Nayak D.,University of Memphis |
Prince S.,Tennessee Technological University |
Robinson R.,Anita Borg Institute
Proceedings of 2014 Science and Information Conference, SAI 2014
This Social networking sites remain a popular method of interaction and channel of communication for modern society. As the number of social networking users increase, the size of social networks is significantly increasing. To enhance the searching technique, graph based search algorithm is adopted but the adoption of this searching technique has increased the security issues for the users and their data. There is a necessity for strong privacy tools which will protect the privacy of users in graph based search. In this poster, we present the privacy risks of Facebook (FB) Graph Search. © 2014 The Science and Information (SAI) Organization. Source
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At the startup where software developer Jen used to work, the presence of human resources was, to use her words, “a joke.” (“Jen,” it should be noted, is a pseudonym.) “One of my coworkers would say, ‘If you have an HR issue, go to [the lead developer] and sit on his lap,’” she told Motherboard. “Everybody didn’t want to take themselves too seriously.” This attitude isn’t unique to Jen’s former employer—it's endemic to tech companies throughout the country. HR is widely neglected in the industry; and the repercussions for female employees are rippling. The genesis of the modern tech company goes something like this: A couple of friends have an idea for an online product, which they decide to turn into a business. After months of working 14-hour days in living rooms and coffee shops and soliciting investments from family and friends (“angel investors,” in startup parlance), they’re able to broaden their headcount. Still, time and funds are limited, and the founders need to build and refine their product rapidly to appease investors. Given the confines, they devote hiring efforts strictly to personnel they deem immediately essential—software developers, marketers, product managers—pretermitting infrastructure and, often, legal compliance. (Google, for instance, had 63 employees before its first HR hire in 1999; when asked about their HR hiring histories, Facebook, Twitter, and Github declined to comment. Tinder, Uber, and Airbnb didn’t respond.) “Some startups may start with two or three people for a year or two, and then all of a sudden, they have 50 or 60 folks working for them because people have invested in them, and they expect results,” Ian Carleton Schaefer, an employment and labor attorney and co-editor of the blog Technology Employment Law, told Motherboard. “They may not have been thinking from day one about, 'How do we structure the workforce?’” Initially, the effects seem subtle, even innocuous. Leveraging their loose organization, many tech companies aim to foster social, relaxed environs, blurring the boundaries between professional life and social life. Seeking exponential growth and unwavering employee commitment, companies proffer “rewards” like in-house ping-pong tables and free tacos in exchange for workers’ sacrifices of nights and weekends. Yet the potential threats these marathon hours pose to women far outweigh the perks. “I have heard from women who've been in startups that with the long hours, there are definitely times where they feel a bit uncomfortable being in office situations late at night that may be related to not feeling comfortable with a coworker, but it could also be just not feeling comfortable with their physical safety leaving the building late at night,” Elizabeth Ames, senior vice president of marketing at the Anita Borg Institute, told Motherboard. What’s more, alcohol often plays a significant role in employee bonding at tech companies, further isolating women. Jen’s former employers had a penchant for nightly bar visits and held “initiation rituals” in which new hires would shotgun beers; abstaining employees thus missed opportunities to hobnob with the bosses, and most grew sufficiently disgruntled with the booze-addled opportunity gap to quit. To call the “work hard, play hard” atmosphere inhospitable to women who are pregnant or have families to come home to is a gross understatement—especially when 40 percent of women in tech are afraid to even mention their families at work. Because it can result from a mere lack of consideration, this deficient infrastructure may not seem malicious. However, conscious decisions do contribute to the problem. The ethos of “disrupting” established institutions can color startup founders’ perceptions of traditional business organization; many companies, led by enterprising 20- and 30-somethings, reject the cubicled infrastructure of the offices of their parents’ generations in favor of an ostensibly open, “streamlined” approach. In turn, the securities those older employers maintained—eight-hour days, parental