I want to work with more women.

I can’t find enough women to work with and that’s really frustrating. I’ve been trying to understand how to change that.

Last week at Big Omaha, I had the awesome opportunity to listen to Cindy Gallop speak about women in the workplace, as well as have a great conversation with Sally Nellson Barrett from Malone & Company on the subject.

A few things stuck out to me, and I started thinking about my own life. I was basically raised by two women, my grandmother and my mother. They created a lot of structure in my life, and I arguably have been trying to figure that out for myself since I moved out of the house. Their work ethic and personality traits were truly unbelievable.

To this day, a lot of the people I work really well with are exceptionally strong women. Charise Flynn, Dwolla’s COO, is a perfect example of an amazing woman who leads and drives the company forward with her quick problem solving and great business decisions.

This is not to say that there is a problem with the guys that I work with. I love them. They’re amazing and I want to work with more of them too, but we need more kick ass women at Dwolla. Out of the 42 amazingly talented employees at Dwolla, only 10 are women. Diversity is a good thing, we want different opinions and more voices at the table.

So the question remains: How can I work with more women so that we can continue to build a better company?

The other day, I asked Jenna, our HR manager, how many female applications were in the developer pipeline. We didn’t have one. Not a single one. That’s a big stack of applications, and that seemed silly.

So, I was especially interested at Big Omaha to learn what I could do to attract more women. My favorite piece of advice came from Cindy during her talk, when she told everyone to simply put yourself out there for women to see and say: “I WANT TO WORK FOR/WITH YOU!”

So here we go. I hope this isn’t awkward…

Women of the tech world,

I know you’re out there. I see you at conferences and at coffee shops hacking all day. When you catch me looking at you working, I’m not looking for a wedding ring. I’m trying to see if you’re building something and if so, on what, for whom, so I can figure out how to find you.

I believe you have exceptional minds. You’ve continually challenged the company, held us accountable, and, personally, told me if my ideas suck. I appreciate that.

We need more of that.

We can’t find you if you’re not applying, and we want really badly to work with you. My motives are totally selfish and transparent. We know how awesome you are, what an amazing team member we think you will be, and we want to build a great company with you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Please! Apply.

-Ben

 

 

  • http://twitter.com/ambzm Amber Lujan

    May have said this in multiple places but this is amaze!

  • http://twitter.com/LindsayAlderman Lindsay Alderman

    haha! This is great, Ben.

  • http://www.dreamchamps.com/blog Jill Felska

    Every time I think I can’t possibly like you any more, you do something to impress me even further. Thanks for putting this out there!

  • http://twitter.com/amandamorrow Amanda Morrow

    Hey Ben – I think about this problem all the time: how do we get more women in the tech community? While asking them to apply is a good start, just like men, women seek out role models (myself included).

    Working with all men who speak tech jargon can be intimidating, but it’s so important for those strong women you work with to help lead the way for others and talk about how awesome and rewarding it is to work at Dwolla, especially at colleges and universities.

  • http://causecart.com/ Mike Geer (MG)

    Possibly put an intern or Jenna (if she has time) on reach out duty to the Women in Tech meetup groups to fish for applicants. Also, Rachel Sklar always seems to have her finger on the pulse of where to find talent, especially female. Cindy or I could intro you, if you haven’t crossed paths already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennylustig Jenny Lustig

    This is amazing, thanks for posting this Ben! If Dwolla was located in Chicago I’d be applying for a front-end dev job right now.

    I can say that as an aspiring female dev, there are so many barriers to entering the field. I’ve taken a few front-end classes and built my own portfolio from scratch, but was continuously turned down for unpaid internships for not having any client experience. I had to give up on my dev aspirations and start focusing on another career field, which has been frustrating to say the least.

    • http://twitter.com/bpmilne Ben Milne

      Jenny – We have really strong team members working remotely. We hire where the talent is not just where we are. Drop us a line!

      • Rebecca

        Ben,

        Great post (saw through DevChix) — you should really highlight that you allow working remotely! It’s huge selling point and makes location a non-issue. (And dare I say, something women may care more about?)

        Also, if you are concerned about the visibility of women devs (we exist!), would Dwolla consider sponsoring – Write/Speak/Code – a conference I’m organizing to empower women devs to become more visible by speaking and contributing to open source? http://www.writespeakcode.com

        Best,
        Rebecca

  • AK

    Me too!

