.


It's hard to find an academic-type culture without big egos and ignorance.

Look for teams that have a broad range of ages and experiences. These people foster learning and accept they individually don't know everything.

Stay away from mono cultures.

Managers that are involved parents having ongoing experience raising children are great. People without children haven't been forced to learn patience and compassion...day in day out being a responsible parent is like a good manager.


Wow. If only I knew how I'd be disadvantaged in business management by choosing to be child-free. Actually, in practice, it doesn't turn out to be a handicap.


"toxicity" is often a matter of perspective.

But it's never alright to inhibit the world flow. If that inhibition is racism, sexism, alcohol, crude jokes, or (on the other hand) creating drama and magnifying issues it's all no good.

And the law has to be followed. And if you are decent person at whatever level you are you don't annoy others around you at work. And if you are a wise manager you don't allow annoyances, not because you are a good person but because it inhibits the work flow.

It sounds to me maybe more like you are looking for a workplace that suits you. And pays well. Which is cool, I hope you find it. It's all what we want and not many of us get.

But just because it's a lot of white dudes with beer and ping pong table doesn't intrinsically mean "toxic". Any more than ladies who say "shit" at work or talk down "bros" is toxic. It's just various levels of annoyance and what we like to be around and who we can jive with as a team. And it varies. So I'm not sure there is a right answer but check things out and see how you feel, because what you find "toxic" others might find delicious.


lol at "creating drama and magnifying issues" being just as bad as racism and sexism, and also somehow "on the other hand". Groups I've worked in that are all dudes are the most f'king dramatic I've been involved in. No meeting I've been in with multiple women has ever descended into a screaming match.

I fully admit women may be just as capable of being dramatic ego-driven shits as men, and my sample size is just too small, but your dichotomy is dumb.

Besides, "magnifying issues" is a key component of kanban. If you aren't welcome to magnify issues, the culture is probably going to deevolve over time.


It's not a dichotomy though. People often do multiples of the above at the same time. And as you mention, drama or being racist isn't a property of sex.

Which is worse? That is a personal value judgement. But from the perspective of a functional workplace, neither is desirable.

People sometimes forget why we go to work. It isn't for a moral crusade. It's to do work and hopefully make some money. Anything that screws with that is bad for the workplace. That's the bottom line right here in the real world.


My point was that "magnifying issues" is desirable. Fixing issues can't happen unless they are raised. All the teams I work on have weekly retros specifically to magnify issues, and especially to identify issues that might seem too minor to be worth the effort of raising. That is how you can address problems that affect many people a little bit, or that would grow into major problems eventually. Additionally the process of being heard and having people care about your experience builds team camaraderie and cultivates the atmosphere of respect and collaboration I find most productive.

Improvement of culture and process only comes when we're willing to listen to people and take their concerns seriously. Being dismissive of things that bother people is a great way to lose engineers, and also design really shitty products.


Magnifying issues beyond the potential cost of the issue isn't a good idea. Do it too much and you become a disturbance.

Disturbance isn't good. It's a big part of the reason why (aside from legal issues and employee retention) we don't want racism or sexual harassment in a workplace. It causes disturbances. Not because Moses came down from the mountain and said these things are evil.


Ideas for questions

- What % non-white male at junior, senior, management, executive and board levels?

- Are all employees bias trained?

- What is an example of an equality issue the company faced in the last year and how did they respond?

- What is the pay gap between genders, and if not equal and when will it be equal?

- How is the company contributing to addressing industry wide systematic bias? (meetups, philanthropy, education, conferences...)

- Does the office have unisex/non-binary facilities?

- What is the reporting structure for raising issues about other employees behaviour? (how are HR and executive team both accountable for addressing issues?)

- What are the company's 1-5 year priorities for improving the work environment for non-white male people?


While these are all important questions, I wonder if there's a different way to word them. My first reaction if I was looking to hire would be "this candidate is looking to make waves, better find someone else that won't be constantly emailing HR." And I know that's not what you're meaning.


I certainly wouldn't ask for all of this information in an interview (as a candidate), but it's exactly the sort of thing I try to find out when I'm looking up companies to apply to. Unfortunately, most companies aren't up front about this sort of thing - either because they don't know what candidates want, or because they know they'll look bad.


Yep, ideas quickly noted down, not suggestions for wording or approach to communication!


> Are all employees bias trained?

I hope not


Before you leave, I'd love to talk to you. I'm in STL and looking for engineers to work in a professional, supportive, and inclusive environment. steve@aster.is


If you're looking for a challenge, capable of independent research and execution and interested in something different, consider coming to Shenzhen and helping us out on our foodtech robotics startup. I will personally guarantee no hassles. Mechanical engineering/operations research/logistics/food processing backgrounds well regarded. Email in profile, subject 'Candidate: <desired job title>' with resume.


Ask your future employer to let you walk through their office and talk to future colleagues. Then talk to some women already working there. Trust your gut feeling.


Dude here. Maybe scan meetup.com for woman only or themed geek events (in your target area), meet people, network, ask those other women if their gigs are hiring. That's how my male friends have always done it. I started a study group 15+ years ago (before meetups) and that social network has connected most of us with quality gigs.


I'm presuming you want a candid, honest response as opposed to a look-how-inclusive-I-am one, hence the throwaway, so here's what I think you should be asking:

1. How frequently and for what reasons do people there work unpaid overtime? Does management plan it formally (e.g. "crunch time") or is it limited to emergencies like hacking attempts or vendor outages? Does this company think that asking people to put in 'extra effort' is a failure of management, or a regrettable but necessary part of doing business?

2. What's the policy on conferences? If they say they support them and send people, ask if at least half the team has been to one (with travel and lodging paid) in the last year or two.

3. How do they support professional development? You're not looking for little stuff like "we pay for Pluralsight!", you're looking for things like hackathons, paid time for professional development, a formal mentorship program, a developer book club, or other evidence of a genuine culture of improvement within the dev teams.

4. How much freedom do the dev teams have to choose their own stack and tools? If they currently use React, did a Director choose it or did the devs who had to build the UI choose it? If a dev team wanted to experiment with something (e.g. TDD, or pairing/mobbing, or switching from sprints to scrumban), could they just do it and see how it goes? Or would they need their boss's boss's signature first?

You may notice there's nothing on that list about gender, race, diversity, etc. I put it to you that:

a) Diversity is no indicator that you will not be underpaid, mistreated, lied to, etc

b) Few teams will be able to give satisfactory answers to all of those questions

c) Of those teams that can give good answers to all four questions, the proportion that suffer from a miasma of gender/race/etc toxicity will be approximately zero

That said, "good team culture" is extremely subjective, and people here can't tell you how to find a company you'll like any more than we can tell you how to find a bar you'll like. You should figure out what you value (e.g. interuption-free focus time vs. frequent informal collaboration, remote distributed team vs. everyone-is-in-the-same-room, "bust ass to get rich" startup vs "eveyone leaves at 5pm" established company, etc) and treat those as just as important as the four questions I listed.

Best of luck in your search.


> Diversity is no indicator that you will not be underpaid, mistreated, lied to, etc

Actually it really is. Minorities tend to have higher bars against that kind of crap compared to the Tech Brogrammer Majority(tm).


Table tennis is a legitimate sport. Like at the Olympics. I had a woman who worked for me (I'm a guy) who was ranked and she would slaughter me. I didn't find this to be a toxic work environment at all.

But I'd be put off at seeing beer, free or otherwise at work. The brogrammer culture doesn't work for me.


I look for women/PoC in senior management and / or technical leadership. I generally prefer more conservative workplaces where emphasis is on results rather than socialising. Also if you can ask around about pay and see whether they are large pay differentials for the same or similar levels of work.


Try to find a workplace where at least 1 other woman works in the same department. Guys will fell a lot less comfortable harassing you if it's not just "her" but "them". They can no longer expect that all other coworkers will have the same male point of view.


California is huge, where in CA are you looking to move? If you go to Northern CA then it's mostly white. If you go to San Francisco Bay Area, it's half Asian (Chinese or Indian descent) half white. If you go to LA, it's even more diverse, more ethnicities in tech, a little like NYC.

In terms of women vs "bros" - I'm a bro by the way, your average Joe - I'd google about companies that promote internal communities like "women in tech", "women XYZ", etc. You'd most likely end up in a women friendly environment.

In terms of salaries, same thing. There are a few tech companies that promote equal pay. Just google it.