protections, and incremental pay raises, for example—often disintegrate. Airbnb exemplified this last year when it replaced its HR department with an “Employee Experience Group.” A glorified corporate makeover, it reinforces the rewards-for-extreme-hours model; the “employee experience” disguises sous-chef-prepared meals and staff trips as part of a healthy working environment in an attempt to perpetuate long hours. A Forbes article described the shift as “[blurring] the lines between the functions of Marketing, Communications, Real Estate, Social Responsibility, and Human Resources.” (Perhaps more telling, a blog called HR is Dead professed a “culture crush” on Airbnb.) Ultimately, these structural issues contribute to one of the greatest systemic problems facing working women today: barriers to advancement, known to many as the glass ceiling. Without HR, the bias proven to hinder the promotion of women in tech only widens. “There is a tremendous amount of bias [against women] in promotion practices. When you have organizational structures and policies that are not very well defined, those are incredible opportunities for that bias to come through. When you’re in early stages of organization and there isn’t any clear process of promotion or any clear standards, often the promotions are based on who likes who,” Ames said. This is certainly true for Jen, who just left her company for that very reason. She had started working when the employee count hovered around 20; during her tenure, she made consistent efforts to advance and to recruit more women, all of which went unrecognized. “I think one of the biggest problems about not having HR was there was no oversight in terms of support for career growth and making our workplace more diverse,” she said. “I felt like I had this opportunity being a part of an organization from the beginning where I could say, ‘We can build this out to where we want it to be. Let’s hire diversely. Let’s bring on the best talent that we can.’ But they never put that much thought into it because they didn’t have somebody dedicated to that role.” These problems permeate companies at all stages. Startups that don't implement HR in their infancy usually don't take it seriously as they mature; the company Jen worked for was recently acquired, but an HR rep was only introduced six months into the acquisition. Travis Kalanick, CEO of perennially victim-dismissive Uber, has previously dodged questions about his company’s HR strategy. Schaefer said most of his startup-founder clients only implement HR retroactively, after lawsuit threats have already surfaced—and the legal team, not the executives, fills in the gaps. Recent cases of harassment at tech giants like Tinder and Github have illustrated, in an especially egregious form, the dangers of minimizing HR; in the wake of Tinder’s lawsuit, founder Sean Rad conceded that “the lines got blurred, the boundaries should have been stronger,” and only after Github faced allegations did it accelerate its HR hiring efforts. “Usually, the wakeup call comes by way of litigation, investigation, or when the people strategy is not completely sound and investors or potential acquirers look at the operating model and it impacts their evaluation,” Schaefer said. “And that’s often way too late in the game to be focused on that.” “It’s important to get on top of these issues early on or it’s easy to go for years out of [legal] compliance,” Michelle Capezza, an attorney who edits the blog with Schaefer, told Motherboard. Of course, HR alone won’t liberate women from workplace injustice. It's only an arm of a company, and even when HR is active, it may fall short of creating an equitable workplace. A recent study showed that 60 percent of women in the tech industry report unwanted sexual advances, 60 percent of whom were dissatisfied with the course of action. At Google, for example, a woman named Julia Chou was repeatedly sexually harassed by her manager. After she reported it to HR (and endured a tearful investigation), she told Motherboard, she never learned how the accused was punished, though she knew his position hadn’t changed. “HR only told me that appropriate disciplinary action had been taken,” she said. Chou eventually left the company. In the tech industry, transformative change won’t happen until executives begin to vanquish their entrenched biases with tools like blind resume screenings and diversity benchmarks. But if a strong HR presence can help a woman feel safe when she goes home, have a job to return to after maternity leave, earn the promotion she deserves, or be free from sexual harassment, isn’t it, at the very least, a start? Silicon Divide is a series about gender inequality in tech and science. Follow along here. Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Github was the target of a lawsuit. In fact, Github merely faced public allegations of sexual and gender-based harassment.
