This week I had a chance to skype video with a young woman from Dartmouth who reached out to me via the Dartmouth career network. She had created her own major in school at the intersection of media and technology and was beginning the Computer Science portion of her curriculum in her Senior year. We talked about careers in technology, the path to becoming a founder, things she could be doing now to position her well for a job in this world, and general tips and tricks like “startups won’t know their hiring needs until a few months before you graduate, Fall is the wrong time to apply.” I didn’t share anything ground breaking, but I found the experience of even slightly helping her as she considers this path a pretty rewarding one.
At Wildcard we have thought a lot about how to improve our gender diversity as a company. We’ve come a long way from where we started at “we need to get more women in here.” What I am starting to realize now is that our commitment to furthering a gender aware and forward thinking culture is not best solved by simply hiring more women. Checking the “female hiring” box is not quite like saying “some of my best friends are [insert minority here],” but it’s also not THAT far off. Our responsibility as a company is not to check boxes, it’s to invest in improving gender diversity in our field as a whole, regardless of the direct benefit to our company. There’s obviously a societal/cultural problem somewhere in the chain and I’m interested in attacking that problem at its roots if possible. Is bringing great women on board at Wildcard a positive step to take? Of course. But what I’m starting to believe is that our most impactful investment in this initiative may be long term in nature, as opposed to short term transactional steps that “yield immediate female hires to our team.” For example, I am really proud that we are hosting a group of 10th grade women for a day of mentorship around technical career planning in a few weeks. I’m really proud and happy to stretch my calendar to always fit in the type of skype call i referenced above. I’m really proud that the things Wildcard is doing to step up our approach are bubbling up from the entire team, as opposed to being mandated or encouraged from the top down. And I’m really proud that the conversation in our office is getting more connected to the intention of gender diversity, and less applied in the form of “hiring a great engineer is a win and hiring a great female engineer is a win +1.”
I can’t say that I am not excited when I look at my calendar and see an interview scheduled with a female candidate, but that woman has already found her way to our field and our door and she is in the minority in that way. I’m even more excited about the idea of reaching a young woman before some cultural norm, direct, or inadvertent message sets her on a path where a career in technology seems in any way unusual. I think like any goal, things happen through a combination of brute force effort and and intelligent planning and investment. We’re going to continue to work on the intelligent investment and planning part at Wildcard, and I’m gonna keep brute forcing it with categorical yeses to young women reaching out for advice or mentorship…obviously not super scaleable, but if this post reaches you and you are a female student interested in technology, give a shout if you want to talk through it: firstname.lastname@example.org. I invite anyone reading to extend the same invitation by dropping your email (and maybe title/company) into the comments field here and for female students to feel free reaching out to anyone in the comments as well. I guess this is a little experiment…
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