Also, using the term "harassment" is pretty strong. You make it sound like it's part of the everyday life for women in tech. By that you mean being surrounded by boys who act like boys? There's nothing much you can do here because there are still more males than females in this field, which is unfortunate. Time will help! I hope. Good luck in your search.


although 'toxic' implies some wrongdoing, which is usually not the case, as a guy i would recommend to avoid places like the one i work at. by this i mean businesses where the devs are guys and the only women are found in other (read higher) positions.

Although this phenomenon is often just a result of statistics (devs being male, hr managers being female, other managers 50-50), this has a creeping influence on people. from personal experience it made me more negative in my attitude towards women. i suspect it can breed hostility in others as well.

A second thing that can breed a hostile attitudes towards you is if you are at the same place as a higher up who is a male personal (esp. family) connection of yours.


I understand where you're coming from entirely, but I think that if you approach your search with the same approach that came across in your post, you're never going to find anything that'll make you happy.

Other people might accuse you of having an attitude, but to me it looks like a combination of frustration and exasperation. If you're looking to not experience something, you're not focused on the experience you want and you might find yourself stuck in the same loop wherever you go.

Instead of looking for the culture you don't want, consider the things that would be indicative of a culture you want to be part of and look for that. It may not be in CA. In fact, what you're looking for might be somewhere as far afield as New Zealand or Germany.

If you can identify even a few things that you would definitely want to see that would indicate a culture you'd like to be a part of (e.g. presence of other women, people of colour, non-binary etc, relaxed environment, team rather than individual performance focus etc.) then you may find that will help you find places that have that culture.


The thing is, spending few months in an environment where they underestimate you every time it matters or pick on you daily is quite a hit and it is good idea to avoid it. Among other things, the way you need to behave there is different (don't speak unless 150% sure, don't brainstorm, don't be creative, don't problem solve) and then it takes effort to unlearn those habits - that affects you even more then it being unpleasant.

Especially if you are young and should be learning from seniors. While it can happen to anyone (including proverbial white dudes - really I have seen that) a women is more at risk.


I've seen it too. A good friend of mine was systematically undermined by his boss, as his boss was promoted he basically pressured the team into taking over the undermining, and would reward them for doing so, or punish them for not doing so. Every time he tried to move department, his boss would step in and block it.

That sort of thing really knocks it out of you, and while he could've probably taken the employer to court and won, he'd have a hell of a fight on his hands and it'd tar the rest of his career (he spent a fair few years before this boss turned up).

I think there's a world of difference between a culture that ignores the needs of people that don't fit like a glove, and a culture that actively persecutes. Either can be a bad experience, but the latter is pretty much guaranteed for all involved.


I replied earlier, but here are a few more ideas:

* Ask if the company is involved in mentoring, community outreach, or any other type of philanthropic activity. If they do some things like Script Ed for example, they're probably nice people and not sexist d-bags.(Although I wouldn't assume that the inverse is also true).

* Ask if the company participates in any diversity initiatives or conferences.

HTH


I'm in STL and starting companies. What are you interested in working on?


come to Curbside https://curbside.com/jobs/, half of the engineers, half of the employees are female. Half of the employees are non-white. ALL YOU NEED TO BE IS SMART.


get a job becoming a remote developer for a good software company.


Why not stop off in Boulder on your way to CA?


Maybe it's "grass is always greener syndrome" but as someone who grew up in the Denver area I'd rather head to Washington or California than stay in CO. As with any city, Boulder works for some but not all; I'd caution that the Denver area has its own challenges for minorities and vulnerable populations. Racism, sexism, any other type of bigotry: I've seen it while growing up here.


Have you ever thought about you are being toxic? No offense, really, I'm just arguing by anecdotal evidence: I claim that people who are putting too much value on their gender - be it their biological or their social - tend to poison their environment by themselves because they're are interpreting many things as offense.

I've had one friend who put a lot on gender, and I fully agree with her, especially if people like her chooses being a woman. But her character was so negative, so that I have to assume, that she will always be confronted with "toxic environments".

To sum up: Concentrate on your performance if you think you're confronted with a sexist or racist environment, try to speak up. If nothing improves, leave the company.


Maybe there would be less toxicity in your life if you stopped looking for it.

You sound like you're approaching the problem with the mindset that the entire industry is built around bro culture and harassment. I think that's a slanderous media/pop culture stereotype.


Even if you're not wrong about OP in particular, there are real places that inspired that stereotype, and avoiding them is a valid concern.


Woman: "Women in tech, I'm looking for help navigating X issues that are specific to my gender's well publicized challenges in the industry."

Men of HN: "None of this is real, stop making stuff up."

...

I dunno; I've found metafilter has some folks in tech who might be more useful to you. Maybe this thread will become less of a clusterfuck as time goes on.

My experience has been that asking to talk to a woman on the team has been helpful. If HR / the manager think that's weird, they'll probably not be terribly good allies anyway.


> Men of HN

No, that's not fair. The commenters you're referring to exist, and so do many others.

Edit: There's a pattern on HN, and maybe other internet communities as well, where the first comments to appear on a topic (especially one on which people are divided and have strong feelings) tend to be angry, reflexive ones by people who are quickly triggered and respond from pre-existing judgments. That doesn't mean they're representative of the community. Just the opposite: the majority of the community is more thoughtful than that, and thoughtful responses take longer to come up with. (It took me 30x longer to write this paragraph than the first one.)

As a thread continues, more thoughtful responses typically emerge. Such comments take longer to read and consider, too. These eventually get upvoted. The process takes time, and you can see it clearly in the current thread.


Dan, your argument about the community would be more compelling if it weren't for the fact that threads like these usually wear concrete shoes in the HN ranking pool. The only portions of these threads most normal readers see is the most toxic part.

I spend a lot of time apologizing for the 10-15 toxic minutes these things spend on the front page before they're flagged out of sight. I understand why that happens, but whatever we want to call it, "healthy" probably isn't it.


Thank you for saying this. For a community that prides itself on rationality, it's insane that every single issue needs to be relitigated from a position of absolute ignorance. Every "prior" needs to be set at 0.5, right?

While I enjoy the technical expertise that I often find on HN, I'd be more inclined to actually talk about issues like sexism, politics, etc. if I didn't have to start by answering questions like, "is sexism even real?", "was slavery so bad?", "H1Bs are indentured servants", etc.


Where has anyone seriously questioned whether slavery was bad, and not immediately downvoted to oblivion?


I think it is a reasonably fair generalization. A bit hyperbolic to make a point, but given that, I'd call it reflective of my experience here. And I say that as a guy.

Every time I see a topic like this come up here I flinch, because I know there will be a lot of garbage, and quite often the garbage will predominate. I know you've been working on that, and I appreciate it. I hope we get there. But we're far from there yet.


As a HN moderator maybe reconsider making #notallmen type responses. Sexism on HN is prevalent and it's harmful when moderators minimize this issue by emphasizing not all comments are awful.

The barrage of sexist comments that show up every time this subject is discussed is clear evidence this community has a sexism problem.


Common, while there are some sexist comments, majority are not. Paranoia over sexism harms too - there is no reason to promote more fear then is actually reasonable.

Women are not helped by painting the world worst then it really is - that just makes women less likely try things that could turn out enjoyable or profitable.

IMO, that is one of the things that holds women back - the moment we poke out of cocoon helpful people feel the need to inform us about grave imagined dangers and some end up believing that. If you want more females to try out these things, dont overestimate problems (nor ignore them).


In response to OPs polite, inoffensive, post someone told them to "go away"; suggested they had a "mental disorder"; was told they'd never be hired, etc.

And this is after only a single hour of the post going up.


I ctrl-f'd for the posts you mentioned and found all of them to be downvoted and/or flagged.

There's going to be hostility on the internet. That's why some users can downvote or flag posts that don't add anything to the discussion.

I can see maybe one or two comments that I don't feel contribute anything near the top of the page, and that's because they were posted so recently it would be wrong to kill them immediately.

HN is not perfect, but it's damn good, especially when you give it time (as 'dang mentioned above).


I missed those - I read whole discussion when it was young and did not had those comments yet, refreshed, quickly read the rest and missed them somehow.

Then I reacted also because the fear thing is a bit of pet peeve of mine.


> Sexism on HN is prevalent

Sexism on HN is prevalent amongst the most downvoted comments on the page perhaps...

I wouldn't say this community has a sexism problem any more than "real life has a sexism problem", the same - or worse, heavily upvoted sexist comments can be found in just about any other online community, so making it out like HN in particular has a problem when quite clearly the majority around here do not exhibit that is quite a stretch.