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Natalie Panek has been staring up at the stars with curiosity and wonder ever since she was a child growing up in the Canadian Rockies, when camping and hiking excursions meant plenty of weekends spent in the back country, where she’d gaze at the sky. Watching TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate SG-1 with her mom made things even clearer for her: Space was calling, and she’d answer by making it her life’s work. Today, Panek is a mission systems engineer in robotics and automation at Canada’s MDA Corp. outside Toronto, where her team is building the chassis and locomotion system for the European Space Agency’s 2018 ExoMars Rover. Of course, it's easy for stories like hers to get lost amid the breathless news coverage of the space industry today. The central figure in that narrative is often a certain space-obsessed male billionaire whose private company's rocket has pulled off an extraordinary landing, and who captures our imagination with ambitions to make space travel eventually commonplace. When Panek isn't helping build and test rovers, she says, she's working hard to make sure women see reflections of themselves in her industry. "We live in an age where what we see and hear in the media is hugely influential," Panek says. "Having positive role models in the media can change the game and allow young people to see engineering and technology as fields that are attainable by anyone." She points to prominent women in the field like Dava Newman, the recently appointed deputy administrator of NASA; European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti; and Gwynne Shotwell, the president and COO of SpaceX. Panek also relishes the chance to share her own story, which is one reason she’s set up her website, thepanekroom.com, to talk about her work, her adventures, and philosophy about the field. "We need to inspire girls at a young age to see the potential in science, engineering, technology, and math fields," Panek says. "The second part of the problem is retaining women in STEM fields throughout their careers, which means stopping the leaky pipeline that’s so common. It's not enough to talk about record enrollment in engineering or computer science courses in university. A wider perspective is necessary, which looks at the statistics regarding women advancing in their careers into leadership, director-level, and board-level positions." Dr. Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, likewise sees diversity in her industry as imperative—not just as a good unto itself, but one with plenty of research to back up the benefits. She points to a report on recruiting women into technical positions that was prepared by the Anita Borg Institute. Among its findings: That there are "consistent blind spots in recruiting and hiring practices" that manifest themselves in things like narrow recruitment criteria, hiring processes that are implicitly biased, and a lack of organizational infrastructure to support diversity efforts. The paper recommends steps like setting up blind resume screening processes; showcasing technical women during the interview process; and requiring that every open technical position has a viable female candidate. "I'm always surprised that people from science and engineering will bring their best data and technical chops to tackle scientific and engineering challenges, but then, when it comes to improving the diversity of their workforce, they often act like there's no research to inform what their approach should be," Walkowicz says. "The research exists, both on recruiting and on the myriad benefits of diverse teams. We owe it to scientific progress to do better in this regard, so that we can bring the brightest and most capable minds into unlocking the secrets of our universe." Walkowicz's own interest in the field was piqued early when she fell in love with chemistry and physics in high school. She wanted a career that combined both of them, and in the summer after her junior year of high school, she participated in a research program at the New York Academy of Sciences that would point the way. She worked in a physics lab there during the week. "When the summer was over, I asked the woman who matched students to their host labs whether she knew if anyone would work with me during the school year. She suggested that astronomy might be something that would combine the sciences I liked. I went to work with a professor at New York University who studied the chemistry of planetary atmospheres, and I was hooked." As an astronomer today, there’s both a research and a public education component to her work. The research part includes things like writing computer code to analyze data, and writing papers that convey what she’s learned. On the public side, sometimes she’s speaking with planetarium guests. Last fall, she participated in the first Adler Galaxy Ride, a biking science road show from Chicago to St. Louis that included putting on free pop-up science events in cities and towns along the way. She’s also working on a new project called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which she says is "the flagship observatory for the next decade of astronomy." "The telescope itself is currently being built down in Chile, but there’s a lot to do to prepare for it," Walkowicz says. "I coordinate our science collaborations, the community of hundreds of scientists who will eventually use this amazing telescope to tackle some of the most challenging scientific questions we face. I also recently became the director of the LSST Data Science Fellowship Program; these schools will teach junior astronomers the skills they need to use the deluge of LSST data." Vinita Marwaha Madill, a consultant in space engineering and STEM outreach and the founder of Rocket Women, a website focused on women and space, likewise wants to encourage more women to enter the field. Madill's career included stints as an engineering manager leading the Intelligent Transportation Systems Engineering Team in Canada, and as an International Space Station operations engineer at the German Aerospace Center, among other things. "Being a consultant, my typical day varies, depending on the projects I’m working on," Madill says, "from writing a parabolic flight grant proposal, to explaining the nuances of Apollo era spacesuit design—and even discussing diversity." Her fascination with space goes back to when she was 6 and growing up in London, when she learned about Helen Sharman, a chemist and the first British astronaut, who flew to Mir. Her parents also helped, taking her to places like the National Space Center in Leicester, England, on the weekends. One suggestion she has for how to encourage more young women to think about careers in space, science, and related fields that involve technology is to focus on the impact of that technology on people. She points to the design of a satellite, which "as my brilliant and late International Space University professor put it, is ‘an ugly white box.’" Nevertheless, she goes on, initiatives around the world are being pursued to spread affordable Internet access through constellations of micro satellites, giving rural communities a chance at high-speed Internet access and access to better education and knowledge. "The impact of the project," she says, "is where I believe you can inspire an increasing number of girls to study engineering and space." On Rocket Women, she posts interviews with women around the world in STEM fields, especially space-related, as well as advice to encourage girls to become involved in STEM. "Watching Helen Sharman’s Soyuz launch on BBC News at a young age, and knowing that there had been a British female astronaut, helped me push through any negativity around my chosen career path when I was younger," Madill says. "I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut, or at least work in human space flight. And eventually I did. But I wouldn’t have had that impetus and drive if I hadn’t known that someone had come before me. There had been a female British astronaut, and maybe there could be again. It was possible. Through featuring advice and stories of women in STEM, I want Rocket Women to give other girls and women that same realization."
