Originally aired on November 11, 2021 @ 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM EDT
What about the future of diversity? On this panel Inês, from Portuguese Women in Tech, will join Vânia Gonçalves, Justina Wong, and Isabel Rodrigues to discuss the what the future holds, and how we can make a difference.
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And we are live. So welcome everyone to our panel, the future of diversity and inclusion. I am Daniela. I am a recruiting coordinator with Cloudflare and with me today I have Justina Wong. She's the Lisbon site lead. She's a customer support manager and she's involved in a lot of employee resource groups at Cloudflare. So hi Justina. We also have Vânia. Vânia is a research program manager at Cloudflare and she's the founder of Big Girls Portugal. So hi Vânia. And finally, last but not least, we have Inês Silva. She's chief activist officer and co-founder of Portuguese Women in Tech and a lot of other things as well. So hello Inês. And I would start by asking you to presenting yourself a little bit, maybe starting with Inês. Can you tell us a little bit about your work? Yeah, sure. So first of all, it's a pleasure to be here and to share a little bit the work that we are doing. So I'm one of the founders of Portuguese Women in Tech. We launched it in 2016 as a way to give more visibility to women in technology. This was the year that Web Summit came to Portugal and we wanted to make sure that the women that are working in technology in the Portuguese tech scene had visibility and a place to be shown. And we immediately realized that we wanted to do more than that. And since then, we have been trying to develop initiatives with two main focus. On one hand, we want to support women that are already in technology by providing visibility, training and job opportunities and also community. And also, we want to make sure that we attract more girls to tech, showing that this might be an area for them to work and also trying to show what actually means to work in technology. Whenever we go to schools, we see that there is a lack of information about what actually means to work in technology. And we really want to close the gap and show what it means. So we have been doing this work since 2016, but we still have a long work and a lot of work to do. Thank you. And you were just telling me and Justyna about how you and Vanya actually are acquainted from a lot of years in the past. And so, Vanya, would you care to tell us a little bit about how you met and the work you do with Geek Girls? Yeah, sure. So I'm the founder of Geek Girls Portugal, the first Portuguese informal community founded back in 2010 and supporting women with careers in tech or that want to build or transition to a career in tech. So we organize a great number of informal events and usually hosted by a company. And we organize these events in five or six cities around Portugal. So we have a large number of volunteers that helps us organizing those events. So we're mainly connecting women, but also going to schools and presenting women with a career in tech and showing to students how it is to work in tech in different areas of the IT sector. All right, perfect. And finally, Justyna, a little bit about yourself. I wish I know them before because I wasn't always a woman in tech. Like I have started in like other industry. I have been a flight attendant. I have been a high school teacher. And finally, I found the tech world and I've been really loving it. So right now I'm working in Cloudflare for the support team. I've been here for the last three and a half years now. Moving from another industry to here, I guess. Well, if I met you earlier, maybe I'll be in tech a couple of years earlier, too. But yeah, I'm currently based in between Lisbon and London. But yeah, but I'm also the site lead of the Lisbon office. So I'm helping to set up different things here. We're not new anymore, but two years ago when I joined, we were still new here and we're trying to set up a very diverse team here. All right. Thank you. And, you know, the three of you have different backgrounds, of course, and different experiences. But one thing in common that you have is you have contact with a lot of different people, women and not only women in the tech industry. And so the last year and a half has been a challenge. I think that's that's admittedly what it was and it has been. And so I wanted to ask you, do you think this has affected the tech workforce in any capacity? Or do you think the tech industry has kind of, you know, breezed through the pandemic? I think I'm going to start with a positive note because we are actually in a very lucky industry. Like when the pandemic happened, everybody is moving online. So especially in the network security space, a lot of people are actually seeking for a new solution that they have not explored before. So for us, it's actually very good for our growth as an industry and as a company. So we have a lot more opening than we used to have because of all these like new incoming need from the Internet users. So for me, it's actually in quite a positive way. And we have way more opportunities than what we had before, I would say. And with the work from home situation as well, it definitely pose challenge on everybody, not just for ladies or for women or just for technology. But because we are working from home, so it actually allow more flexibility for us to handle like situation at home. And it allow like mothers and caregivers to juggle between work and they don't need to commute anymore. So you save two hours a day. And I think it's all like a positive notes. What do you think, Fania? Yeah, I do agree. Definitely. I think there was a huge increase and huge growth in the tech industry. And that has allowed a lot of people and women as well to switch jobs and find a better place to work. Basically, I think with the remote opportunities, as Justyna said, it allows women to balance better and be more present at home and balance better their work with their caregiver context. So I think that has given incentives to women also to transition to other positions and find companies where the culture fits better and what they aim at their career in