> I wouldn't say this community has a sexism problem any more than "real life has a sexism problem"

I guess I've only been using HN for... [looks at bio] 9.77 years. But yes, I'd say HN is significantly worse than real life. And honestly, I expect it to be better. It's backed by YC. It's a professional forum for people who pride themselves on being smart and rational.

Almost every time a topic like this comes up here I consider it an embarrassment. I am always encouraging people to get involved in tech. I would like this to be a place I can send people new to the industry. But the amount of sheer garbage on anything that doesn't coddle the feelings of white men means I can't.


I'm not suggesting HN is the worst. But it's pretty bad, as are tech communities generally. Because I care about HN I want it to be better.

HN isn't separate from real life, it's part of it. Many people have built their careers through HN. Companies get funded through HN and people launch their startups on HN. This place is real, and if it's not welcoming to women, people of color, or other marginalized groups then that's a problem.


> HN isn't separate from real life, it's part of it.

I wasn't suggesting it's separate - I was simply suggesting that I think its sexism level is comparable to many "real world" average places. I think that's pretty good, especially for the Internet where the disconnect is often larger.

Unless you're suggesting women and minorities are turned off immediately by heavily down-voted comments, many of which are hidden unless you check the "show me the bad stuff" box then I don't think "not welcoming" is an accurate description. I can't speak to race or sex, but with other things at least, I know that seeing nasty comments present but heavily downvoted is a sort of comfort to me.


I would ask you to reconsider your attitude here. There is a strong element of unfair and unfounded accusation in this thread that has basically created bad-faith dialogue here. While there may be insensitive or even overtly sexist people that comment here, your own minimization of unfair attitudes w.r.t the presence of good men with your snide hashtag reference is a serious part of the problem too.


I'm not being snide with #notallmen. The hashtag exists because denial is such a common response when sexism is pointed out.

dang acts like sexism is just like any other topic on which HN is passionate and divided. Like tabs versus spaces, or whether linux is ready for the desktop.

Sexism is far more pernicious and far more serious than those other hot button topics though, so it should not be piled onto that heap.

I'm baffled by the suggestion that reasonable responses somehow negate the hateful bile others post. If somebody gets sexually harassed by 3 people in the office, does it help to point out the other 17 people have done no sexual harassment at all?


> I'm baffled by the suggestion that reasonable responses somehow negate the hateful bile others post. If somebody gets sexually harassed by 3 people in the office, does it help to point out the other 17 people have done no sexual harassment at all?

not a comparable situation. the comparable situation is when one man is accused of sexism, then all other men by proxy are judged as if they are sexists.


Your sibling comment is a strong rebuttal to the parent. This comment though basically confirms the suspicion of the parent.

The argument on this subthread is that you can't judge the response of the community based on the most immediate, knee-jerk comments written on a thread. What you're doing is attempting to co-opt that sentiment into rebutting the question the thread is based on.


let me now reply in more temperate and deliberate language, since this deserves discussion. I would appreciate it if when you disagree with me you attempt to discuss the disagreement with me instead of making assumptions about what I think or believe.

The OP of this thread asks women specifically how to find an employer that she might feel comfortable working at. That is a fair question, though personally I believe that toxic workplaces for women are also toxic workplaces for almost all men as well. But fine, that's not the issue. Some men have responded even though they were asked not to and some of those responses have been thoughtful and potentially useful.

In this subthread a HN moderator told a poster that they had made an unfair comment. That was refuted by another HN poster who asked the moderator to reverse his judgment because it his his responsibility as a moderator to support a particular political agenda that the other poster wants him to support.

I asked that person to reconsider their attitude because, like the moderator, I believe that there was a significant element of unfairness in this subthread and the moderator was correct to call it out because it leads to uncivil and unproductive discussions, as well as encouraging a kind of prejudicial attitude about men.

I agree with the moderator. That is the extent of my statement in this thread. In what way am I co-opting something? What am I co-opting? How does my language accomplish that, if that is what I am doing?

Maybe you will speak to your own positions here as well, since that might advance the conversation. You seem to enjoy sniping me so I don't hold out much hopes, but maybe you'll be nice. What do you think is going on here?


The moderator told a commenter they'd made an unfair comment. You attempted to assumptively apply that response to the topic of the whole thread. Seems like a simple enough criticism to have made of your comment.


Perhaps, then, we need a better system that enables women to have productive conversations here.


I wanted to come back to this, because I actually really appreciate the moderation going on in this thread. I obviously don't know how women feel about it, but I hadn't noticed those features before and it's let me get a lot more value out of this discussion.


I don't really get the reference to ping pong tables and free beer...?

Is it a metaphor, or is the commenter literally referring to those things?

I've worked in a range of places * Investment bank - German, very formal, very little perks * Options Trading Company - Dutch, laid-back, casual dress, free alcohol, free food, lots of games, lots of perks * Database Company - Tech startup, fairly well funded, casual dress, alcohol and some games (e.g pool). - medium perks * Search Engine Company (Current) - Tech, well funded, casual dress, free food, games and consoles everywhere - lots of perks

I don't drink alcohol - and I don't really play ping pong or pool. And I don't play console games.

But if I interview at a place and saw those things around, I'm not really sure I'd hold it against the place.

I mean, sure, other people can enjoy them, and I won't. As long as they provide some things I want, that's cool with me.

It sounds like a lot of what the commenter wants/desires are personal preferences, as opposed to gender things.

What's to say a girl can't enjoy beer? Or ping pong? (I studied engineering in uni - and there were girls there who could drink most guys under the table.)

I mean, I don't want/enjoy some of those things - but I'm not a woman. Sure, you get the occasional stupid comment from some guy when you order a cranberry juice at a work function instead of drinking beer like the "bros" - but that's happened what, once in 7 years? And I suspect (and took it) as more an off-key joke than anything malicious.


The problem with your comments in this thread (along with several other users' comments) is that they take the discussion in a generic direction, which makes it less interesting. The topic is about women because the question was about women, and there's a lot to discuss about that. The best parts of this thread have clearly been the answers from women about their concrete experience. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the wide range of experiences and perspectives they show.

Subtly changing the subject by negating that bit—the one bit that makes the topic specific—worsens the thread, first by genericizing it, which always lowers discussion quality, and then by provoking other users who care about the original topic, resulting in yet another flamewar that we can all do well to avoid. Think about it this way: you basically changed the subject to yourself when the question wasn't about you (and you were far from the only user who did this).

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14491171 and marked it off-topic.


Yes, I mean it as a metaphor. I do enjoy beer and video games personally and absolutely don't mind a group of colleagues going for beer if they like. Because then it is a group of colleagues out of many not company culture. I wont investigate the fridge during interview for stocked bottle. It is when the beer and pong come up as larger point during interview, when hiring manager brags about non-work oriented things whole company does together often. If they went the diversity by cringy art way and bragged about common coloring sessions, I would run away too. It suggests a couple of things:

a.) Less meritocracy - whether you appear as good programmer while you play that ping pong matters more then your code and responsibility. So it is signaling and charming game where I am at disadvantage. Also in worst case, in case you are good looking and succeed, such culture makes it too easy to assume/imply behind your back that you got position because of being sexy.

b.) It suggest that people with different personality types left. E.g. they might have different genders and races, but they are still kinda clones of each other.

c.) I hate having to stay overtime or during weekend because basically there was 4 hours long ping pong match at Wednesday and that is when CEO shares requirements, what (s)he learned from customer last time he visited and when design is discussed. I strongly prefer one hour long meeting about the above and then going to work and after work everybody does his thing (which may include ping pong).

d.) True story, I found it unfair when a dude was seen as hard worker because he spend 12 hours a day at work - except that he spent majority of time attempting to charm lady at reception and otherwise socializing.


Yes! Time spent at the office != time spent working.

I often have to retrain my employees because I'm gone by 6 and idgaf if you stay later, but if something is due by end of day, that means I need to have it by 5 to review. Not 11 because you procrastinated and spent all day swiping tinder.

Working late should be a badge of shame. And I make sure my employees know that expectations are not lower as a result.


You have generated quite a bit of opinion given that you start out admitting you don't even understand the discussion and are not part of the group being asked for opinions.

There are good reasons to be suspicious of companies who push hard on the "we're so fun!" angle. It can be a warning sign of any or all of: chaotic management, chaotic development practices, a work-all-the-time culture, a culture that's not family friendly, a bro-y culture, or relatively immature employee base. (It can also be just fine.)

Alcohol use can be especially problematic. Sometimes it's fine, and sometimes it's a sign of one of the things I mention above. But even when it doesn't indicate a systemic problem, in male-dominated environments it increases risk for women.