  • Catherine Huggins

    Hi Ben! Great blog today. For seven years, I was a member of a Women’s Market Steering Committee at a Fortune 500 company. In addition, I served on the Women’s Leadership Council for the Tocqueville Society in Cincinnati which focused on “how” to get more women on corporate boards.
    What you are facing is not unusual (Tech Industry or not.) Let’s find a time for Jenna, you and I to chat. There’s a lot of things that can be done to help address this challenge.

    P.S. – Jenna and I were business colleagues in the past. She is awesome!!!

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    I love seeing posts like this – great call Ben. I’d suggest one place to also look is Women2.0 – great organization mainly focused on tech – and women in tech.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neshura Amanda Gilbert

    I’m with you, but consider – if you want to work with more women, is it any surprise that I also want to work with more women? Or, frankly, even just one? I don’t want to hurt any man’s feelings by implying that it is their man-ness that I want to skip past, it is not so!

    Apart from “because they are the best”, or “because we have to”, there are so many reasons that we hire or want to work with specific people, with so much more nuance. We want to work with people because we admire them, we are endeared to them, or we are challenged (in the good, positive sense) by the breadth of their world views and unique insights and the way they subjugate their work ethic to serve human society as if they really somehow grasp that we’re all part of that society.

    I’ve managed to cobble together a functioning delta brain wave from coffee grounds, kleenex, and bits of yarn over a few years, and that brain wave has been hammering on my mind for the past year or so, “Amanda, you’ve reached the point where you just aren’t going to learn much more from young, enthusiastic, middle-class, mildly-under-to-greatly-over-groomed white male coders bubbling over with TARDIS in-jokes and cyclist outrage and whose lives are characterized most keenly by ‘free time’, so much of it, all that crazy-ass ‘time’ which they fill or don’t fill, at their own whim.” I’m being unfair only for illustrative purposes, as if you substitute “female” above, I was there, at one time, but I’m not there now, and however ungrateful it may seem, I want SO much more!

    Were I to start hiring for my own team, I’d want to work with women, just like you want to – but also older programmers – far older than me – maybe even refusing to retire because it’s all so damned interesting still! Or technologists from wildly different areas – perhaps a person who keeps hardened DEC machines in Antarctic command centers running and doesn’t know shit about jQuery, but has incredible stories and approaches to life now that they’re back in a temperate zone. Or late-to-the-programming-world moms or ex-nurses. Transgender programmers. Blind programmers who only do it as a means to building crazy laser-etched Braille sculptures with their hands in their off time.

    The last time I saw a man in my industry post something like this, it was some guy hiring for a female UX designer. At least he was trying, I’ll give proper credit there. But, not every girlfriend’s a healer in WoW, and some developers who are women are not front-end developers.

    Great job keeping it positive, enthusiastic, and most importantly, open-ended. Thank you – no really, you++. (I don’t hand out post-increments to just anyone, you now.)

    I still don’t know what I want to do next in my programming career, and I’m not located anywhere near your jobs. If I decide I still want to be a programmer when I grow up, and just accept that it means I won’t get to work with women – I’ll apply. Or maybe me and my one programming girlfriend who has never worked at the same company as me will apply to yours as a package deal. Heh!

  • techgirl

    reach out to teachwomen.org they might have some ideas

    • techgirl

      ment techwoment.org..my bad

      • techgirl

        bad keyboard need new one,,,last time techwomen.org

  • Mr. Kitterman

    Recruit at a DigiGirlz conference or contact Hyperstream to find your new tech women. They are there waiting to be invited into the workforce.

  • http://www.MeganGayle.com/ Megan

    I’m a woman and I also want to work with more women. It is disheartening when I go to a meeting and I am the only woman. In this way, I would say that diversity attracts diversity. If I am with a group of diverse people I am less likely to be called out or feel left out as a minority in the group. So many studies have shown that diverse groups produce better ideas and results so it makes good business sense as well.
    I think you are on the right path by just putting it out there. If your team is ever in need of a designer/developer, let me know. I’m always looking to work with people that value diversity.

  • http://twitter.com/jackinessity Jackie Shelley

    This is the best thing I have read all day. Thank you! I wrote about something along these lines in a blog post, last September:

    https://jackieshelley.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/feministization-diversification-rantification/

    Really grateful for people like you who are taking an active role in changing the way things run!