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"This is the best room in the world!" Hilary Mason, the founder of data and machine learning R&D group Fast Forward Labs, yells enthusiastically as she walks on stage at the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women In Computing. She’s facing a block of neatly lined chairs that stretches the length of more than a football field. Most of those chairs are full, and—remarkably, for a technology conference—most of their occupants (93% of the 12,000 attendees) are women. The unusual gender ratio makes for an atmosphere that is tangibly different from other tech conferences. The business card trading, panel discussions, and conference food are all the same. There’s no giant pink banner that shouts "This is a safe space for women!" But there are a million subtle cues that together create a palpably different environment. As Mason launches into a talk about machine intelligence, her shoulder-length curly hair brushes against her microphone, and a man in a black shirt rushes on stage to fix it. Mason shrugs. "Curly hair girl problems," she jokes. The audience laughs knowingly, and Mason continues talking about data science. It’s a comfortable moment, and one that's hard to imagine seeing on stage at SxSW, which typically feels like a networking blitz hosted at a frat house. "It’s hard to say specifically and factually what it changes," Mason tells me later about speaking to a crowd with more than just a few women, "but it changes the feeling of the room. It changes the way it sounds when people laugh. It changes the fact that I’m not the only one freezing all the time in the convention center." You need only speak with the few men at Grace Hopper, who comprise 7% of the crowd (up from 6% last year), for confirmation that these differences are powerful. "I’ve never before had to think about being the only man in the room," Ben Augarten, a software engineer from Twitter, tells me later. Telle Whitney, CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, addresses him and the other men in the audience during her opening speech. "Welcome to our world," she says. For years, technology companies actively hid the extent of their diversity problems—going so far as to block FOIA requests by arguing that the gender and race makeup of their workforce was a trade secret. Behind the scenes, these same companies scrambled to find ways to increase diversity. Google, for instance, created workshops to encourage women to nominate themselves for promotions, offered longer maternity leaves, and made sure women interviewing at Google interviewed with women. Microsoft created "mentoring rings" to give its women more guidance from senior leaders. In 2008, a Harvard Business Review report highlighted 14 "innovative programs" targeted at increasing the representation of women in science, engineering, and technology. There were plenty of hackathons and dinners for women in tech, scholarships, and sponsorship of International Women’s Day. What went unacknowledged was the extent to which the problem remained unresolved. Then, in 2013, a Pinterest programmer, with the company's approval, wrote a blog post that revealed 90% of its engineers were male. Google, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple, and LinkedIn followed suit in 2014, posting their dismal diversity numbers publicly. Transparency became the expected norm. With these disclosures came promises to evolve, the appointment of chief diversity officers, and a whirlwind of new programs and initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining people from underrepresented groups. But as far as numbers go, little has actually changed over the past few years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the representation of women in computer and mathematical operations is slightly worse than it was in 2010 (it has improved somewhat for underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities). The same is true for the more specific field of software developers. This is a business problem. Companies are struggling to hire engineers, period, and not maximizing half of the population's talent doesn’t help. Research suggests diverse teams make better decisions and, ultimately, more money, and women control the majority of household spending. A lopsided gender ratio does not bode well for making the most profitable design, marketing, and product decisions. Transparency is a move in the right direction but by no means a solution. Intel, for instance, first made diversity numbers public more than a decade ago, and its U.S. gender ratio is almost exactly the same as it was in 2010. Companies that have made progress since disclosing their numbers in 2014, meanwhile, have done so only minimally. Attention toward diversity in technology companies has never been more intense. And perhaps nowhere are technology companies’ efforts to address part of this problem—their low numbers of women—more visible than at Grace Hopper. This year 148 companies, 57 academic institutions, and 22 labs, government, and nonprofit organizations came to recruit from a pool of about 7,000 women who work in technical roles and about 3,600 students. The conference is so much the center of the women in tech discussion that when companies outline their diversity efforts on promotional websites, it often gets a specific mention. As the adage goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem. A