See, for example, the Geek Feminism entry on having alcohol at conventions: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Conference_anti-harassmen...

I've personally heard a number of horror stories from women in tech about getting sexually harassed at off-sites with alcohol.

So yeah, your not understanding why these things could be a problem is not a good indicator that they are not actually a problem.


My first point was that this isn't gender specific. My example was - I don't touch alcohol, I don't like ping pong, or consoles, or any of the things that people hold up as "bro" culture. But nor am I going to hold it against a workplace if they want to offer those things.

It's not a negative - it's just a thing.

For example - nursing rooms for mothers, or Muslim prayer rooms. I may not use them personally, but I don't see why it's a negative if they're there.

My second point - I have worked in a whole range of companies, from formal to very casual - and for me this is much of a muchness.

To your points.

You claim that we should be suspicious of companies that push "we're so fun". I don't see why it's a warning sign, any more than a workplace that pushes the "we're so formal" is a warning sign. You need to make your own judgement, based on actually interviewing there and interacting with people - and more importantly, one that fits your own ethos and preference.

Some people like formal cultures, some people like more jovial cultures - we shouldn't box them as gender specific, but just something that is unique to each person.

Alcohol likewise - that seems a personal issue, as opposed to something gender specific, or a company directive.

Like I said - I've worked in banking, and trust me, there's a drinking culture (among other vices...). But really, it's a matter of self-control. I never once felt forced to engage in that behaviour if I didn't want to. Perhaps I picked a good firm, or just had good mates.

My point is - whether there's alcohol available or not is a red herring.

And I don't think alcohol is somehow specifically a male thing - once again, I believe it's a personal self-control thing.

I don't drink alcohol - but if somebody is drunk, whether they're a guy or a girl - or whether the gender ratio at my workplace is 60:40 or 80:20 is irrelevant. They are drunk. I'm certainly not going to say - "Oh you're a women but you're drunk...well, that's OK then". Although to be honest, if you're drunk and not causing me any harm, meh.

Gender or alcohol isn't a shield to cover your behaviour - and that flows both ways.


My original point was that when it is formal, personal biases, sympathies and stereotypes matter less. It matter less whether you are comfortable talking to me, because all that is important was said during the meeting. When the workplace is infromal, it is opposite. The amount of people who have those biases will be the same at both workplaces, but one of them is organized in a way that makes them matter less.

It is NOT muchness, not when those biases are generally against you. Jovial workplace would be fine if I worked in something women are assumed to be better at, I am not.

It has nothing to do with what kind of people I do or would socialize in my free time nor who is more fun. It has nothing to do with alcohol being male of female thing.

> But really, it's a matter of self-control. I never once felt forced to engage in that behaviour if I didn't want to.

I did not knew requirements changes on project I worked on, because project lead talked about them on beer with buddies. I found out about those changes during code review. The information project lead got from his buddy was that "it will take longer because she wrote bad code". I never got chance to defend myself. This was not singular occurrence.

So, no, it does matter if you are someone who is less likely to be given benefit of the doubt.


Again, you have generated and extraordinary amount of opinion given that this post was not for you and given your ignorance of the topic.

I understand you don't see why these things are problems. What is extraordinary to me is that you have confused "I don't see X" with "X does not exist". And then gone on to blather extensively based on this confusion.

I get it. You're a paragon of self control. Congrats. Have a cookie. But you're playing this game at the lowest difficulty setting: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-th...

Other things become relevant when you play it on different settings.

> but if somebody is drunk, whether they're a guy or a girl - or whether the gender ratio at my workplace is 60:40 or 80:20 is irrelevant

Irrelevant to you, as a financially comfortable white man. It is not irrelevant to other people. You don't understand why, which is fine.

But ignorantly proclaiming on the topic is not fine. Aggressive dismissal of the concerns of other people is part of why large parts of humanity are underrepresented in tech.

You are part of the problem. Right here, right now. So ask yourself: what will you do differently next time?


>this post was not for you

>your ignorance of the topic

>blather extensively

>Have a cookie.

>Irrelevant to you, as a financially comfortable white man.

>ignorantly proclaiming on the topic is not fine

>You are part of the problem

This isn't meaningful discussion. It's just insults, assumptions, and aggressive dismissal of another person's opinion.


The guy aggressively jumped into a discussion addressed to women in tech, dismissing the premise in a way that's actively harmful to underrepresented minorities in tech. The first time I was reasonably polite. The second time, frank.

Exactly none of those statements is a personal insult. Some are assumptions, but all are reasonable. If I got something wrong, he can correct me.

I will note that you are also a white dude, and have spent a lot of energy on "aggressive dismissal" of people's concerns here. So apparently you're fine with the behavior as long as it reinforces the status quo.


Whether sexism is acceptable in the workplace is not up for discussion. So the parent is totally right to educate the grandparent about this. You may not like the tone, but substantively wpietri is right on the mark.


I don't think either of them are addressing whether sexism is acceptable in the workplace. They're talking about whether a "fun" culture is an indicator of sexism in the workplace. If you have another interpretation and the time to break it down, I'm always interested in understanding things from other people's perspectives.

Victorhooi is arguing that alcohol culture is not exclusive to men, but according to personal preference. Wpietri is saying that it can be a strong indicator of a place being a dumpster fire. The discussion is fine and I think both have valid points.

Incorrect tone can cause people to become completely unperceptive to an argument. It's important to not be hostile when looking to change views. A collaborative approach is often the most successful. Belittling people for their opinions doesn't achieve anything besides pissing them off.

>While I agree with X, we should also consider Y and Z because words.


Sure. The issue here isn't whether a fun culture is always a problem. Sometimes a foosball table is just a foosball table. The issue here is that victorhooi is totally oblivious to how sexism manifests itself in the workplace, and wpietri is responding to this obliviousness.

There is no nice or polite way to tell somebody "this is sexist, cut it out", because when sexism (or racism, ableism, other bigotry) is pointed out people tend to react in a really defensive manner. They deny, deflect, lash out, or just change the subject. When the core message is a personal criticism then softer language doesn't make it go down easier. When it comes to these subjects, when no feelings are hurt no minds are changed. Nobody should be unnecessarily rude, of course, but "unnecessarily" is the pivotal word here.

victorhooi turns the discussion towards his own experiences about alcohol, fun culture, ping pong, and extrapolates from there. The problem is that his experiences are not representative of what women in tech experience at all, and it's particularly clueless for a guy to respond in a thread asking for advice from women in tech about what _his_ experiences are and how everything is totally fine (for him). Every woman in tech has personally experienced or personally knows somebody who has faced sexual harassment or other gender based discrimination. Every woman in tech who changes jobs has to ensure that the new work environment is not a dumpster fire. And if you're unlucky your boss may still decide on hit on you 4 months after you've bought a house in the new city. This practically never happens to men, so when victorhoi repeatedly claims that "gender or alcohol [...] flows both ways" or that "it's just a matter of self-control" he seems totally unware of the gendered problems that are so prevalent. He dismisses it outright "you get the occasional stupid comment" (when you don't drink), as if that is the extent of the problem! He doesn't get that it's not about him. He doesn't get that his experiences are not representative for women in tech.


You obviously have a bone to pick, and a lot of unresolved bitterness (which could be perfectly normal/expected, if you've had a lot of bad experiences/issues in the past as a woman). Hopefully though, you can see past that - I think we want the same goals.

My point isn't that sexism isn't there, or that I'm oblivious to how it manifests in the workplace - I'm not sure how you got that from my comment?

My point is that holding up totems as the single cause of sexism doesn't work. I feel that people just need to call it out when it happens, and we need to remember that ultimately, we are responsible for our actions.

Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your action?

If a man is sexist, or an ase - it's not simply because of the fact they drink alcohol or that they play console games - they can't use that as an excuse.

It's something they chose to do, or say etc.

It's right when people call it out - obviously there's a way to do that, that helps everybody. (see Donglegate for how not* to do it - it's really sad looking at the way that played out - because honestly, it could have actually gone the other way).

Also - your last paragraph is, I feel, quite...bitter?

I (and many of my colleagues) constantly try to encourage woman into tech. Heck, even my daughter - I'd love her to follow my footsteps into tech =). (My wife may have other ideas).

However, describing tech for woman as a dumpster fire, and saying that every woman has personally faced experiences of sexual harassment...that's pretty wow. Maybe I am really oblivious as you say, but my last workplace and current workplace had heaps of highly-respected women in technical roles, who seemed to be having a blast.