the future. And you, Ines, do you agree? Yeah, I don't have much more to add. I think, of course, the pandemic hit people in different ways. I think women felt it more than men in some cases because of like a lot of the burden of the work at home lies in women's hands. But I think in terms of technology, it was a boom year, a lot of things happening, a lot of growth. And I think also opened the doors to things that before were possible. I think remote work can go anywhere. I think it's very positive. Yeah, definitely. I do think and I've seen a lot of articles and a lot of people talk about, you know, there's going to be this war for talent, which admittedly it already had existed before. But it's even more prominent now that, you know, we have remote working and we can reach people all across the globe, essentially. And so we now have the opportunity to, you know, try and recruit the best professionals to work at our companies. But this also brings the question and it's something that I wanted to ask you. Do you think that this has influenced or will influence the way that diversity and inclusion is considered in tech companies? Yeah, sure. I think a lot of companies are and tech companies in particular are the first ones to talk about inclusion and diversity right now. This is a topic not very covered in the past by any company, but also not by tech companies. There wasn't a willingness to tackle the diversity, especially the diversity context or the need for diversity in tech. We've been talking about a lot about women in tech in the past, but actually there wasn't much action. And yeah, hopefully that companies now are talking more about diversity and inclusion and equity. Hopefully there's some action right now and there is scope for that. And there's a need, certainly a need for that as well, specifically because the context of the remote work will trigger more differences between people. And if you don't have a culture and context for diversity and inclusion, yeah, things can go wrong. Right. I mean, yeah, I think companies need to see diversity and inclusion as the motivation for creating a greater company. Hiring greater great people means also hiring diverse people and which have diverse ideas and can come up with a better work environment and healthy environment. Yep. Inej, what do you think? Yeah, of course I agree. I think when we talk about diversity, we are also not only talking about gender diversity. And I think the diversity that was more impacted by the fact that you can actually hire globally, I think is more about nationality, about race, ethnicity, and then gender itself. But the truth is, is like we are seeing, I think, more focus from companies, tech companies in this area. And I think it's very interesting because I'm seeing companies going from first diversity, then to inclusion. But now I'm seeing more and more companies also talking about belonging. And this morning I was reading, it was a picture that said like diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being invited to dance at the party. And belonging is dance like no one is watching. So I think it's like we need to go through these processes of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. And I think tech companies, I can see that there is like this focus on making it happen. So yeah, and I think in the future we'll see more of it, more and more. Yeah, it's very interesting. And I'm sure Justine can echo that. It's something that our CEO and COO, Matthew and Michelle, they've said so many times. And that sentence is great. It's really, truly a dance where you have to feel included. And you have to feel good where you are doing what you're doing. And so Justine, what do you think about how this translates to Cloudflare's reality? I think in Cloudflare, the truth is we have a lot of supportive management. So when they come to tell us, hey, as a manager, you could offer more flexibility for your team members. So when you have a bigger bandwidth to allow different people to be in your team, there is a lot more opportunity for us to look for people with a different background. Like Ines was saying, it's not just gender. It's about nationality, where your previous career is, where your education background is. Not everybody has been in tech before and not everybody has been exposed to it before. But allowing diversity and having the reassurance from our management team is going to be very helpful for me as a hiring manager to look for candidates to actively outreach to them and show them, hey, we're hiring. Do you want to give it a try? Because why not? So I think in our company, we're very lucky to have a very huge pool of managers that support each other as well. So it's not just like us trying to reach a certain number of, oh, we have to check the diversity box. But it is really that, OK, I see an applicant that is maybe not the right fit for my team, but you have someone in your team. We could transfer them to you and then maybe your team could be diverse as well. So it's a very supportive environment, I think. Yeah, right this year. And like Ines said and you also mentioned, and it's also that something been discussed in previous panels today, diversity doesn't refer only to gender. Sometimes it means age and people who don't get hired because they are too old or too young. Who knows? And so, you know, but we do have to try our best to be inclusive and create an inclusive workforce to yield better results. And to also, I think, make the industry better. It doesn't depend only on Cloudflare. I think it depends a lot on a lot of companies that all have to work together towards the same purpose. And to this point, I would ask you, you know, we compared to 10 years ago, as we were saying before we went live, 10 years ago, it was completely different in terms of diversity in Portugal. Now it's a little bit better. We do see more women in tech roles. However, this isn't always reflected in leadership and management roles, not just in terms of women, but also other types of diversity. So why do you think that happens and how can Cloudflare and other organizations help lead the change? Well, it's a difficult question, right? But I think the right answer starts with lead by example. When