year after companies finally owned up, I went to the conference to find out: What’s next? Grace Hopper’s swag bags bulge with efforts to reach and hire the women who are gathered here. Among trinkets and flyers from more than 50 companies: a cheap white plastic compact mirror from State Farm insurance; a blue plastic nail file from Nationwide; TripAdvisor-branded lip balm; and headphones from both YouTube and Spotify. Rackspace includes hammer stickers ("Got glass ceilings? We don’t"), and Walmart promises on a pamphlet to "de-bro-gram" the industry. At some point, as my phone battery putters, I fish from the bag a Yelp-branded charging cable that I connect to a Juniper Networks charging plug. Recruiters began contacting Grace Hopper attendees months ago, and many of them will host a constant rotation of preliminary interviews—conducted in a block of navy-curtained makeshift booths—throughout the conference. Because people who work at tech companies are primarily white and Asian men, they tend to know networks full of white and Asian men, which means it is easiest for them to hire white and Asian men. To widen its pool, Facebook has piloted a requirement to interview at least one qualified candidate from an underrepresented group for certain positions (Twitter has a similar pilot). Google has embedded engineers at historically black colleges as professors. Intel doubles its referral bonus to employees who recommend someone from an underrepresented group. Efforts to widen this pool are also partly why, despite setting aside 325,850 square feet of space for the career fair, the Grace Hopper conference has sold out of sponsor space at the event for the first time in its history. "Let’s hire all female interns this year," muses a recruiter to her partner during a lunch break. The pair has just finished inventorying the swag bag, and concluded that it is the best swag bag of all the many career fairs they attend. Jamie Hand, a senior at Middlebury, has plopped her taco bowl down next to them and is listening with polite interest. All of the senior women in her computer science department made the trip to Grace Hopper (which is less impressive when you realize that, in this case, that’s four people). "I’m not sure about that," she tells the recruiter about her wish to stack the intern class with women. It doesn’t seem fair to her. The recruiter’s joking demeanor dissolves, and she adopts a sudden maternal seriousness—what's unfair, she says, is how much the deck is historically stacked for men. "It is so easy to hire men," she tells Hand. "Everything flows that way." An alien with no information about society or history (or perhaps a male professor of computer science at Yale in 1999) might look at the dearth of women in technical fields and think something like David Gelernter did when he published this sentiment in an argument against affirmative action: "If women aren't being kept out of science by force, they must be choosing not to enter, presumably because they don't want to; presumably because (by and large) they don't like these fields or (on average) don't tend to excel in them, which is nearly the same thing." But we know better (I contacted Gelernter to see if his thinking had evolved in the last 16 years as well, and he defended his stance on affirmative action but did not respond to this quote specifically). We know, for instance, that both men and women associate STEM fields more strongly with men. We know women are less likely to receive credit for their contributions. We know women are more likely to be given negative feedback on their personality—abrasive, strident, aggressive—by both male and female supervisors. And we know that in a study in which science faculty were given the same resumes with male and female names, they thought the men more competent and offered them a salary $4,000 higher. If there’s a root cause behind women’s underrepresentation in tech—one that contributes to the leaky pipeline, the non-inclusive culture, and the retention problem—there is convincing evidence that this is it: implicit bias. Unfortunately, bias hasn’t created just one problem that can be neatly repaired. Instead, it has struck the pipeline like the scattershot of a musket. "There are all these holes all over the place," says LinkedIn’s director of engineering growth, Erica Lockheimer, who runs the company's engineer-driven women in tech initiative as 20% of her job. "And we’re trying to plug them here," she plops her hand on the table to indicate an imaginary leak, "and here and here and here." It’s been 10 days since Jack Dorsey was named the CEO of Twitter, two days since Twitter laid off 8% of its workforce, and one day since his payments company, Square, made its initial public offering prospectus public. Still, he's made it to Houston to participate in a panel about "Fixing the Leaky Pipeline" with Chelsea Clinton, the vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, and Maxine Williams, the global diversity director of Facebook. He’s wearing a "Hire Me" T-shirt (which comes off as a bit ironic) to support a new effort from Girls Who Code, whose CEO, Reshma Saujani, moderates the panel. Dorsey has had, to put it lightly, a very fast-paced few days. Showing up itself is a message about the importance of Grace Hopper, and by extension, gender diversity. Square has not released diversity numbers but has several women in key leadership