Yes, I have worked in workplaces where it wasn't the case and women were under-represented, but I see the tide on that turning.


Thank you. I really appreciate this, it's super helpful to see this kind of breakdown.


Today's society has lost the ability to debate.


Compared to what :)? I agree that snark like that is more likely to alienate then convict, but it is not modern invention.


https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/06/05/jordan_pe...

"They believe that since you don't have an individual identity, your fundamental identity is group fostered, and that means that you're basically an exemplar of your race.

Hence, white privilege. Or you're an exemplar of your gender, or your sex, or your ethnicity, or you're an exemplar of however you can be classified so that you are placed in the position of a victim against the oppressor."


Thay is not different from past or traditional view of neither gender nor race.


> I don't drink alcohol - but if somebody is drunk, whether they're a guy or a girl - or whether the gender ratio at my workplace is 60:40 or 80:20 is irrelevant. They are drunk. I'm certainly not going to say - "Oh you're a women but you're drunk...well, that's OK then". Although to be honest, if you're drunk and not causing me any harm, meh.

You might want to talk to women about their experiences of drunk men.


This person is the perfect example of why women hate it when men try to give them advice.


So, so true.


< What's to say a girl can't enjoy beer?

"Girl's" are females under the age of 18.

To my learning, use of girls to not mean girls is incorrect speech and should be avoided. Use woman or female.


It's not incorrect, it's just diminutive and can be insulting in a professional setting. Going out with the girls and having a drink with my boys are perfectly fine things to say when referring to your friends. Similar to how bro is thrown around, you wouldn't describe your colleague that way.


Flo Rida's 'Where Them Girls At' will leave you disturbed then.


This really should have been the #2 spot on HN right now by votes. For an Ask HN that is this important could the flags please be discounted?


We turned off flags on this submission hours ago.


Thank you.


Silicon valley culture used to be that way, and is still that way. The cube farms was the prevailing best practice.

Then the pendulum swung to the other side with the new kids entering the workforce and wanted open office, work families, and all that. Which then created the cargo culting from others entering the process.

Now we're on the bubble of the pendulum swinging back.

So it goes.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14492303 and marked it off-topic.


As a counterpoint I've met and managed people who preferred open office arrangements. Which only really only proves that generalizations are bad.

I agree also that we're likely at the full extension of the pendulum on the open office trend. The formal/informal observation for me is key, some people want work to be more like their college dorm. They are in fact "living" at work and eliminating any notion at all of a work/life balance. I expect, but can't predict, that this will change as they get older.


Counter-example to your expectation: as I've gotten older the separation of my work from the rest of life has been nearly eliminated. I run my own business, so I'm always on the clock. Or never on the clock, depending on how you look at it. At parties, I tell people I'm unemployed. My business is my hobby. It just happens to earn money.


So your savings or other passive income provide for your needs when you hobby happens to 'not' earn money? There are a lot of people in my circle of friends who have reached that point of not "needing" to work in the sense of putting food on the table or paying for things, but working on things they enjoy because they have things to do which are fun.

'unemployed' tends to get people who don't know you wondering if they should feel sorry for you or not, 'retired' seems to bring up images of rocking on the deck chair and playing golf during the day. I feel like what you are doing is somewhere between those two.


Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. I work 40-60 hours most weeks on my business. Yesterday was a 14-hour day. Sometimes I take a week or month off. It's my only source of income, though I have been stashing away over the years.

It's just that, in the moment, it doesn't often feel like work.


The only people who want the open office are the people who either don't want to pay for cubicles, or want to cram more people into a space (worker density) than a cube farm will allow.


Or they don't want to feel like I'm [0] locked in a room alone for absolutely no reason.

[0] Oops, we were using "they."


But if you want to kill the alone-ness, all you have to do is step out. Heck, people used to pair program in cubes long before this open space disease (sorry, my opinion). For those of us that are unable to function in the cage-free farm, our only option is to destroy our hearing with headphones to try to get some work done.


Step out to where exactly? Generally it's not just you in your own office, everyone else is too.


Maybe a hub-and-spoke type of setup like Bell Labs had?

Cal Newport wrote a bit about it in Deep Work [1] and I think it sounds like a potential way to get the best of both worlds.

[1] https://medium.com/@GrandCentralPub/excerpted-from-deep-work...


I think I misunderstood your original comment 'Or they don't want to feel like I'm [0] locked in a room alone for absolutely no reason.'. I took it to mean that cubicles/offices cause loneliness. I now see that what you were saying is that the reason people are stuffed in the bullpen is the 'concern' that you outlined.


Step out and walk around? Where I work, we have private offices, but people have self segregated into a chatty end of the hallway, and "Siberia."


IMO remote is the new vector that will disrupt the pendulum's back and forth.

Working remote requires a high level of professionalism and independence, and it puts face-time at a premium. So you use it for your top priorities (which may be socializing / culture-building stuff, or it may be collaborating stuff).


Idiots! Stop picking one extreme or the other!

Someone stick a wall in front of this pendulum at the half-way point. Please!


Cube-farm vs. open are not the extremes. My father had an office the size of a studio apartment with a door and a couch and a detergent bottle he peed in to avoid running into co-workers in the bathroom. I've seen an SF startup where people sit shoulder-to-shoulder on picnic benches, their only privacy, headphones and a single glass-walled conference room. That's extreme.


Cubicles aren't even the halfway point. Proper offices might be. Everyone working from home is the extreme.


Where does one work in SW in SF if one wants an office with a door? Does it even exist?


Bullshit. nobody wanted open floor plans, or if they did, they had immediate buyers remorse. Open floor plans became a fad that turned into a way for cheap ass companies to slash costs and brag about it on linkedin about how trendy they were being.


I can prove you wrong. I want and like open floor plans, and have never had buyer's remorse. I'll rule out any cube farm for any future job; I hate the isolation.


I think there is one difference between the person who prefers cubicles/isolation and one who prefers an open space: when you want to get away from the isolation, all you have to do is walk over to a willing party and have a chat. For people (like me and others in this thread) who are unable to function in open spaces, there is no escape from the torture.


I don't think this is true at all. Human social behavior is incredibly sensitive to perceived norms and paths of least resistance; this can be observed all the time in online games where minor changes to UI or reward structures have drastic ramifications on player social behavior. A lot of interaction simply will never come about if it isn't fostered organically by the environment.

This isn't to dispute that the benefits of an open office plan are fairly minuscule​ compared to the costs for most people, myself included.


Yes, but online games are a collective. Consider the case of open spaces where you have one team per aisle. Team 1 can be as noisy as they wish - there is no penalty most of the time from the unrelated Team 2. I was in such a predicament at a large e-commerce company - I was seated the aisle over from a very noisy team that ran in debug mode. They and their manager thought this was the way a good team works so my complaints were discarded with extreme prejudice. Two aisles over was a relatively quiet team with a very loud chewer/scraper - the person was very careful with his food and spent 5 minutes every work day scraping his plastic container right there at the desk.

I used to have to listen to white noise just to get away from the drip-drip torture of the endless prattle - my productivity at home used to be 5x compared to working in this open Hades.

I guess you are right - a lot of interaction will never come about if it isn't fostered organically by the environment. I am saying that in my case, what was fostered organically by the environment was people that first speak what they are about to type before typing it and utter every exclamation point associated with a failed `ls` or etc. It was Hades. I have ringing in my ears from listening to loud music and noise to drown out this aural rubbish and I can assure you that this ringing is a quintillion orders of magnitude more pleasant than the cacophony foisted on to me by the fine co-workers at this establishment, courtesy of the cage free office plan. I left as soon as I could and while I miss the money/benefits, I don't miss the noise - not one little bit.


I shudder. Your loud chewer story triggered a flash back to a coworker clipping their nails (talons) next to me.

About the noise pollution...

Like decision fatique, I think we all have a stimulation budget (buffer). Most of the time, I'm fine. Until I'm not. And my budget (buffer) gets smaller as I age.

Nowadays, I'm completely content to be facing a wall, with earbuds in, so I can tune out and get some real work done.


If I want to talk to someone I feel very comfortable going over to their office and having a conversation. At most I'm interrupting 1 person. In an open office or cubicle farm if I walk up to someone and strike up a conversation I'm interrupting 10 people.


This is very true. For starters, you will foster an entirely different level of relationship with a coworker 10 feet away from you than you will with one 30 feet away.


