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In early 2018, I almost left the tech industry to become part of a startling statistic: 56% of women leave tech after 10-20 years, with 22% of those going on to start their own small businesses.

But I realized that if I walked away, I’d be giving up the ability to impact the future of the industry. I wouldn’t be able to help create a world where diverse engineering teams can move away from solving convenience problems to truly solve our real challenges like climate change, poverty, and racial bias.

I decided to come back to tech, but under my own rules. I wanted to work somewhere where creating an inclusive environment and culture was a priority and not just lip service. When I interviewed with CJ, the CEO at Tile, and he asked me to join as Platform Engineering Director, I wanted to make sure DEI was a priority for him and that I could spend some of my time working on DEI projects. He told me that he was married with two daughters and no sons, had two sisters and no brothers, and had told his wife he wanted to make Tile the best place for women to work in the valley. I joined Tile and am proud to say that it truly is one of the most inclusive environments I’ve worked in. Inclusion is driven through intentional hard work across the entire company. Not all companies that say they care about DEI actually follow through with action so it’s important to know what to look for when you’re considering joining a new org.

Why do you want to find an inclusive workplace?

These days, it’s cool for companies to say that they care about diversity. But many don’t realize that they need to do the hard work of creating an inclusive culture if they want those candidates from diverse backgrounds to stick around and thrive The number of women and underrepresented minorities in tech has hardly moved in the last 20 years, the primary reason being this revolving door due to lack of inclusion and belonging. And things are only getting worse as a result of the pandemic, with more and more women leaving the workplace.

For women and underrepresented minorities, finding an inclusive company will make a big difference in your ability to thrive. When you finally find that workplace where your opinions are valued and you feel listened to and like you belong, you can breathe a sigh of relief and let your guard down. It’s an amazing feeling that I wish more women and minorities would experience. It’s not always perfect and different companies will be at different points in their DEI journey, but when there is a company-wide willingness to admit mistakes and learn from them, it makes a huge difference.

How can you find a company that is actually focused on inclusion?

First, do your own research. Check out reviews on Glassdoor, google the company, see if they’ve created a diversity & inclusion section on their LinkedIn company profile, or if they talk about inclusion as being core to their company values on their website. If you see no references – other than potentially a standard boilerplate on the job description – be wary. The items below are all positive signs that a company has taken some steps to address inclusion:

  • They have inclusive benefits such as parental leave for the non-primary parent, fertility benefits, learning and development, or flexible work hours.
  • They are vulnerable in their messaging on social media or their website around diversity, equity, and inclusion, focusing on the progress they’ve made as well as existing challenges.
  • The job posting uses inclusive language and also includes the 30, 60 and 90 day goals for the position so that applicants can understand what success looks like.
  • Their website shows diversity in team pictures and shares information about the company culture including Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). 

You can also take the time to reach out to former employees and ask about their experiences at the company and why they left. Check out communities such as elpha.com for women or Techqueria for Latinx folks and see if the company has any representation. You can also check Fairygodboss which is a Glassdoor-like site for women for honest reviews of what it’s like to work at companies from their perspective.

Next, you can determine the level of inclusion in a company during the interview process. Take note of the diversity of your interview panel; are any women or underrepresented minorities included? During the interview process, does anyone talk about the company culture and core values and proactively share about having an inclusive culture? Does someone take the time to walk you through the interview process ahead of time and share a guide on what success looks like? Are you asked if you need any accommodations throughout the interview?

You may not have time or feel comfortable diving into questions around diversity and inclusion. This is why a technique called reverse interviewing is so important. After negotiating the final offer, most people accept right away. However, if you do so, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to truly understand the team you’re getting into and have all your questions answered. Instead, take the time to ask for a 30-minute chat with at least the hiring manager and one other person on the team. Make sure that you ask the hiring manager about any items that are important to you as well as how they create an inclusive team culture. Ask the team member about the team culture and what the hiring manager does to promote inclusion and diversity.

Here are some red flags to look out for when having these conversations:

  • They blame their lack of diversity on a ‘pipeline’ problem and aren’t taking any active steps to actually address the issue.
  • When asked about inclusion, they get defensive, are surprised, or don’t have any opinions. 
  • When speaking about diversity, they focus only on women or one specific ethnicity and aren’t interested in the much more complex intersectionalities we must consider when hiring.

At the end of the day, remember that interviewing is a two-way street; you are evaluating the company just as much as they are evaluating you. It can be easy to get swept up in the joy of landing an interview or ultimately an offer, but it’s important to take the time to ensure the company is somewhere that will support you. Take the steps listed above before, during, and after the interview to ensure you’ve found an inclusive culture where you can thrive.