  • http://twitter.com/AdamStelle Adam Stelle

    Couldn’t agree more. We’ve been in a hiring storm here at Startup Weekend the last couple months, and have had amazingly few women applicants (even for non-tech roles.) It’s frustrating – we’ve historically had a nearly 50% ratio, and hate to see that slipping.

  • EJLima

    test

  • EJLima

    REVELATION 1.1.. = MALACHI 4.56 .. I >HI.. from AZ.. & and I want to work with you.. LUKE 19.27….

  • Walter Radzewicz

    Why this sudden urge!!! What if they have good looks and good to look at is all you want? Or efficiency. You may want to think out of the box. I love women, but are a pain to work with…..in some instances. I have 17 year experience and I know. Look at the escort ads.

    • Jane O’Brien Webster

      Yikes!

  • http://www.WeDeliver.us/ @DanielaBolzmann

    Great post Ben, glad it came from a guy.

  • http://twitter.com/tammypetro Tammy Petro

    I love this post Ben. Dwolla HR take note: Grace Hopper and Geek Girl Dinners are two place I find fellow women in tech. I’ve relocated from Iowa to Sydney to work in Finance, but I’m surprised there aren’t more women devs coming forward.

    • CaityJones

      Tammy – thank you for the tips!

  • http://www.macncheeseproductions.com/ Saya

    Great post Ben — well written, interesting topic!

    And, sigh.

    I realize that hiring people for jobs is very different than smooshing folks together to help them expand social | professional | romantic networks. But oh, how I wish I had your problem!

    I have the exact opposite issue, suffocating under the weight of all the females who sign up for my events and scratching my head at the lack of males.

    My events are aimed at helping people meet others, challenge themselves, and live more fully [laugh more!], without the awkwardness and forced’ness of many traditional networking events. They’re not dating events; people in relationships participate and have a blast.

    Events range from unplugged retreats in magical lands that help you rediscover your awesomeness to embracing your suckage and learning dance | improv | a capella | stepping with strangers and then performing in front of 700+ to low-key mingling at someone’s home, amongst couches and flip-flops.

    By the numbers samples –
    Upcoming Life of Yes! Retreat: 4 male & 72 female applicants
    Life of Yes! February Retreat: 0 male & 10 female participants
    Life of Yes! November Retreat: 1 male & 9 female participants
    Fear Experiment Four: 6 male & 31 female participants
    Fear Experiment Three: 5 male & 35 female particpants
    The last Mac ‘n Cheese Mingler: 3 male & 24 female participants

    Blog post I did a few years ago, numbers are even more lopsided now –
    “Testosterone? [knock, knock] Hellooooo?”: http://macncheeseproductions.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/testosterone-knock-knock-hellooooo/

    If you ever want to do a swap of networks… :)

    The ladies in my world are fabulously funny, intelligent, and cute.

  • http://twitter.com/firedrilly sally nellson

    It’s time to grow our own. Women in tech, that is. As the mother of three young daughters, I think it’s critical that we begin to look at how we bring together K-12 education and business. If what we need as an industry is more people (including women) in tech, then we need to communicate that with our educators. Every school should have an afterschool club for coding – beginning as early as 1st grade. I think it’s as important today as learning to type was when I was in school. With your incredibly talented staff, why not reach out to local schools to see how you might partner with them to teach these in-demand skills. Girls who code is a great model. girlswhocode.org

    It’s not about finding one woman who can code. It’s about raising our next generation of talent to move all of our tech companies forward. I don’t think it’s too bold to say that you, and all of the other tech startups, have a responsibility to partner with educators at all levels to create the workforce you want.

    • Turnip

      I agree that it needs to start with schools but it will have to be privately funded since the realty for most districts is they don’t have enough funds to do basics as it is. I am a wife of a teacher and also have worked at schools too. It would be a great program for sure.

      But I say look to older workers as well. Second career folks.

      I know I am not a code writer but I think this is true of the industry as a whole. I volunteered with a school district for two years and was treated like crap by male technology director. I realized this industry is male dominated and older females are like really uncool. I liked the idea of working autonomously but to get them to show you much is like pulling teeth. They are scared to share. They like to compete not collaborate.

      I took a Comptia A + class when I was 40 yrs old to overcome my fear of the box and was the only female in the class and the only one over the age of 20. What I didn’t know in acronyms I made up with being able to tear down a box and rebuild it before any of the smarter younger males. The instructor said hey we are going to make a geek of you yet. But there was no real support and I gave up. I also like to be able to trust who I am working with and never found I could find that either.