I've worked in several open plan companies, and what I find to be a key differentiator is that the companies that make it work: a) institute a reasonable minimum amount of space per person b) have enough quiet areas for people who find the open plan uncomfortable


It is unfortunate that companies can't be flexible and give employees the environment that the employees find will make them more productive. So one group of people could be seated elbow to elbow with headphones to avoid some of the distractions and another group of people would have personal offices with a door where they can concentrate - that way everyone is happy.


Open office is more than elbow-to-elbow with headphones on. out of the 8 people who sit in my immediate vicinity, rarely are more than one or two wearing headphones.

While it's definitely distracting, there is a type of conversation that occurs which I have never experienced in all my years as a cube farmer. If I want isolation, I can go sit somewhere else or work from home or a cafe. It feels like the default being not isolation makes all the difference.


While it's definitely distracting, there is a type of conversation that occurs which I have never experienced in all my years as a cube farmer. If I want isolation, I can go sit somewhere else or work from home or a cafe. It feels like the default being not isolation makes all the difference.

You're lucky, I can't. I agree that an open office has its benefits but when you can't treat its downsides with the methods you stipulate then I don't feel it's worth it on balance. I'm forever distracted and even just the cubicle farm (not fully sealed offices) was a much better environment for me.


>...I'm forever distracted and even just the cubicle farm (not fully sealed offices) was a much better environment for me.

Yea for those whose work requires some concentration, the best environment might be where workers have offices with open areas available to them when they want to discuss issues with other team members. It is very sad that companies can't be flexible in this area and instead like to pretend that only upper management needs to concentrate, have a private conversation, etc.


My highest function team had a mostly open office. Big, wide, open, lotsa windows, plants, couch etc. 12 people, self selected. We had a handful of offices for anyone who preferred or needed that.

Then my boss stuffed some clowns onto my budget and ruined the magic.

Since then, most places I've worked have been either call centers or highschool cafeterias. No amount of bon ami can overcome inhumane working conditions.

I'd rather have an office.


I know this is a bit irrelevant... but did you mean 'bonhomie'? (I only think that because I was really, really confused by that sentence - then I realized I had been mispronouncing 'bonhomie' in my head this whole time, quite badly. I guess I learned it by reading and you learned it by speaking :P)


Spot on! Nicely done.


lmao yeah I think I know exactly how you feel. Right now I sit mostly around people I really enjoy hanging out and working with, so it's fantastic. A year ago I was sitting in a super crowded area while construction was going on and it was really really unpleasant.


Same for me, with the stipulation that I've never had my own office. But I just can't imagine having my own office unless it's a radically different role than I'm interested in. I don't see the point. I'm not taking phone calls or meeting people privately.


Focused and creative work benefit heavily from isolated environments where it is easier to focus. It is less tiring to work in quiet environments without distractions.


Desk sharing is he worst when you have to think deeply. The talkers never shut up.


Oh man, finally we found the responsible person for open office misery :)


Where's the "Uber for pitchforks" startup when you need it ...


Are you an Engineer?


I'm not a fan of sharing a giant auditorium with the entire company. I am a fan of having a large room with a group of 5-7 people sharing it.

That said, noisy open rooms suck.


It's great for my team. We are highly collaborative, so it helps to just be able to turn around and talk.

White noise generators and carpet kill sound from traveling very far (i.e. between teams).

People who need to focus grab a room or put on headphones. People on the team learn and respect other people's work habits.


Yeah, I like open offices. It's nice to be able to take off my headphones and ask a question to someone close by. Or just take a break and talk to them about something non work related.

Even if I had a private office I would have my headphones on 80% of the time.


When we start using voice activation commonly I'm hoping we're going back to offices.


The Two Travelers and the Farmer

North America

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. "What sort of people live in the next town?" asked the stranger.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

"They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels."

"Is that so?" replied the old farmer. "Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. "What sort of people live in the next town?" he asked.

"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer once again.

"They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them."

"Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."

Source: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/traveltales.html#twotravelersandfa...


You aren't outright wrong, the problem is that if you are a woman (or black or fill in the blank) and you have been consistently shit all over your entire life because of it, not only do you suffer from burn out on trying to keep your chin up and hope for the best and all that, but you may have zero skills for trying to effectively interact with people in a way that doesn't help recreate the same shitty experiences. And if you actually do have good skills for handling it effectively, actual sexism (racism, etc) can still rear its ugly head even if you are doing everything right.

The other problem with your parable is that it doesn't tell people how to make such outcomes happen, which aren't simply based on some kind of magical "thinking positive" BS. I actually know how to do stuff like that and it is damn hard work that has to happen on top of whatever other work you were actually trying to do or are being paid to do. Even if you do everything right all the time (which you probably won't because people have off days or whatever), it can be a long hard slog and some people will still just be sexist assholes no matter what you do or don't do.


I actually like the parable because it hints at another side to the issue, which is the perceiver, and though I'm not a woman I do get to sit in one type of disadvantaged social role in life, so I can relate. And I've given this some thought.

First off, while it's true that social factors are real, provable with data, and very annoyingly denied by many out there, the degree to which we tie our personal identity to a disadvantaged social identity is up to us. Evidence is pretty easy: talk to people in your disadvantaged social group and ask what they think. Probably most will acknowledge that it's a problem but that they can overcome it through working harder. A few number will not even acknowledge that it's a problem in the first place. And a few number will claim that it's such a big problem that it's insurmountable. I think the first group is probably closest to reality.

Second idea: it's easier to change ourselves than it is to change the world. That is, we can change our outlook on life by changing the narrative we've woven for ourselves. Whole point of therapy and a big part of psychology.

And thus, in order to avoid getting bogged down into hopelessness, at some point you have to maintain a delusion that either you aren't heavily disadvantaged such that working is pointless, or that you are disadvantaged but you're a crazy hard worker who can get things done anyways.


First off, while it's true that social factors are real, provable with data, and very annoyingly denied by many out there, the degree to which we tie our personal identity to a disadvantaged social identity is up to us. Evidence is pretty easy: talk to people in your disadvantaged social group and ask what they think. Probably most will acknowledge that it's a problem but that they can overcome it through working harder. A few number will not even acknowledge that it's a problem in the first place. And a few number will claim that it's such a big problem that it's insurmountable. I think the first group is probably closest to reality.

If you really dig into the details, the odds are good that the differences in their perception is rooted in more concrete and complicated problems than merely perceiving the problem differently. There are quite a lot of seemingly or even literally invisible issues that have substantial impact on social outcomes.

My oldest son walks around with a social black cloud over his head. People read him as defiant of authority and disrespectful merely for opening his mouth. They read me as ass kissingly deferential. We have done quite a lot of research and concluded that he lacks prosody -- he has no ability to tone match, so he gets that reaction of "I don't like your tone." I apparently tone match by default, which gets me read as very submissive and subservient, but the reality is that I do it in part because I am routinely perceived to be a dragon lady, so if I don't go the extra mile to try to be mollifying and build bridges, it is a shit show every step of the way.

I didn't say I dislike the parable. But as someone who does study the social stuff a helluva lot, I can tell you that there are going to be massively more differences between the "positive" traveler and the "negative" one than merely their attitude. I have substantial social astuteness which makes its vastly less dangerous for me to try to navigate situations that many women want no part of. It would be monstrously assholish of me to dismiss their very real problems in life just because "Well, it works fine for me!"

My son will never be able to glad-hand the way I do. He outright lacks the ability to tone match. Saying the exact same words as me to the exact same people in the exact same situation gets very different reactions. I know because I have seen exactly that happen.

The world if full of fascinating invisible forces, including pheromones, verbal cues and a million other details. Pretending that this parable is merely about having a good attitude is a gross oversimplification.

Tell the story again and say that one of the travelers is black and the other white or one is male and the other female or one is rich and the other poor and see how you feel then about acting like your attitude alone determines your social outcomes.


Didn't say the story was meant to be taken at face value, only that the idea that you have some degree of control over your life is empowering and I think leads to more happiness.

It's useful to look into research into optimism and pessimism: especially Learned Helplessness, which is what happens if (as I had in the past) one slips into thinking that they have zero power over their lives, and that your social factors determine everything.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

I recall that a study found that pessimists were actually more accurate in that their perception of reality was closer to what actually happens. But optimists were happier.

I don't know the specifics of your situation, but if prosody can be at all learned or improved, then that's something that can be changed, which is a lot more than some of the other stuff out there like skin color or height.

Anyways, I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I don't want to dissuade anyone from standing up/fighting the good fight for social causes. But as someone who naturally skews pessimistic and struggled with depression, maintaining the semblance of control over my life, even if it's not real, has helped tremendously. And I hope it helps others too.

