I recently read the New York Times’ Business Section article by Claire Cain Miller titled “Technology’s Man Problem” – then I read it again.
At first, I was expecting another write-up about women who try to “have it all” and wanted to dismiss the whole thing. But something made me come back and read the article again and that is when it hit me, hostile environments in technology are not as much about gender, but rather about hiring—and tolerating—the “brilliant jerks.” It just so happens that because technology is still a male dominated field, a higher percentage of those “brilliant jerks” happen to be men.
Technology is one of the few fields where people with no social skills and poor manners can rise up the ranks quickly because the end, in this case being a coding rock star, justifies the means. This behavior has been tolerated due to scarcity of great resources capable of writing dazzling code, managing databases, or having a general understanding of technology. This will hopefully change as a more diverse population enters the field of technology and the market refocuses on the importance of building strong teams that can work together to solve problems over the long run, and not just hiring pure coders to finish a specific project no matter the effect it has on the morale or culture of the company. Understanding coding principles is now part of most elementary school curriculums and more and more businesses consider technical knowledge to be a strategic asset, but in order to encourage diversity in the field, current employers need to foster the building of inclusive cultures, otherwise people with the potential to have a talent for technology will choose another field. Why would I want to join a field of work where I know ahead of time I will have to deal with jerks?
Large corporations understand that building an inclusive culture is a key to their survival in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Smaller companies that focus purely on growth often let the culture piece fall behind focusing solely on the “coders.” However, that strategy is not sustainable as technologically adept talent, especially outside of Silicon Valley, is still scarce. A company that wants to grow and build a business needs to not only attract, but also retain talent. It becomes increasingly more difficult if the culture that emerges does nothing to curtail poor behavior, and even encourages it. Therefore, technology is not a men’s or women’s problem, it is an opportunity for evolving mutual respect and courtesy in the workplace that comes from a strong company culture.
How does a company mold a culture? By carefully selecting its leaders and promoting people who live by the values and behaviors that they want to emulate in their employees. This means zero tolerance policy towards poor behaviors at all levels of the organization, whether it be by a man or a woman. Only then can technology become a field that is inclusive of all.
This guest blog was submitted by Ewa Jackson, Data Team Manager at Echo Global Logistics. If you are interested in guest blogging, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.