      Maybe there is this sort of Lord of the Flies type mentality with younger males and even the older ones when it comes to females who dare breach their techno holy ground.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CassandraMichelleJones Cassandra Jones

    It makes me want to learn quickly so that I could work with you! If only I chose the tech world.

  • Jane O’Brien Webster

    I’m an early Woman In Tech: Started with a compsci & math degree in the late 80s and into jobs as a C/UNIX programmer. Being the only woman at the time, and not taking well to the corporate life, I reinvented myself as an early web designer for real estate offices in the late 90s in the Appalachian mountains. Life changes since then have brought me to a fab home office in the south while taking care of an elderly parent, learning and retooling on the most recent tech developments, getting ready to reinvent myself once again.

    Things change fast, but are sort of still the same. Each development tool builds on what’s come before. It’s a matter of having “brain hooks” for the new stuff, while clearing out the cobwebs of stuff that is no longer useful instead of hanging onto it and thinking that you’re done learning. I’ve been doing projects for people who know me by word of mouth, but I haven’t put myself out there yet. I need to feel ready. But this post and discussion is hopeful. Maybe I’ll be ready soon.

    • CaityJones

      Thanks for sharing your story, Jane!! Keep coding :)

  • http://www.myvirtualproject.com Susi Schuele

    Oh my. I’ve worked in IT positions for.. well.. let’s just say a very, very long time. Mostly break fix for legal technology software but IT Management as well. I even dabbled in Visual Basic for a while and I was sometimes on an island but have known some great tech women. 5 years ago, I got into what I should have done from the beginning – the creative side of technology. Now building WordPress sites and designing graphics, have ramped up html and css, learned Illustrator and Photoshop and couldn’t be happier. I hope you find the right tech girls – they are out there. And I hope schools will start to encourage women to pursue careers in development because we can be pretty darn good at it.

  • Ernesto

    This is sexist. You are now openly admitting that you are more likely to hire a woman as your next employee over a man. That stack of applications you mentioned? Those were all people who sought your company out and wanted to work for you. You are going to dismiss them all now by finding some woman you had to reach out to and beg, not because of her skills or qualifications, but because of her gender.

  • julia_disqus

    Ben:

    How do you currently get your job applicants? I looked at your “Apply” link (no, I’m not planning to move to Des Moines, but just to have an opinion), they look like those “leftover” ads that stay around after hiring is done. Hard to read, technologies all lumped together with a “/” (my eyes started to hurt), too many requirements (Java, C, .NET, PHP in one person); like somebody who wrote them didn’t care if anyone applies. And I couldn’t find your job ads anywhere else except the jobscore site. It’s already a challenge to locate your job ad or this blog.

    Besides that, why doesn’t your HR themselves contact qualified candidates some of which are women, or contacts only men? Obviously, if you’re not looking for people, if you don’t contact/accept applications from diverse candidates, if your job applicants come from a limited pool of friends-of-friends of current employees, it would be very hard to hire a diverse team. So, why complaining? You hope, it’s not awkward… but, really, it is… You can’t hire somebody if they are not applying, but they can’t apply if you’re not hiring them! If fact, you already have a stack of resumes, you can’t just toss them.

  • Skypost109

    Oh….. Ben it’s not that we are avoiding you :) On the contrary, I have been watching Dwolla since you started up… silently cheerleading every press release that comes out.Yeah!! One for the home team!!

    You see … I went to college in 1998 with the promise of the dotcom boom in full swing, a lot of other women started classes with me. Come to school they said a college degree is the only way you will get a job in the IT field they said… In a few years this will be “Silicon Prairie” they said… So I did along with a handful of other women. Out of our little graduating class in IT to date myself and one other “girlfriend” of mine is still in the business, yes we are friends, it turned out that what they say about Des Moines is true that it has 2 degrees of separation :) someone you know, knows someone you know…lol…

    Well it took a little longer than they said to manifest Silicon Prairie although it’s safe to say I think we are well on the way now. Most
    women who are still in the field are ensconced in a position that they probably literally fought hard to get there, and maintaining their position is a neverending story. It’s been a hard road for most of us gals in the field, we were turned away for not having a college degree, then we were told we needed certifications, and nowadays things are moving so fast no one can maintain cert’s if they tried. I think a lot of women are just tired, they are safe in the positions they have, they have tailored their lives around it, they are comfortable, and some are just jaded.

