Last month, Hubble’s tech team accomplished something monumental – we are incredibly proud to announce that we now have a 50:50 gender split in our engineering and product teams.
This is a huge achievement for us, but also for the tech industry in general, whose lack of diversity has been the topic of discussion for a number of years. We’re incredibly proud that, even when scaling at a super fast rate (over the course of 3 months, we have pretty much doubled in size!) we’ve maintained a diverse and inclusive culture across all of our teams.
Diversity in all its forms is incredibly important to Hubble in general. Of our 44 employees, 20 are female – but we’re also proud to say that our team also boasts a huge variety of races, nationalities, backgrounds, and ages. In fact, we were recently featured in the Vessy.com Diversity and Inclusion Report, where our CTO Tom Watson explained how we have made a concerted effort to remove unconscious bias in our recruitment process, in all areas of diversity, even beyond gender.
This achievement doesn’t mean that we’ll stop striving to be improve – we know that creating and maintaining a diverse team is no easy task. For one thing, we’re a small company – and in a small company, small changes can hugely affect our ratios and this can quickly spiral into having a unidimensional team.
For another, our people are by far our most important asset – so we need to ensure that we’re hiring the right people for the job. No women in our team have been hired simply based on their gender – that’s not what diversity is about. Instead, we have focused our efforts on ensuring that everybody has an equal opportunity to apply for our roles – from using gender-neutral language in our job descriptions, to ensuring that the touch points along the way in the interview process include a wide variety of people.
What has resulted is a fantastic, talented, and diverse team who excel in what they do.
So, for this year’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate this diversity milestone for Hubble by showcasing our wonderful female engineers, and Chloe, one of our two Product Managers.
Hey girls! Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedules to answer a few questions! First things first – what made you choose a career in tech?
Angela (Front-End Engineer): Personally, I spent a lot of my academic career thinking I would be some kind of animator or designer – whenever I steered towards more technical skills in school like computing or science, I found there was a bizarre ‘boys club’ atmosphere and I remember several teachers openly discouraging me from being interested in computers or maths. I ended up on a digital character animation degree where I could be creative and draw but also immerse myself in a very technical environment. I graduated in 2008 and once the recession hit I completely dropped any idea of being an artist or animator and started focusing on which jobs seemed to have a practical future. Luckily, Flash was still a widely used tool at the time and I was able to secure myself a job as a Flash developer making banner ads!
Isabela (Product Engineer): My career in tech sort of just ‘happened’ really – but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it! When I was in high school, I was really good at solving programming tasks with a friend of mine, and I really liked the brainstorming part. After that, I decided to study computer science and after my third year I was required to find a job or internship in order to gain some tech experience. Once I’d started working I didn’t want to stop, so here I am!
Stella (Product Engineer): Technology is the future – so it’s amazing to be part of a team that is creating it! Living in Cyprus, a non-tech driven country – and most importantly, in a society where only men occupied tech – I chose this career as I felt that I had to make a difference.
Thus far, what has your experience been as a women in tech?
Chloe (Product Manager): My experience working in tech as both an Engineer and a Product Manager has been positive! I love working in this industry. The majority of people I’ve encountered in this field are highly collaborative. The shared goal being to make both the product and codebase as good as possible. The tech team at Hubble has a 50:50 gender split; a fantastic achievement. It hasn’t been like this everywhere I’ve worked. Last year, to counter the fact that there are sometimes not many women around or above me, I created a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme with women working across a variety of sectors. We meet monthly to share challenges and triumphs.
Isabela (Product Engineer): I have been lucky enough to work at companies that don’t view women as not having a place in tech. At my last job we weren’t 50:50, but it was close and some of my female colleagues were among the best-viewed engineers. It is the same now, at Hubble, and I feel encouraged and valued every day.
Lizzie (Product Engineer): In some odd ways, this emphasis on women being in tech means that we are like some kind of tech unicorn. People want to make sure they are meeting their equality quotas and as a result, we’re in high demand. On the flip side, I have had promotion and pay rise issues, definitely. I’ve had to fight and fight to get well-deserved promotions, and as my partner’s mum says, the only real way for a woman to get a pay rise is to move jobs. From experience, I’d say that’s pretty true. Harassment is also a big issue in this industry – simple things like coworkers feeling that it’s appropriate to tell me I’m hot or make crude jokes around me, to bosses trying to hit on me, making lewd comments, and setting me up in ‘separate hotel rooms’. It’s frankly creepy and I am super glad that Hubble has never been like that at all.
