Did You Know: Tech Empathy, Negotiating Salary, Use the Crosswalk, Friends of Friends

Women in Tech and Empathy Work

Did you know about the term “emotional labor”? A recent blog post from entrepreneur Lauren Bacon, exploring the “dynamics -- and economics -- that result from having male-dominated tech departments and women managing non-technical work,” looks at the emotional labor that women take on in the technical workplace.

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Bacon points out that within tech companies, engineering roles often are “lionized,” well-paid, and lead to promotion -- but exempt those who hold them from having to skillfully interact with the users upon whom their livelihood depends. Meanwhile, the vital “empathy” roles, whether external (customer service, user experience, or marketing) or internal (ambassador, facilitator, “office mom”), often go assumed, invisible, and undercompensated. Though an imbalance of genders in each kind of role may have contributed to stereotypes, those stereotypes are also making it harder to correct the imbalance. Bacon suggests some questions that tech companies should be asking:

  • Are coders encouraged to develop their people skills, or are those skills offloaded to other departments?

  • Who coordinates workplace social events and teambuilding activities? Is that in someone’s job description, or has it defaulted to someone’s unspoken responsibility?

  • Who is responsible for managing intra-departmental communication? Are they accorded appropriate levels of compensation and prestige for their leadership and emotional labor?

  • Do compensation levels reflect unconscious assumptions about the respective value of different skillsets? Do you compensate people-facing roles for representing the company during off-hours in the same way that you compensate those in technical roles for overtime?

P.S.: Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen’s empathizers/systemizers theory, as applied to gender and tech, and why TechCrunch declares that empathy is this tech company’s “No. 1 Asset.


Problem-solving Engineering with a Flatiron

Did you know there’s a way to build a vertical loop for a marble roller coaster using only popsicle sticks and a glue gun? University of Pennsylvania junior Allison Pearce was faced with this challenge while competing with her team at an engineering camp, and if you’re thinking that popsicle sticks aren’t curvable, you’re right. In a flash of insight, Pearce realized that she could use her flatiron (a hair straightening tool) to melt the glue sticks from the glue gun into smooth, bendable strips perfect for a rollercoaster loop. It was just this kind of problem-solving challenge that got Allison turned on to computer science. Though she matriculated at Penn as a bioengineering major, she took Computer Science 110 -- Introduction to Computer Programming -- and fell in love, eventually switching her major to CS.

Pearce, who also participates with Penn’s Women in Computer Science group and recently competed in the 48-hour PennApps programming marathon, is a great example of how it’s possible to recruit women to your department who are already on campus. Sometimes all it takes is introducing freshman students to the computing discipline, offering engaging (rather than “weed out”) intro classes, and making sure that faculty provide encouragement along the way. For a great example of how these techniques have helped create an undergraduate computing program that’s 50% female, check out How Does Engaging Curriculum Attract Students to Computing? Harvey Mudd College's Successful Systemic Approach.

P.S.: Penn also runs a Women in Computer Science (WICS) Outreach to Girls program, which is partially funded by an NCWIT / Microsoft Research Academic Alliance Seed Fund grant.


Negotiate Your Salary Without Backlash

Did you know that even in Washington, D.C. (which Forbes recently reported has the smallest salary gap of any U.S. city,) women earn only 81% of men’s wages? According to a report from the American Association of University Women, the wage gap “results from a combination of women choosing lower-paying fields, lingering gender discrimination and differences in salary negotiations.”

Let’s take a look at the salary negotiations piece: a video that’s making the rounds has Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg telling a panel that, “when men negotiate for themselves they are more liked, more respected, people want to work with them more. When women negotiate for themselves, both men and women want to work with them less. So the behavior itself is not rewarded. Women don’t negotiate for themselves not because they don’t want to, not because they don’t want to get paid as much as they can, but because they know even if they haven’t seen the data, that people react badly to it.” (Perhaps this is why, when asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked "winning a ballgame" and a "wrestling match," while women picked "going to the dentist.")

