One of the protest banners at the March4Justice on 15 March 2021 in Sydney read, “You’re lucky we are just angry - and not looking for revenge”.
Now that the Prime Minister has met with the organiser, March4Justice founder and Melbourne academic Janine Hendry, we at Common Code have been asking ourselves what more can be done within our own community since the rallies.
Particularly as the media hype begins to fade, we should not lose sight of the momentum that the rally created. In the end, the protest made clear that there is a sense of hurt and anger in the country — so what does the future hold, and in particular for workplaces for women?
We must change the systems and culture in the workplace that have enabled gendered violence.
One simple fix is to ensure there is an increased representation of women in all workplaces. The idea is that this will lead to a shift in power imbalances where women are no longer minorities, and therefore less likely to be subject to gendered violence in the workplace.
Currently, there are fewer senior women developers than their peers available in the software industry. Promotion and mentoring are crucial to reaching a greater number of senior women developers.
Common Code sees gender inequality on tech teams frequently so we decided to tackle this well-known problem head on. We Are Common was born from this principle to tackle gender bias in hiring in tech startups.
One small act of addressing this bias (whether due to hiring, culture or a lack of candidates applying) by Common Code and the We Are Common community is our offer to provide free career help to women and underrepresented groups in the technology sector.
Companies are doing a lot more now than they have in the past. However, we don't always hear from women about their personal experiences, or what they think should be done, to help improve diversity.
Therefore we asked one of our female Common Coders, Hanna Burrows, a Product Manager, about how her experience in the industry reveals any insights into how to make the industry more gender equal.
Hanna originally studied Computer Science in her undergraduate degree where she immediately, in her first lecture room of approximately 500 students, found herself as one of maybe only ten women.
There were flow-on effects at the learning stage, “No one tried to approach me or talk to me, which made our first assignment (a group project) extra difficult. I eventually found a great group of people to work with, but I remember it being extra effort to find them, and still feeling like I didn’t really fit in”, Hanna recalls.
Perhaps not surprising is the gendered nature of work and workplace social discussions which have exclusionary effects on women. Hanna felt this distinctively at a social event with her team and some of the all-male board members, where she was the only woman listening to her colleagues discuss a male medical situation.
“I couldn’t really participate socially – I had nothing to contribute to that conversation.”
Hanna’s experience is not unique and her suggestion is that companies look deeply and critically into making their first few hires of people from underrepresented groups.
The research substantiates that Hanna’s live-experience is correct. The first 12 hires of a startup are crucial. Who is hired and the culture which comes from this gets replicated throughout.
Hanna inquires: “Does that 9am standup work for people with children? Does that all-oyster catered lunch work for the pregnant women on your team? Is the half-day seated workshop appropriate for people with a disability?”
However, this is not to say any company can be complacent - even when it is conscious.
Hanna remembered the first time she walked into Common Code’s office - and being shocked at how positive her experience was.
“There were free hygiene products in the bathrooms, a mix of gendered and unisex toilets, a dedicated parents space, toys for kids to use if they were brought to work. It was so refreshing to walk in and just know my gender wasn’t going to be a problem. Not only that, but to have it celebrated – like they wanted women to be there.”
The rally also raised the need for all workplaces to be aware about the nuances which minorities in a company face as well as ensuring that there is an inclusive culture which allows for continual feedback and ‘safe spaces’ to discuss issues which could arise. The making of this culture must go beyond just written policies.
“I love that we have a private Slack channel for women and non-binary people, and regular subsidised lunches. It’s a place for us to talk about our shared experiences without fear of having them diminished.”
As Hanna mentions, you can be “one of the team” but still have unique experiences which many workplaces should strive to accommodate.