positions; of the tech companies who make diversity data public, Twitter has one of the lowest rates of women in technical roles. Dorsey insists, however, that he values a diverse workforce. "Any time you bring together diverse perspectives, it just creates a bunch of potential that you weren’t really expecting," he offers. Even as men like Dorsey and women like Facebook’s Williams speak about efforts to bring more women into tech, the industry remains a challenging place for the women who are already there. Women who work in science and tech are 45% more likely to leave the industry than their male peers. Nadya Fouad, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, surveyed 5,300 women who graduated with engineering degrees between 1980 and 2010 to figure out why they were leaving in droves. Those who left, her research showed, reported less manager support and were less likely to feel as though they had fair opportunities for advancement. "We wanted to show, are they leaving or being pushed out?" Fouad says. "Our data shows they were being pushed out." The damage this culture has caused is evident at Grace Hopper. During the Q&A that follows Dorsey, Clinton, and Williams's panel, a young women takes the microphone: "I have not a question, but a suggestion," she says, her voice already starting to crack. "This summer, at my internship, I found the interns did just as much damage to people from underrepresented backgrounds as their teams and their bias supervisors. If we’re talking about implementing policy and implementing bias training, we need to start early. And teach the interns." It’s painful to hear the struggle in her voice. "I hope you take this back to Facebook, Square, and Twitter, and teach them what bias is and how you hurt the people around you." "We just wanted to come up to you and tell you that we loved your talk so much,"a college student from India who has flown in to attend Grace Hopper tells Mason, the woman who gave the opening keynote. Mason, who in her keynote described herself at her first Grace Hopper in 2002 as "a shy and quiet student who hid in the back and was afraid of asking questions," is clearly touched, but unaccustomed to having these fan-like encounters. "Could we by any chance get a picture with you?" the girl's friend sheepishly asks Mason. Mason, though she may not be used to rock star treatment, is clearly a rock star: the kind of senior leader that many companies would like to hire. That would be true whether or not she were a woman. But even if she weren’t already building her own company, she would be unlikely to join company with no women or minorities in leadership roles. "Nobody wants to be the first woman on a tech team," says Sara Chipps, the co-founder and CEO of a company called Jewelbots that makes programmable friendship bracelets for girls. "I’ve been there, I know others who have been there, and it’s awful." Women drop out of companies at every level of technology, but the disparity in the rate at which they drop out at the top is more jarring. Mason and Chipps didn’t leave tech, but they did leave established tech companies to start their own. That’s awesome for the world, but bad for the tech companies who want to hire them. "Women at the senior level are beacons for other women," says Elizabeth Ames, the Anita Borg Institute's senior vice president of marketing, alliances, and programs. "If you go interview at a company and there is nobody at the senior level who looks even remotely like you, is that a place where you think you'll be comfortable or able to achieve?" So lest their swag, speakers, or the giant displays under which they collect resumes be missed, companies have also upped their female presence on the ground at Grace Hopper. Microsoft sent 800 employees. Linkedin brought 100 women, up from 40 last year and 20 the year before. Symantec (with Veritas, which has been operationally independent from Symantec since October 1) brought 215 women, up from 25 the year before. Under a sign that says "Hello from HQ," Facebook has posted photos of the women on its teams. Many of the real, in-person versions are parked in front of the sign, talking with young recruits. Macy’s posts a sign that says, "26% of our engineers are female," which in this industry still passes for impressive. It’s a dilemma: Hiring women in leadership positions is key to promoting diversity across the company. But many women eligible for leadership positions understandably don’t want to work in non-diverse cultures. I ask Mason about this—would she do it? Would she consider a job with a bunch of white dudes? "No," she laughs, because the answer is obvious. "Maybe they’re screwed and it’s a problem they created. But if it were a great work environment, they’d be able to attract a diverse workforce." So how can a company attract a diverse workforce without diversity? Tech companies have tried to fix the pipeline: to partner with organizations like Girls Who Code, demonstrate that computer science isn't only for boys, change Hollywood’s portrayal of scientists. They have tried to fix some leaks in the pipeline: to create mentoring and networking opportunities for women in their companies, give scholarships to women in computing, and create engineering-led task forces. They have tried to fix their hiring practices: to change the places they recruit, reword job descriptions, and increase referral bonuses to reward diversity. They