Indeed, research from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon backs Sandberg up, in what researchers characterize as “social backlash” against behaviors (aggression, ambition, self-promotion) that contradict typical gender stereotypes. However, the same research shows that women can successfully negotiate their salaries by doing it in the context of concern for their workplace relationships -- using phrases like, "I hope it's OK to ask you about this," and, "My relationships with people here are very important to me."


The Rooney Rule

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In light of last weekend’s Superbowl, let’s talk about football for a moment: did you know that the National Football League requires its 32 teams to interview at least one minority candidate for every head coach and general manager position? The “Rooney Rule,” which is named for Pittsburgh Steelers owner and head of the League’s diversity committee, Dan Rooney, was adopted by the league in 2002. In the NFL’s 80-year history prior to the Rule, only six minority head coaches had been hired. Since the rule was implemented, however, the League has seen 12 head coaches of color (including, for the first time in 2007, a Superbowl in which both teams’ head coaches were African American.)

It's estimated that African Americans, Latinos, and Asians comprise nearly 70% of all NFL players. Yet they hold only 32% of assistant coaching positions, and this season, of the 32 teams, only four had minority head coaches and only five had minority general managers.

Football’s regular season ended several weeks ago, opening many vacancies, and yet none of the eight head coaching jobs or seven general manager jobs went to minorities. Some former head coaches and the League’s Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity participation, are pointing to this as evidence of the need for further reform -- saying that minority candidates may be getting interviewed only to satisfy the Rooney Rule, and that the Rule should be expanded to include assistant coaching positions to “create a better pipeline of minority talent.”

So, what does the Rooney Rule have to do with women and tech? Last year, Google told The New York Times that since it implemented changes to its interview and hiring practices -- such as including at least one woman in the in-person interview process, and requiring detailed notes for phone interviews (because they weren’t vocal self-promoters, many women were judged as less accomplished and thus never made it past the phone interview) -- the company has been more successful in hiring technical women. If you’d like to improve your hiring processes to be more inclusive, check out NCWIT’s Supervising-in-a-Box Series: Employee Recruitment/Selection.


Use the Crosswalk

Did you know that the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) recently released a “crosswalk” correlating its K-12 Computer Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards? The crosswalk documents are designed to help teachers, administrators, and policymakers demonstrate the relevance of computer science courses and how they can reinforce school standards. The documents also provide correlations to the STEM Cluster Topics and the Partnership for 21st Century Essential Skills. You’ll find the crosswalk documents, as well as the complete CSTA Standards, at the CSTA website.

Why does this matter? Aligning computer science education with science and math standards nationwide is a critical step in ensuring that more students have access to rigorous computing education. For example, the Next Generation Science Standards -- which currently are being revised with feedback from the community -- do not sufficiently address computing concepts. It’s thanks to organizations like ACM, CSTA, and Computing in the Core and voices like yours that the topic of computing education stays on the national agenda. Want to advocate for improved computing education where you live? Use our Talking Points card, Moving Beyond Computer Literacy: Why schools should teach computer science.


Friends of Friends 

friends of friends
Did you know that at Ernst & Young, nearly 45 percent of new hires come from employee recommendations? Human resources professionals reportedly love referrals because they increase efficiency, reduce recruitment costs, and result in happier employees (referred employees are 15 percent less likely to quit). One study estimates that referred candidates have a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicants. 

Something to remember about referrals is that people tend to recommend people much like themselves, a phenomenon known as “assortative matching.” According to a study for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 64 percent of employees recommended candidates of the same gender, while 71 percent referred candidates of the same race or ethnicity. At least one study has found that women referred for entry-level tech jobs are significantly more likely to be hired than women without referrals; the same study found that for executive high-tech jobs, referred candidates are much more likely to be men than women. Said a representative of placement firm Manpower, “you have to watch the ultimate long-term result in terms of diversity and skills ... [otherwise] you’re going to get people like you have.”

You can build a diverse corporate culture and hire top talent by taking a strategic approach. Check out How Can Companies Achieve Organizational Diversity? Establishing Institutional Accountability.


Did You Know? is a brief round-up of information and news that crossed NCWIT's radar this week that we think might be of interest to you. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.