you are a leader, I think you need to take certain things seriously, like gender bias in the day to day relationships you have and the way you communicate with your co -workers and the way you treat your co -workers. And so, I mean, if you have a co -worker that is a woman and she has her child sick at the moment and you tell her, yeah, just take a break because you need to take a break to take care of your son or your daughter. So if you tell her like, yeah, take a break and you see the same woman at the same time sees a leader when a man comes in and says, I have my son sick and the leader doesn't say the same, like, yeah, just take a break because you need to take care of your son. I think the woman in the room will see her in a disadvantage in applying or being interested in a leadership position in that company or in that context. So I think the lead by example in the day to day way of working and communicating and relating to your co-workers makes a lot of difference. But also, I mean, it's important and this has been said on and on for many years already, that women in leadership roles also give visibility to other women and encourage and support them to take leadership roles. And so that women feel confident also to take those positions and tell them that they can be successful and fear nothing for taking a leadership position. All right, thank you for sharing. Inej, what do you think? What does your experience tell you? Yeah, I think it's very similar to what Vanya was mentioning. Of course, if you look at the data, we see that a lot of the reasons that women don't reach management positions, it has to do with the way society looks and the companies look at maternity, like the fact that when women have kids, usually it's very interesting because men with kids are seen as more responsible, more reliable, and they are given more opportunities. Women with kids are usually seen as less available and so less opportunities will be sent their direction. A lot of this is unconscious bias that we have, but the reality is that that has an impact then on the number of women in leadership positions. Also, another thing, and I think that's something that we need to do better, especially here in Portugal, I know that, for example, in the UK is a little bit different, is having not only mentorship programs, but also sponsorship programs. It's not enough to help, but it's also important to sponsor them, to make sure that they can actually reach more opportunities, go to leadership positions, and I think here role models and examples are super important. What do you think, Justine? I think I totally agree with Ines' approach, and I'm going to take even a further step back, because if we're talking about women in management, or anyone in management in general, you actually have to have a build -up, right? First, they have to be in tech first, so it's important for us to build up a pipeline to help promote that it is a good environment to work in. Anybody could be in tech, of course, but we have to encourage more people to apply, encourage more people to be in the industry, so then we have a bigger pool of candidates and a bigger pool of female talents that we could help them to grow into management. Right now, because of how our society is constructed, maybe we don't have a lot of ladies in tech yet, so we could help to do some more marketing for our industry. Just come join us, give it a try, and you can start from the bottom, or just see if it's something that you're interested in, right? Let me add something there, because we did a report a couple of years ago called the Pioneers Report, where we asked women the reason that they were working in technology, and there was a number of them, like many of them, that said the reason was because they had a cousin or an older brother or sister that inspired them to go into the field. I think it's so important that we actually work as role models, we inspire the next generations to join the tech industry. I think a lot of times we don't value, we try to hide behind whatever we want to hide behind, but I think a lot of times we don't do that effort, and I think that's why initiatives like this one, but also initiatives like what Vanya is doing, and what I also am doing, are so important, just to make sure that we give this visibility, and we inspire more cousins and older brothers and older sisters, also to inspire the next generations to pursue careers in technology. Yeah, absolutely. I do find that role models are very important. Sometimes, I can imagine that as a kid, you don't even understand how many possibilities you have ahead of you, and we tend to follow what we usually see, and if we don't see more examples, then we tend to go towards the same old routes that everyone else takes. So at Cloudflare, we do have mentorship programs, and we also have another thing, which are ERGs, Employee Resource Groups. So we have WomenFlare, which is an ERG dedicated to women. We have Women in Sales as well. So all of these groups who support women, and not only women, but minorities and people who identify with these certain groups, and it tends to be a great source of comfort and encouragement, and role models as well, of course. So I do think that it's really important for ourselves to get surrounded by people who inspire us all the time. And it's great to have you all three here, because you're very inspiring women for a lot of folks, I'm sure. And so I don't think we have better people to tell us about what companies can actually do to be more diverse and inclusive. What are some things that you have seen in your careers, in your paths, that you think have worked, or things that didn't work so well? What would you say to companies that want to become more diverse and inclusive? Justyna, maybe let's start with you. So I'm going to quote our head of office of Lisbon, John, like when he started, he actually started in the London office as well. And back at the time, we actually don't have a lot of female presence. At some point, we have a whole engineering team of only male employees. And slowly, we realized that, OK, this is not diverse, and we can't have just everybody with the same mindset. It's very helpful to get people from other