have tried to fix their culture: instituting implicit bias training, creating programs like a pilot from LinkedIn called "inclusivity training." But they have yet to land on a solid second step. On webpages outlining diversity efforts, sponsoring ten women to attend Grace Hopper or Promotion of International Women’s Day (both nice!) are still listed as serious efforts. When Forbes asked Facebook's Williams about the movement to promote diversity across the industry, she told him, "I don’t know that there’s a movement happening across the industry." A conversation? "Yes, but that conversation only happened when the results got released, which for us was a non-event, because by the time the results got released, we were already in this movement internally." On day two of the conference, I attend a panel called "Retain and Advance Your Top Talented Women Technologists: Three companies share studies about programs with proven results" with hopes of clarifying the question of what efforts to recruit and retain women are working. There are four panelists. One is an former executive of Microsoft named Lauren Antonoff (she is now at GoDaddy) who, without any budget, started a program to support women within the company who were candidates for a "managers of managers" role. "We had a clear goal," she says, "and the goal was to increase the representation of women in this specific role." Four of the women in the pilot, about as many as were in this role overall before the program started, ended up being hired to be managers of managers before the it ended. Shortly after, two more were promoted to the role. Microsoft has since expanded and formalized the program. Another pair of panelists co-founded PWC’s program for women, Women In Technology (WIT), which started as a grassroots effort and now includes mentoring programs, meetings highlighting technology solutions and leaders, events and forums, speaking opportunities, and recruiting events. About 1,400 people participate in one way or another. The fourth panelist, Molly Gantz—a talent and development director at Thompson Reuters—speaks about a development program for high-potential women called Leadhership1. All three programs are impressive (especially those that launched despite the lack of a budget), but I still can’t help seeing them as small drops in enormous buckets. Other companies, like Intel, have commendably devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to diversity programs—but even those efforts feel somewhat token when you consider the billions of dollars of revenue these companies pull in. At many companies, diversity efforts get lost in the day-to-day pressure to deliver. "Diversity is a sub-goal for most companies," says Jim McKelvey, the cofounder of Square, who now works on an apprenticeship program called LaunchCode that places programmers with unconventional credentials at more than 300 companies. "The first job is to get it done. So if the company needs a work product, and the people who could do that work product are all, pick whatever stereotype, let’s say they’re a bunch of white guys. If that’s what’s going to get it done, that’s what's going to get done." "That’s short-term thinking" McKelvey continues. "Because if you build a monolithic group, it will result in homogeneous thinking. And it’s not as durable as a culture that includes a lot of diversity. But it’s hard to graph that value in an emergency situation. You just need someone who can write this Java applet, and somebody comes in; you don’t care what they look like." Clear goals are one way to firmly connect diversity to long-term business interests and engage managers in the process. "In business," says Cecily Joseph, Symantec’s vice president of corporate responsibility and, as of two years ago, its chief diversity officer, "you make goals around everything that’s important. If you don’t make goals, you won’t do it, and it’s not important." Publicly, Symantec aims to "increase the diversity of its workforce, at all levels within the company, by 15 percent by 2020." Internally, it started with an ambitious short-term priority to have a board composed of at least 30% women. As the board began its search for open seats, they considered candidates who had not been CEOs and didn't report to CEOs to avoid automatically limiting the number of candidates who were from underrepresented groups. In October 2013, the company added two qualified women to its board and met its goal. Now, it has set a similar internal goal to raise representation of leadership at Symantec to 30%. Smaller companies, which can more quickly change the makeup of their workforce as they grow, are more easily able to demonstrate the power of treating diversity as a goal-oriented business objective. The most ambitious example I found at Grace Hopper was ThoughtWorks, a company of about 3,500 employees across 13 countries that specializes in software consulting, delivery, and products. In 2010, when it had about 1,500 employees, it set a goal of enrolling 50% women into its onboarding process for new hires directly from college, a six-week program hosted in India. But ThoughtWorks had the same problem as everybody else: Only 18% of computer science graduates in 2010 were women. What made it easier for ThoughtWorks to meet the goal was that it considered candidates with nontraditional credentials. Biology students, for instance, often had some exposure to code through