Great resume, but YOU don’t fit our corporate culture – Bridging the gender and racial gap in technology

 

 

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During my many conversations on bridging the gender and racial gap in technology, a re-occurring theme is, “Hey, I want to hire a diverse workforce, but we have a hard time finding people who fit into our corporate culture.

OK… I’m going to stop you right there and ask, “What you talking about Willis? (You would only get this if you watched the TV Show Different Strokes, and yes I think I’m pretty funny.)  More times than not, my question is met with a blank face, a stumble in words, or a look of embarrassment.  My solution:  Don’t get uptight, don’t become defensive, I come in peace…Let’s talk about it.

Often time the corporate executives I consult with aren’t consciously excluding people,   however the ” culture fit” statement and reaction to my question, suggest an unconscious bias.  That statement is a covert way of saying,:  “Uh, you don’t look or act like anyone who works here, or for that matter anyone in my circle.  So, you may be qualified, but it’s not gonna work here.”

Openly and strategically discussing the “they don’t fit into the culture” statement, has actually lead to great conversations, challenging beliefs, uncovering fear, and hiring great people who help propel the organization to new heights with a wealth of diverse thoughts, talents, and creativity.

When you speak about fitting into the culture do you mean: The candidate is certain race or gender, they’re too old,  have a percieved socio-economic status, don’t look”cool” enough, can’t speak the jargon, don’t like sports, will be the “only” at the company picnic, and the reasoning goes on.

I know the reasons listed may seem a little outlandish, but speaking from experience some of the conversations, I’ve had around corporate culture have been over the top.  I worked at a corporation where my peer, an executive pointed and said, “We treat colored people equally.”  Now, you can’t tell me that he did not have a wild definition of what a cultural fit would be and I’m grateful he didn’t have a decision on hiring me as I would still be embalming people (long story…)

I’m not implying that company culture and values aren’t important, but I’m asking you to pause and ask yourself are you using it as an “excuse” to exclude amazing candidates from the field of technology.

Bottom-line:  I’m suggesting you call a meeting with yourself and then your staff to talk about “this culture fit”…what does it REALLY mean?  Next time you say, “they don’t fit into the culture,” someone might call you on it. What will your answer be?

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Marlin is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, and thought leader on bridging the racial and gender gap in technology.  Marlin serves as speaker for Microsoft’s global DigiGirlz Program and has been invited to present at SXSW, Techonomy, Meeting of the Minds, and more.  Marlin also serves as a media contributor on various outlets.  Marlin’s Book and Music Single empowers girls to love and believe in themselves.

Five tips for women who want to learn how to code – Bridging the gender and diversity gap in technology

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20-years ago I literally stumbled into the field of of technology, and my life was transformed.  After college I was an aspiring mortician at a local funeral home.  My day consisted of learning to embalm, consoling grieving families, and even singing and praying at the funerals.  Hey, I was every woman!

Unfortunately coding and technology are often presented in a very complex way, and it’s really not that deep.  A career in technology is accessible, you don’t need a thousand degrees, you don’t have to live in a certain area and you don’t have to look a certain way. As I work on bridging the gender and racial gap in technology, I speak with many women who feel they don’t have access to tech jobs or they lack the confidence to try.  I always say there is power in the first step, so below you will find five fun and easy tips (things you can do today) to move you closer to your technology goals:

1.  Try an introductory class.  No, not a class that costs thousands of dollars.  Before you make that type of investment, I would encourage you to try it out first.  After Sisters Code’s Weekend Website Warrior Classes, we have many women who experience coding “ah-ha” moments and go on to re-career into the field of technology or become tech entrepreneurs.  There are also some women who realize they hate coding, and I also consider that a success as they can now truly find their true life purpose.  Bottom-line:  Find a cost effective local introductory class or try an online option like codeacademy.com.

2.  Speak with other women who are in the field.   When I started my career in technology, it was great to see other women who looked like me in the field.  If you don’t know someone currently working in the tech field, don’t let that stop you.  This is where you get creative.  A few options:  Find a local women technology group, Google or Bing a woman you admire in tech and simply reach out (what’s the worst thing that could happen?)

3.  No apologies allowed.  No, you don’t know how to code.  No, you aren’t even sure what coding is.   Trust me, when I started my career in technology the only thing I knew about coding was how to spell the word.  If you are curious about entering the field of technology, don’t apologize to anyone for what you don’t know.  This is the time where you walk in with your head up high, and ask for what you want.  Focus on what you want to learn and take the necessary steps to get you there.

4.  Show up.  “Coding” is the new cool thing and the new buzz word, which means there are quite a few opportunities to  pick up this new skill.  However, I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every woman who has told me that there aren’t opportunities to learn and/or network.  The table has been set on a national level, now it’s time for you to show up and take your seat at the table.   Show up for classes, conferences, networking events and job fairs.  As the “excuse annihilator,” I can’t think of any excuse for you to stay away.

5.   Tap into your inner Swagger.  My teenage daughter would cringe at my use of that word, but I like it.  My definition of swagger is your confidence, the way you walk into the room, understanding that you deserve the best, etc.   Before you can learn to code or accomplish any other goal for that matter, you must first believe you can.  The underlying belief that you can do this, that you can accomplish this, that you can re-career into the field of technology is important.  It’s the first step…..

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Marlin is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, and thought leader on bridging the racial and gender gap in technology.  Marlin serves as speaker for Microsoft’s global DigiGirlz Program and has been invited to present at SXSW, Techonomy, Meeting of the Minds, and more.  Marlin also serves as a media contributor on WDIV’s Live in the D.  Marlin’s Book and Music Single empowers girls to love and believe in themselves.

 

 

 

Sisters Code in Dbusiness Magazine

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Seeking to boost the number of women in front-end technology — build­ing Web and mobile applications — Detroiter Marlin Page launched Sisters Code. The Detroit nonprofit aims to provide 2,020 females with employable digital skills by the end of 2020.

Already, 50 women have completed the first 13-week program, held at Microsoft Corp.’s regional offices in Southfield. After 500 women are trained in metro Detroit, Sisters Code will expand its curriculum nation­wide. Beyond that, Page says the nonprofit has the potential to operate in perpetuity.

“We provide the students with an hourly salary, which takes away a lot of the barriers of getting to class each day,” she says. “It’s a radical idea — (paying) people to attend classes — but it’s needed. Plus, we provide one-on-one mentoring, and career and life coaching.”

Each class will have 16 students, and no coding experience is needed. To help raise capital for the effort, Page launched a crowd­funding effort earlier this year, and new classes are being planned.

In-kind donors include Microsoft, Henry Ford Health System, Chalkfly, and the Michigan Council of Women in Technology.

“My goal was to weave technology with empowerment,” says Page, a tech­nology strategist for Microsoft. “I also advise parents on what their children are doing with social media. It’s not something you can leave to chance. You need to monitor everything your children are doing online. db