This week in our WiCipedia roundup: The podcasts that made our workweek; internship interviews are rife with inappropriateness for young women; how to create a majority female company; and more.
Internships are the gateway to a career in tech, yet young women often experience toxic managers and policies that can deter them from continuing in the industry. A study from Girls Who Code delves into the experiences of 1,000 young women who applied for coding internships. They found that half of these women had negative interactions before they even got their foot in the door, and a quarter had to deal with inappropriate remarks or questions during interviews. "Furthermore, the data indicate that tech's widespread problem with gender discrimination impacts women as young as 19 -- just as they are trying to break into the industry." Very few of the interviewees reported being interviewed or even seeing a female employee in the offices they were visiting. One survey respondent said, "I was asked why I want to go into the tech field if I'm a female." (See WiCipedia: UN Calls for Women's Access to Tech & Men's Bad 'Tudes Halt Diversity.)
Interviews Are Served With an Extra Helping of 'Yuck' for Young Women
We love a good podcast at Women in Comms, so we were delighted to hear Colleen Finnegan, senior manager of employer brand and recruitment marketing at Instacart, discussing diversity and how companies can do better with Susannah Magers, host of the "Empowered: Envisioning Workplaces That Work" podcast. Finnegan has worked at mega-startups such as Squarespace, Pandora and now Instacart to create workplace cultures that most companies will never even come close to -- but they should. Finnegan is also on the board of Maven Youth, an LGBTQ+ non-profit for youth to create social change in tech. This episode is packed with tips for companies on how to create more accepting and welcoming workplaces along with insights into how to find an employer whose values match your own. Also, why the phrase "culture fit" is BS. Hear Finnegan's candid and inspiring full story (plus a bevy of Instacart food puns) here. (See WiCipedia: Companies With Values Should Be the Norm.)
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On another podcast note, Jonathan Van Ness, host of "Getting Curious" (and Queer Eye phenom), focused this week on "techno chauvinism" and algorithm bias. With guest Meredith Broussard, who is an NYU associate professor, data journalist, AI researcher and author of the book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World, Van Ness and Broussard pick apart AI's role in our current culture, its impact on racism and sexism and why computers are not always the answer. Broussard defines techno-chauvinism as replacing low-tech options, such as books, with high-tech computer systems, which often "perpetuate bias" (unlike those old-school methods). She continues that by using computers for pretty much every process in our current society, automated systems tend to put minorities and low-income people at a disadvantage because they're just a number on a screen with no human connection. Broussard has a personal history with unequal treatment in tech -- she quit her job in computer science because of the sexism she experienced. You can check out the full episode here. (See WiCipedia: The AI Diversity Struggle, Companies Aren't Prioritizing Equality & New-Mom Decisions.)
ThirdLove has cracked the code on creating a company where women outnumber men: focus on a product that men want nothing to do with. Fortune explains that ThirdLove, which boasts 85% female employees, uses tech to help online shoppers determine their bra size (and then sells them bras). While the company employs AI, data and algorithms in its techniques, it's had very little luck recruiting male employees, possibly because one of the hiring pre-reqs is being passionate about better-fitting bras. "We have to look hard for men in order to bring in diverse backgrounds and skillsets. But having more women attracts more women," Co-CEO Heidi Zak said. "Performance in the office is what matters," Data Science Director Megan Cartwright elaborated. "We're working on cutting edge data science here, and these women are going to take these skills and go on to start companies and build teams." The company has raised $68 million in investments.