The theme for IWD 2019 is #BalanceForBetter – what does this mean to you?
Camila (Product Engineer): I think balance comes from diversity, not from everything being the same. Diversity is bringing different backgrounds – and therefore, points of view – into the mix. We can all bring so much more to the table when we combine all of our experiences – and it’s better because we know how to solve more problems and how to bring new ideas to life.
Stella: As Kleovoulos (an Ancient Greek poet and wise man) said: “μέτρον άριστον” – moderation is best, have balance in every aspect of your life. This is something that I always have as a guide in my life. It’s so difficult to balance your work and personal life nowadays, but this does not mean that you cannot achieve it.
For women, this is even more complicated as, at present, we are the ones that may need to postpone or even give up our careers in order to have family. In my perspective, women are strong and they can achieve this balance and have both to ensure that we don’t have to give up our dreams – career or family ones! Achieve balance to achieve a better self.
How you think more companies can ensure a future of equality in the tech industry?
Chloe: Firstly the pipeline problem needs to be addressed. To ensure equality in the future, both men and women need to talk externally about the things they are building and how work gets done, to as young an audience as possible. It’s critical that we dispel notions like “technical roles are for men”, “IT is boring”, “only geniuses code”.
To reduce attrition amongst diverse hires, it is important that everyone brought into the company is actively included. It is not enough to hire diversely if people are then sidelined. It can be as simple as reminding your staff to make eye contact with everyone in the room during meetings – not only the dominant parties present.
Lizzie: My main thing is just that we need to stop treating children like they should be into gender specific things as they grow up. My parents never put me in a box, and I think I had more LEGO and K’Nex than Barbies. I never saw programming as a ‘male only’ activity and so it was always on my list of careers that I could do. I had a female programming role model growing up (thanks Mum!) and a very supportive Dad so my interest was nurtured instead of quashed.
Angela: Quite simply, I think the most important thing for companies to do is to stop making excuses: source a diverse pool of candidates and hire diversely. If you find it too difficult, perhaps hire a talent manager who can do it for you. Hubble experienced exactly the same issues that many other companies do too – but we still went on and smashed it, especially in the tech team. A lot of companies go “sigh, it’s hard to hire women” and then that’s the end of the discussion. I think Hubble is a good example of a company that has had the same challenges as any other company, but then still worked hard on it, rather than making excuses and giving up.
What advice do you have for women who want to or already work in tech?
Camila: Do not forget that you are entitled to walk away if a company or a situation doesn’t feel right, and that you don’t have to feel sorry for it. Sometimes we don’t do it because we think we’re exaggerating, but out mental wellbeing definitely alters our creativity and our ability to work the way we’d want to.
Stella: In your career you will find many obstacles deriving from the fact that you are not a man. Stop defending your genre with words, try it with actions! Love what you are doing and keep doing it as best you can. If you’re good at what you are doing, it will be proven and acknowledged at the end even, regardless of your gender! If you want to work in tech then don’t hesitate at all, this is not a man’s world anymore. For example here in Hubble, men respect women’s opinion in tech as they clearly understand the need for having a variety of opinions and different perspectives on things.
Lizzie: Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you are having trouble communicating then speak with someone about it. Also, don’t put up with harassment or crude comments. If they don’t take you seriously then leave. There are lots of companies out there that treat women respectfully and with a bit of experience, you will have no issue getting a new job. And contrary to popular belief – you don’t need a degree to get into tech! Just show that you have an interest and be willing to put the work in. I honestly give this advice to either gender – I’ve had both men and women ask me this and really you just need to go and get started.
Finally, have fun! Use your brain, take joy in the fact that you debugged that problem, and take pride in your work. Tech is so rewarding, enjoy it!
Camila and Stella, you are two of our newest engineering recruits at Hubble. What was it that made you want to work here?
Camila: Nelya, Hubble’s Talent Manager, contacted me via LinkedIn. On our first call she told me everything about how important diversity was here. I think the most important thing you have to think about when joining a company is their culture, so that was definitely a very important point for me. After that, I actually loved the recruitment process; it was very fast and straightforward. After our interview I was able take a walk around the office and saw how many of Hubble’s tech team was female. That was when I knew that I had to work here.
Stella: The male to female ratio in Hubble’s tech team was a huge part of what made me choose Hubble. When I joined, I soon understood that Hubble endorses and allows diversity of views. By then I was sure that I have made the right choice!