----

> Tell the story again and say that one of the travelers is black and the other white or one is male and the other female or one is rich and the other poor and see how you feel then about acting like your attitude alone determines your social outcomes.

I'm not sure that's the way I'd think of it. More like: imagine two travelers, both are black, or both are gay, and they're exactly the same in all regards (thought experiment!), and one person believes that them being in group X means people treat them unfairly, while the other doesn't. They will have different interpretations of events, leading to different responses, leading to different lives. As I said above, taking the stance that we can control our lives leads to improving our lives, taking the stance that social factors are the biggest leads to us I think improving society in the best case, or learned helplessness in the worst case. The former is easier to do than the latter.

And that's a practical thought experiment, because you can change your outlook over time, it's the whole point of therapy. Those two travelers are the same person at different points in their lives.


There is lots of interesting stuff about optimism out there, some of which shows that optimists handle certain things differently. One experiment did something like asked how many pictures were in a fake newspaper they had printed and gave you a time limit. On some page (like page 2 or some other early page), it announced "This paper has X number of pictures." The optimists would see that and stop counting. They had their answer. The pessimists were so focused on counting pictures, they failed to read this big, bold statement.

So, basically, many optimists know how to hack the system instead of literally doing what they were told. This is part of what I am talking about. I am an optimist, but it isn't merely "think shiny thoughts." It is "I think I have the skillz to handle this and get a better outcome than what most people would expect or are predicting." And it is really problematic when the message is "you just need a better attitude." In my experience, a better attitude grows out of having the skills you need to tackle the problem. Many people don't have that. If you give them that, changes in attitude follow.

I don't really disagree with anything you have said here, except for the detail that this question was posted by a woman in tech on an overwhelmingly male forum. So, this parable tends to come across as suggesting that women merely have an attitude problem. I am the highest ranked woman here. Trying to establish the ability to open my mouth and get real engagement without it being a shit show has been a long, hard slog. Having done that, I am noticing more women able to open their mouths.

So, if the parable is helpful to you, awesome! But I didn't want to just stand by and say nothing knowing how such subtext can have a chill effect that is enormously harmful to already silenced minorities.


This parable is designed to illustrate the difference in outcomes based on perception.

Gender and racial bias in tech are not based solely on individual perception but also behaviors of individuals within a culture.

How can this parable be seen as addressing OP's question?


The experience of oppression, particularly in the modern US, is highly influenced by ones perception.


I'd say it's much more influenced by one's gender or race.


Yes, though the truth of your statement doesn't detract from the truth of my statement. We can't change our gender or race but we can change our outlook.


The problem here is that "outlook" hardly does justice to a very complex situation.

The implication that oppressed peoples who have been genuinely wronged merely need to put on a happy face and change their attitude is pretty horrendous. It ignores the fact that smooth social skills take time and opportunity to develop. It ignores the fact that if you are "the wrong kind of people" you do not get the benefit of the doubt that "the right kind of people" get. (This is a thing I have gotten to experience firsthand from both sides of the equation. Being homeless has been a huge education in just how much that benefit of the doubt greases the wheels of polite society. When that lubrication is missing, your life can grind to a painful halt.) And a thousand other factors here.

I am a woman and I try to tell other women what they can do differently in the face of living in a sexist world. I am routinely accused of blaming the victim for trying to empower women. I find that very frustrating because I do my level best to provide solid data and practical how-tos. I do my best to avoid suggesting that women merely have an attitude problem.

So while I am sympathetic to the idea that wherever you go, there you are and I am also sympathetic to the idea that it makes vastly more sense to focus on changing the things within your own control, given the larger context of life, I think this point you are trying to make about "just change your attitude" is a really crappy message to put out there. It is akin to telling someone maimed by abuse "It's in the past -- it doesn't matter!" and overlooking the very real legacy of impairment those past actions have left behind.


As far as I can tell, your comment has little to nothing to do with mine, due to an ungenerous interpretation.


Thank you for getting at what I was trying to say much better than I could have.


We can change the environments we participate in to correct for measurable bias, though, and it is reasonable for people being discriminated against to expect us to.


I'm not a minority, but I think you should be asking this question to everyone, not just minorities. Everyone deserves a non-toxic environment and it's an issue everyone has to deal with.

Here's my strategy: Read the glassdoor reviews - If it mentions "people crying at their desks", that's a bad sign - actually any kind of crying in a professional environment is a bad sign. Also, words like "high energy" and "passion" often reflect poorly as well.

#2) Ask the company about their employee retention rate or research it online. If you can get an accurate picture of their retention rate, then you can find out how toxic it is. The greater the number of people leaving, the worse the place is.


> Also, words like "high energy" and "passion" often reflect poorly as well.

Interesting. Can you expand on this? I don't see "passion" as negative; it seems to just mean that people like their work.


I think that emphasis on passion during interview suggest culture that takes tech more like identity affair then pragmatic one. It probably means a lot of overtime because people signal passion by staying late and planning/negotiation are cold. It means choosing cool tech instead of good tech. It means a lot of semi mandatory out of work activities.

This has nothing to do with gender, but one might prefer something different.


The problem isn't wanting passion, its who are the types of people to emphasize passion in an interview or job announcement. It's similar to how "code ninja" was the former dog whistle for the kinds of environments that expected late nights, long hours, and no life outside of the office. The terminology has just changed.


On the positive side think of the meme of the passionate "starving artist". Starving never helped me do anything but lose weight, supposedly it isn't even very good at that long term. Nope being underpaid for the sake of emotion is a complete loss.

On the negative side think of the meme of enablers trying to downplay a screamer's actions as merely being passionate about his work, or even worse, the department he manages.


The point of the starving artist isn't that they are starving. They point is that they didn't compromise their vision for money. They didn't sell out.

That's what I assume it is about anyway.


I describe myself as a starving artist pretty frequently. What it means is that every week I find myself choosing between materials and food. Sometimes food wins, sometimes materials do (they did this week). Every penny I can spare goes towards materials and tools but I still can't afford everything I need to not only make my work but make it good enough to match my vision, slowing progress significantly which can be pretty disheartening. And so my struggle will continue until I can start selling my work, make my money back plus labor+profit, and I finally no longer have to consider replacing a $15 electric pencil sharpener a burden.

Honestly it's no different from living on ramen while pouring all your money into a business you're trying to start. It's just more romanticized.


Passion is great. But there are plenty of companies that say they want passion when what they really want is the willingness to work too many hours on whatever flight of fancy upper management is currently chasing.


In job adverts, "passion" is often shorthand for "willing to work unpaid overtime."


I think there are social issues too with 'passion'. At the risk of being blunt there are people without a social life or others interests who put everything into work and call it passion.

Limited to them its just an unhealthy lifestyle. But if used as some sort of a competitive advantage against those with families and interests beyond work this creates an unfair and awkward work environment.

There are people who look to fill a hole with work when the solution is to find a more balanced life. Workplaces should be alert to and proactively discourage this. Work is primarily about work, professionalism, not a place to socialize. And the 'bro culture', open offices show to an extent some workplaces encouraging it.


Are you denying that there are issues at tech workplaces that affect women more than non-minority members? You have a point that a sexist toxic environment might be unpleasant for the white men who work there too, but it obviously affects the women more.


> I'm not a minority, but I think you should be asking this question to everyone, not just minorities. Everyone deserves a non-toxic environment and it's an issue everyone has to deal with.

Hey OP, these are exactly the kind of red flags you should be looking for.


Sorry, but this is one of the worst comments I've read on Hacker News! Its main contention is wrong and expressed in the most unhelpful and toxic way I can imagine.

First, the language on sites like GlassDoor really can offer some insight into how the company intentionally and unintrntionally treats its employees.

But more importantly, when the majority group of employees are working on systemically creating and supporting a fair environment, minority groups of employees do benefit.

Ideally, good workplaces would "just happen," but they don't and the ones that squelch the reforming tendency with toxic language such as you used decrease long-term hiring competitiveness measured across demographics.


A reasoned response is a red flag?


Please don't post unsubstantive comments here, and especially not trollish provocations on an already divisive topic.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14492198 and marked it off-topic.


"Colorblind" beliefs cover up racism and hurt the people who experience it by refusing to acknowledge what is actually happening to them: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41675099?seq=1#page_scan_tab_co... If people can't entertain the well-supported fact that individual's experiences differ on the basis of how they are perceived, they end up supporting the discriminatory status quo.

This is similar to how telling people an organization is a meritocracy leads to more discrimination against women: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2189/asqu.2010.55.4.5...


