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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: Programmer Motivators, Affordable Childcare & All-Female Panels

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Chinese women hired to 'calm' programmers; diversity pays off for companies; are all-female panels good for women?; and more.


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  • Bias education has been popping up more and more lately, as we try to nip lack of diversity issues in the bud before they create huge discrepancies. So many of our discriminatory thoughts pass without our knowledge, so how can we be more aware of what they mean and where they come from? The Seattle Times shared an article written by Western Washington University about how bias training can impact how we hire. The first step is acknowledging that this isn't entirely a pipeline or resource issue, rather, it stems from "cultural and institutional bias, and how females and other underrepresented students are supported in the learning environment." As one scientist put it, "In the sciences, we're taught to be objective and above our biases, but we're not. To get more women into tech, the students need programs encouraging girls to get involved early, but another layer needs to be faculty awareness and fellow student awareness on discrimination and bias -- both gender and race." (See WiCipedia: Breaking Biases & Squashing Self-Limiting Fear and WiCipedia: 'Perceived Gender Bias' & Google/YouTube CEOs on Diversity.)

  • In the weirdest news of the week, The New York Times reports that startups in China are recruiting "attractive women to ease coders' stress," dubbed "programmer motivators." These women are hired to engage with "nerdy" programmers and help them relax (with conversation and massage), even though many have technical qualifications of their own. While China is progressive in many ways, in others, it is leagues behind, catering to gender stereotypes with job descriptions specifying that female applicants be beautiful and between a certain age range. Yuck. (See WiCipedia: Cryptocurrency & a Sexism Code Word and WiCipedia: Bots Gone Wild at CES & Another Google Lawsuit.)

    'Shen Yue, who has a degree in civil engineering, giving a colleague a massage in her role as a 'programmer motivator' at Chainfin.com in Beijing,' an article in The New York Times states.
    "Shen Yue, who has a degree in civil engineering, giving a colleague a massage in her role as a 'programmer motivator' at Chainfin.com in Beijing," an article in The New York Times states.

  • With the push for more female keynoters, the rise of all-female panels has become more prevalent. In an article this week, Forbes argues that these segregated panels aren't doing women any favors, especially in the areas of blockchain and cryptocurrency. The author explains that by separating women from men, women are getting pigeonholed and their importance in the industry gets shifted from what they can bring to the table to their diversity value. Anastasia Shvetsova, a managing partner at M&A PR agency, told Forbes, "Recently, I was at a summit where there was a 'Pink Room' -- a place designed specifically for women. This was a rather offensive, yet telling sign of the industry. We should be using emerging industries like blockchain to end the stigmas of gender in technology, not to bolster it." (See WiCipedia: A Female-Only Island, Gender Quotas & Twitter's Oprah and Why Now Is the Best Time to Join WiC in Austin.)

  • While the focus is often on large companies that can't seem to get a handle on their diversity numbers, several smaller companies have snuck by (and thrived) with impressive gender and racial demographics among employees. Slack is one of them, The Atlantic reports, and SendGrid is another, says The Denver Post. Both companies are communications-based -- Slack focuses on messaging while SendGrid is all about email. One thing Slack does differently is that it does not silo the importance of diversity to one job. The Atlantic states, "At Slack, the absence of a single diversity leader seems to signal that diversity and inclusion aren't standalone missions, to be shunted off to a designated specialist, but are rather intertwined with the company's overall strategy." While at SendGrid, the company attributes diversity as one of the factors in its record-breaking year -- its revenue grew 40% in 2017 alone. For the number crunchers out there, it's easy to see how diversity could really pay off. (See Why Diversity of Geeks in Tech Matters.)

  • Childcare and maternity leave are inextricably linked to women's success in the workplace, yet there are so many factors to consider. We know women need paid maternity leave and a culture where they aren't shamed for taking time to focus on their growing families, and we also know we need returnship programs so women aren't left out of the workforce after taking a leave of absence. One thing we don't hear about as much is affordable childcare, which is a necessity when returning back to work, as the cost of childcare can outstrip even a decent salary. The Globe & Mail stresses the need for this in a new article, stating that to avoid "paying money to go to work," new moms often need family members to help out or some other kind of special arrangement. A better solution might be employer-sponsored healthcare or government-subsidized childcare, the latter of which Canada is looking into. No woman should have to choose between going back to work and putting her kids in reliable, affordable and safe childcare if she wants both. (See Forman Pioneers a Path Forward for Women Returning to Work and Facebook Steps Up Its Paid Leave Policies .)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading

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