    While this experience is possibly not true for all women in Des Moines area that are in IT especially the young “Abby’s” just starting out. It does offer a little insight as to what is going on in some minds out there. For myself… having been through that, done that, and done with that… I am always open to the newest ideas coming down the line. I have always thought that being in IT was kind of like Christmas all the time, shiny new things come out every day. It is amazing how far we have come in the last 20 years.

    So…. Ben… Here I go, hope this isn’t awkward…

    Girl Network Engineer seeking position in a hot start up in
    Silicon Prairie. Wishes to work with teams of people that can move at the speed of the internet… but can also be left to her own devices with a concept and still get the job done. Credentials you ask… oh yes.. she has credentials, networking, finance/banking/government, a little security & auditing thrown in there. Oh and what she lacks she can learn on the fly as she is just amazing that way.

    So… Hey, I just saw your email and this is crazy but here’s
    my number @Skypost109 so tweet me, maybe :)

  • Catherine Huggins

    Also, thank goodness for Iowa’s STEM Initiative and Lt. Governor Kim Reynold’s passion for this effort.

  • julia_disqus

    Why do I always find “hiring women campaigns” sounding funny?” People hire developers, test engineers, marketers. But “women” is not an occupation.

    How to hire developers (been there as a candidate).
    Step 1. Create a hiring pipeline benefiting certain demographics (such as a stack of resumes without a single female candidate). Hire the best developers from it. Complain that people who are kept away from the pipeline don’t apply themselves.
    Step 2. Launch a campaign “hire women”. Collect as many qualified resumes as possible – 20, 50. Hire 1 or 2 of the “best cultural experience”, whatever the developer team chooses – the best communication style, the best personality, the most likable, whatever. Discard the rest.
    Step 3. Repeat step 1. Never, ever fix the hiring pipeline.

  • http://twitter.com/Jacamat jacqueline matuszak

    The problem is education, not interest. Plenty of my peers in High School were interested in computers, but the idea of being ostracized from the social circles to ‘become a nerd’ was off-putting enough so that my earliest extracurricular computer classes were composed of me – the girl – and twenty or so of my male peers.

    If programming courses were an integral part of public education I think you’d see a radical shift in the amount of women who enter tech. Additionally, having strong female role models in this field needs to become a thing, having someone to look up to from an early age means a lot, I think.

  • Lauren L

    Awesome Post! As a young women working in the finance world I am regularly the only women and person under 30 at conferences as well in meetings! Women have an innate talent for multitasking (and I think conductive reasoning as well) I really see the tech and computer science fields being great fields for women and esp mothers. Warren Buffet wrote an article a couple weeks similar to your blog topic. You can check it out on the blog I post for http://www.eBarnRaiser.com/blog

  • Todd Kirke

    Ben,
    By connecting to your network about the subject you are doing what you can do and what is accessable to a wide audience. My take would be to do 2 things above and beyond what you are doing:
    1) partner with someone like me who is passionate about connecting talent in todays business world (which happens to invlove I.T. at every level IMHO). There are a number of companies, but there are not a number of passionate people in those companies looking for ways to expand the pool af talent.
    2) help grow the discussion around tomorrows jobs and today’s needs with our kids! I have seen a huge gap in skill sets in Iowa and around the US and this needs to start with our kids. Education in our schools needs to prepare better for all the I.T. needs. All politics are local so why not start in the areas you are looking to grow in? I have a number of opportunities that local people like me are starting to get off the ground and Dwolla could be a huge boost to them!
    Sally and I are on the same page and I’d love to connect with both of you as I am doing it, not just talking about it!
    Coffee?
    Todd

  • Limari Colón

    THANK YOU! Wow… this is just beautiful. :’) I’m a woman and I have the privilege to work with several amazing ones. Everyone should be so lucky.

  • Alli

    Hi Ben – like the honesty in this post. When I first agreed to work for the start-up I’m at, I was concerned that I would be only the second female hire on a team of 20. I was reassured that there would be more female hires coming soon…which was true.

    But when I arrived on day one there were significantly more women in the office, but the thought lingered in my mind on whether I was there because I was qualified and they were excited about my contribution, or whether they wanted to look like a diverse workplace. I know now that it was for the first reason, but the fact that I had to worry about that in the first place is a strange feeling.

    Also..if you really want to attract more diversity, maybe your (really well designed…good work) homepage should not have 3 white males, and 1 white female.

    Great product, though. Worked with one of your former interns all summer and he is a rockstar.