perspectives to help grow a product or to help grow a team. So then we started making it more visible, and we start encouraging managers like, OK, please actively look for other candidates as well. Please go outreach to people who might be good for your team in the future as well. So these are the things that we have learned from our own past that we can't just have a team that is with the same kind of people. So it is not happening overnight. Oh, tomorrow, we're going to have a whole management of half female and half male. But at least we are trying and we keep reminding each other that this is important, and we have to keep that in the back of our mind and keep moving forward in that direction. And I think right now with Fania being a part of Women's Flair in Lisbon, it's going to be very helpful to help grow that too. Right? Right. Thanks, Justyna, for reminding me of that as well. Yeah, I also wanted to add that part of this, as Justyna was also saying, it's not from one day to the other. But I think it all starts also from the job description. Like when you open a new position and you look at what you write and what you're looking for in the person you want to hire, you see that many job descriptions ask for tons of skills, tons of years of experience you need. And most women would not apply because they would think they don't match all the 100 different skills that are written there. And if you want to do better, you need to also start improving the job descriptions you put out there. So, I mean, I think Cloudflare is doing a great job on that. But certainly, most people you want to hire, you're not going to hire them only for the technical skills. Right? And I think that is something that Cloudflare values a lot. We don't hire only for the technical skills you show up on your CV. And if you want to improve diversity in a company, you really have to start from the bottom. The bottom of the activities there in hiring. And, yeah, I think most companies would benefit from reviewing the job descriptions they put out there. I mean, there are tons of tools in, not that many, but some tools in the web that you can check for CVs, for the CV descriptions and see if they are, yeah, fit for women as well. Because the way you describe, even the objectives you use in describing the skills you want for, the technical skills you want for that person. And also, yeah, put more effort in describing not only the technical skills, but the other skills you would value in a person, in a co-worker, and how it will build the culture in your organization as well. Great advice. Great advice. Inej, what do you think? Yeah, I think adding to what like Vanya was also mentioning is like in the recruitment process, I think giving training, unconscious bias training to recruiters and to people that deal with recruitment, I think is super, super important. Also, making sure that during the recruitment process, you are not only interviewed by one gender, but you have a mix of people actually interviewing. So I think that's another thing that's super important as well. Also, in terms of promotions, for example, there is also some gap there. And I think it's important to review the promotions. Also salary, understanding like if there is a salary gap in the company, and trying to see what can be done. There is this example from, I think it's Salesforce that's online, where they did a study and it really showed there was this salary gap between men and women, and they corrected it. And then also, of course, like retention, even the smallest activities. If you are the only woman in your team, and the team's activity is playing whatever, and you don't like as a woman, or doing boxing as a woman, you don't like doing it, or you cannot do it, then you are being excluded from that activity. And what I mean is like, it's not that men or groups cannot play whatever they want to play, it's just like as a group, they should come up with whatever they want to do. Something that includes everyone, it's not something that just like a more, I mean, even like the majority won't, like trying to make sure that everyone is included. And overall, I think in the end, it needs to be something that starts bottom up, like people really need to want to be more diverse, having a more diverse group of people working with them, but also top down, I think leadership needs to lead by example, I think we mentioned this several times here already, and they need to create the right incentives for the companies to move towards more diversity. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much. We have roughly two minutes to finish. So my last question for you, it will be a really quick round. I want to ask you, what advice would you give to women considering or applying for their first role in a tech company? Ines, you can go first. Honestly, like, try to find a mentor, try to find someone that can help you guide in that process, because I think that can be very helpful. Vanya, what do you think? Well, this week, I was doing a recruitment interview, and the candidate mentioned something that really struck me, because I never thought about it as deeply as she mentioned it. Try to find not only a great job, because you can have a great job everywhere, and it suddenly becomes very, very boring, and you won't support it anymore. But find a place where you think your day-to-day will match with yourself, the culture of the company matches what you like and what you are, and your co -workers are nice and healthy, and there's a healthy environment. So the job itself might not be super awesome and the great thing you wanted in life, but sometimes it's better to have a good context, a healthy environment, a great culture around you that supports you along the way and helps you grow to other positions in the long term. I agree. It's all about the package. And Justyna, close us off, please. And I would say, stop thinking about it. Just click the apply button now. You won't know unless you try. So go ahead. Let's do it. Sounds great to me. That's great advice. Thank you all for joining and for sharing your insights on the industry and what it's like to be a woman in tech. It's been great. Thank you so much, and I will see you next time. Thank you.