their classes. Like many computer science graduates, they might not be versed in the specific languages they would need for the job, but, as with the computer science graduates, that could be fixed. After the six-week introduction course, new hires are enrolled in a coaching and mentoring program for two years. With this approach of considering unconventional credentials, the company successfully made its 50% goal the first year. Throughout North America, 34% of ThoughtWorks’s technical roles are filled by women. Last year, 40% of all new hires were women. ThoughtWorks's program was driven by a desire to build better products and to hire for technical roles in a competitive environment, but its goal of filling its training program with 50% women helped formalize inclusivity. "At the end of the day, women in computing have to see a path and feel they belong there," says Joanna Parke, the company’s managing director in North America. "It’s fuzzy and hard to quantify." But the goal, she says, "set a clear message that we were serious about it. The other thing it did is force us to get creative. You can’t just post a job and expect to meet it." Pinterest, Intel, and Twitter have also set diversity goals publicly. Most other large tech companies have not and weren't weren't willing to discuss why. Here are responses from the few who would discuss it: "One thing diversity gurus would say is important when thinking about recruiting is to think about diversity of (job candidates) as opposed to only outcomes of the process," says Lisa Dugal, the diversity leader at PWC. "The overall goal is get more diversity. Which of those two levers you focus on will give you two different mindsets and outcomes." LinkedIn (which this year made comparatively large progress when it saw women’s representation in technical roles increase 1% and in leadership roles increase 5%) sends me a statement that says, "While we are looking to extend the diversity of our employee base, interviews are ultimately based on merit. We do not set requirements related to diversity." And with regard to specific goals, "We aim to build the best teams that are comprised of a diverse makeup, but we do not approach this goal with any set hiring quotas." Some types of goal-setting can be counterproductive. In a study published in the American Sociological Review in 2006, researchers looked at the diversity programs at more than 708 companies and concluded that diversity reviews, in which managers were given a formal rating every year for success in promoting diversity, had positive effects for white women but negative effects for black men (diversity training also backfired). "We think that incentives determine what people do on the job," says Frank Dobbin, one of the study's authors, "but incentives can turn people off by sending them the signal that they have to be bribed to do something they otherwise might do naturally." But goals don’t need to be quotas. Between 1995 and 2004, IBM increased its representation of female executives worldwide by 370%. Former CEO Lou Gerster said in a case study by the Harvard Business Review that the driver of the company’s success at expanding its diversity was that "we made diversity a market-based issue." "We did not set quotas," he said later in the article, "but we did set goals and made people aware of the people in their units who they needed to be accountable for developing." "So. You sparked a global conversation and dragged this elephant in the room into the light," begins Nora Denzel, vice chair of the Anita Borg Institute Board of Trustees, who is interviewing Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg onstage at Grace Hopper. Sandberg’s book about the challenges women face at work, Lean In, was loved, hated, and, most helpfully, widely discussed after it was published in 2013. More than 24,600 people in 126 countries have registered for small peer-support groups on its website. "Everything is wonderful, except for one thing," continues Denzel. "The numbers aren’t moving." Sandberg doesn’t miss a beat when presented with this awkward question, the new elephant in the room. "No problem has ever been solved by thinking we can’t solve the problem," she says. "So of course we can solve the problem." The rest of the interview is peppered with polished anecdotes, jokes, and data that she has delivered frequently during other media appearances: Women who are more successful tend to be less liked. Men who are successful tend to be better liked. Little girls aren’t bossy, they have executive leadership skills. But toward the end of the talk, Sandberg goes off-script. "Stay in tech," she says to Grace Hopper’s attendees. "Stay in tech. Tech needs you. Facebook needs you, Google needs you, Microsoft needs you. We all need you. " Despite her position as the de facto spokesperson for the issue, the COO of Facebook doesn’t have all the answers to tech’s diversity problems, either. She looks into what is quite possibly the largest crowd of women in computing ever gathered, and she pleads.
Whitney T.,Anita Borg Institute |
Gammal D.,Anita Borg Institute |
Gee B.,Anita Borg Institute |
Mahoney J.,Anita Borg Institute |
Simard C.,Anita Borg Institute
The culture must change to encourage women throughout their education to pursue computer science and engineering and to welcome and support female technology workers in industry, academia, and government. © 1970-2012 IEEE. Source