If you have a workplace where women and minorities cannot discuss their issues without a white man butting in to whine "but what about meee?" then yes, that is a toxic work environment.


The implication/undertone of most of the diversity discussions is that minorities and women have worse experiences than white men. The discussions are centered around women/minority experiences compared to those of white men, without allowing white men to share their experiences for actual comparison.

Just like the white man doesn't know what it is like to be a woman or a minority, the minorities and women don't know what it is like to be a white man.

Getting to the truth (finding out the severity of mistreatment/inequality, if there is any) and fostering understanding between both sides would be for the good of society. This would involve listening to both experiences.


So "not a minority" means you're a white man?


Not necessarily. Deaf, blind, dwarfs, old (e.g. 70), very young (e.g. 16), single fathers and amputees would all be minorities that could apply to white males.


That's a good point but need to be careful not to conflate racist issues with general shit place to work issues.


... aaand there are people all over this discussion changing the original question into general shit place to work issues. So much for answering the question and keeping the discussion focused.


I think the key thing for people to realise is that none of what you just said has anything to do with women.

Meet your direct manager. Make sure you get along with them. Make sure people give off 'good vibes' i.e. you get along with them. Talk to people, get to know them.

This is just basic people skills. The interview is about you evaluating them as much as it is about them evaluating you.


It has to do with being a woman because she said it did, in answer to a question about that. You've changed the subject, in a belittling way ("just").

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14490803 and marked it off-topic.


Youre right this matters for everyone, but there are additional benefits if you are a woman.

Your manager in many ways is your advocate and prescreens his job responsibilities to trickle down to yours. He/she is the one giving your feedback.

if they are inherently biased towards women, youre life becomes more difficult.

Furthermore, people are NOT stupid. they know whats what. People will know if your manager is going to take action if another employee acts against you, and support your through the HR process, or look the other way and ignore it. If your manager is a good person, then its a signal for everyone else to treat you well.

It should not have to be like that, but it is.

When it comes to being a woman, then this translates over to a layer of protection against sexual harassment or other forms of biased based on your gender, in most cases preventing you from ever having to deal with it, and knowing you have support if you do.

Believe me it makes a world of difference I've had experiences with managers who want to date every female employee they have to very good professional ones who screen me from the usual suspects and delegate my work in such a way to minimize my interaction with them and we never even have to have a conversation about it. One manager makes my life a living hell, the other one makes me able to focus on my job.

Both managers can be competent and good at their job, and so can you in both cases, but the only difference here is how much one follows policy and respects your right to focus on your job in the work place, and knows that dealing with that stuff in the workplace is, at the very least, distracting and in all cases an emotionally frustrating experience.


It's generic good advice but some people need it more than others.

Large companies may be a problem though. The interview process is generic and you probably won't meet your direct manager; you're just evaluating a somewhat random sample of people. But asking to meet them later (before accepting the offer) might work.


Other than Google or for new grads, what companies do not have the team with the opening do the actual interviewing? In both I have worked for, and every one I have interviewed with except Google, candidates interview with the people they will be working with, including their manager.


I meant Google. (I wasn't sure if other large companies do the same thing?)


You are absolutely starting out with the wrong mindset. Assuming the worst is absolutely a mindset that self-fulfills.

Based on your use of racist and sexist language, OP, I would probably NEVER hire you and I actively seek to keep people like you out of my organizations.


We've banned this account for making personal attacks. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the site rules in the future.


what am I trying to do, exactly? Why don't you tell me again what I do think and believe, since you seem to be an expert on my mind and beliefs.


This breaks HN's civility rule. We ban accounts that do that, so please don't.

There's a second problem. You've been using HN primarily for political and ideological arguments. That's an abuse of the site. It's one thing to use HN as intended—i.e. to gratify intellectual curiosity—and occasionally post relevant comments on political topics when those come up. That's what most people do and it's fine. But it's different to treat HN as a platform for political battle. That's destructive of what this place is for, and we ban accounts that do it, irrespective of the politics they favor. So please stop using HN that way.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14491608 and marked it off-topic.


[dead]


We've banned this account for trolling. Posting like this will eventually get your main account banned as well.

We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14490968 and marked it off-topic.


[flagged]


This comment breaks the HN guidelines badly to begin with ("incredibly infantile") but this is beyond the pale:

> If my boss is going to be a black woman, she had better publicly condemned theft

No one gets to comment like that here, so we've banned this account. Since we warned you before, it shouldn't come as a surprise.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14492191 and marked it off-topic.


This comment is an excellent example of why screening for racism is helpful in avoiding working for sexists like this.


[flagged]


We ban accounts that use HN primarily for ideological battle, so have banned this one.


[flagged]


Interesting. I can understand the gay part being difficult, sometimes, although tech people seem to be pretty liberal, but straight white people being somehow more exhausting that straight....Asian people? How so?


I was actually being sarcastic on the "white and straight" people being exhausting. Not like I had much of a bar: there're few non-hispanic white people in my country.

I hoped that a post blindly supporting the demonizing narrative at face value would be downvoted. Sitting at +3 right now and now I'm not sure about coming back to HN, if bigoted talk like what I wrote is supported.


[flagged]


But yeah, original poster, totally don't worry that the culture you're considering moving into might be hostile to your presence.


Being concerned is not the same thing as acting from the assumption that everywhere is fucked and finding non-toxic culture is like a needle in a haystack.


My point, which I made a little snarkily, is that these aggressive responses to the concern, which judge the concerned person simply for asking the question, are part of what creates the perception that SFBA is hostile.


Hrm, I don't see it quite the same. OP is not from SF. I am also not from SF and find the OP's slant on the issue to be characteristic of a victim trope which doesn't reflect reality (through my subjective experience). I don't know the OP from anyone, so would not expend energy attacking the OP (as others have done in this thread), but that doesn't mean the slant itself isn't worth calling out.

In my experience working with both men and women, those that find the most problems and find the most toxic environments are themselves the truly toxic ones; conflating personality conflicts with outright bigotry or special treatment as equality.

Again, I am not claiming this is what hte OP is doing here, and I don't see a point in accusing her of it; but the language and air of the post definitely suggests to me there is a real possibility that is what is going on.

It's a real trigger issue for many men who are sick of being told they are the problem; which doesn't excuse the overly-aggressive responses, but to me, does explain them.


I don't know what to tell you. My response to someone being concerned about tech culture being inhospitable to women and people of color is sympathy. I have no trouble with this despite being a "white man in tech". If your response is to be triggered by it, all I can tell you is, that's part of what creates the perception that this is such an endemic problem.


Thus proving that they actually are the problem after all; amazing how that works!

There are plenty of studies demonstrating the reality of sexism, if dudes are unwilling to believe what women tell them. Ongoing willful denial of this reality contributes to a hostile atmosphere where women are intimidated into silence about their experiences, which in turn lets men pretend they have no idea that there could ever be gambling in this es... I mean, sexism in tech.


Of course sexism exists. The overall ubiquity of it is what I am somewhat skeptical of.


[dead]


We've banned this account for trolling and detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14490537.


This would help white guys, too. It's not like we're immune to toxicity. IME it's usually one bad manager and/or one genius on the team that makes things so bad for everyone else. Maybe it's just been blind luck that I haven't worked on a whole team of sexist people. Here's what I would ask to mitigate these problems (keeping in mind I haven't necessarily asked these myself):

  In what ways does your manager make your life easier?
  How blame oriented is the team?
  How big are the egos on the team?
  What things about the culture or technical processes will surprise me here?
  How would you compare your team, manager, and coworkers to the others?  
    Are they more fun or experienced or do they have team events more?
  How many people have left in the past year and why do you think they really left?
> but ping pong tables and free beer doesn't mean shit to me if I'm going to be underpaid

It's not like you can't tell if you're going to be underpaid before you agree to a salary, is it?


> This would help white guys, too

I thought about answering this too, but then I thought that there are factors that don't affect us, and this is what the OP is specifically asking about.

I think the questions you suggest beg for people to lie, especially hiring managers; I'd ask something more subtle like "how competitive the team is"... "How do you deal with bugs that made it to production" which begs asshole managers to brag about team toxicity...


You don't know if you're going to be passed over for advancement or raises due to bias.


Yeah, let me know if you have a crystal ball that will detect that.


Please post civilly and substantively, or not at all.


Please get off your high horse? I'd honestly like to know if someone has a way to predict that.


That's exactly what the top-level OP is asking, how to predict this kind of thing.


dang is a moderator




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