Young in affect and appearance, Volandes, 41, is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School; Davis, also an M.D., is doing her residency in internal medicine, also at Harvard. When I heard about Volandes’s work, I suspected he would be different from other doctors. I was not disappointed. He refuses to let me call him “Dr. Volandes,” for example. Formality impedes communication, he tells me, and “there’s nothing more essential to being a good doctor than your ability to communicate.” More important, he believes that his videos can disrupt the way the medical system handles late-life care, and that the system urgently needs disrupting.
I’ve been super-impressed with the work Kellan & Marc have led at Etsy to improve diversity on their engineering teams over the last year or two. They’ve pioneered smart, non-patronising and innovative approaches, and have shared their learnings for those of us who want to do more at our own companies.
I will openly admit that it’s only in the last few years that I’ve truly understood the white-male privilege that I’m genetically blessed with. I can pinpoint the exact moment it dawned on me.
Late 2009, I was trying to poach a former co-worker to join my team at Slide. Toward the end of lunch, she asked me “How many female engineers do you have?” I paused, pretty instantly doing the mental arithmetic that the answer was zero1. “Well, there aren’t any on our team,” I hedged, “but in QA…”
“QA doesn’t count.” was her entirely valid reply. (And frankly, at that moment, I think there was only one female QA engineer anyway.)2
And there it was: That initial realisation that, for all white-male techies like to believe things in our industry are pure meritocracy, women (and other underrepresented groups in our industry) have extra things to think about when considering jobs — questions that don’t even vaguely pass by my subconscious. Etsy are doing us a great service by tracking, examining and sharing some of these.
Recruiting engineers is tough, even if you’re perfectly happy with a room full of twenty-something guys with plaid shirts, Threadless t-shirts and Warby Parker glasses. But what Etsy is proving is that the initial upfront pain of “How do we actively and publicly prove we want more diversity?” brings you a multitude more résumés, options and talent down the line.
And it makes our industry better.
In its six years from incubation to acquisition, out of probably a total of 150 who passed through its doors, Slide had a grand total of zero female software engineers. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Embarrassing, but not particularly atypical. ↩
A few months later, my friend joined Google, and specifically talked about how excited she was to work with a shitload of smart, female engineers. ↩