Last Friday the whole Diversity in Tech Community of IS24 took one day to pitch ideas and define goals for the next year. The Stratum Lounge in Berlin Friedrichshain, a great location to focus and gather ideas. Kicking off the event, Scout24 CTO Richard Durnall joined us and kickstarted the day by sharing some of his experience: Having previously worked for a number of companies all over the globe – including Thoughtworks and Soundcloud – before joining Scout24 last year, he was able to provide not only inspiration on the topic but also to give some advice based on concrete insights which we put to use later during the day. Furthermore, he expressed his full support of the Diversity in Tech community and its goals, taking the topic very seriously.
Our schedule went on with a general round of introductions: The community grew quite a bit recently, being joined by 10 people who did not all know each other at that point. By having each person answer some simple questions, we not only gained insight into individual motivations and opinions but also a better understanding of ourselves as a community. The questions were:
- How did you hear about the community?
- What motivated you to participate?
- How will you know we succeeded?
- What would discourage you from working with the diversity community?
- What kind of behaviour would make you angry?
The answers were different and ranged from interesting, inspiring and very personal to funny. One participant’s answer to “How will you know we succeeded?” was to one day being able to “observe a queue in front of the ladies’ restroom in the IT department” :). People’s motivations for the diversity topic were a blend of a general sense of justice, negative personal experiences, observations and a desire to create a more enjoyable and interesting working environment through diversity of thought, gender and other aspects. Behaviors that made many people angry could be summarized as ignorant and indifferent comments encountered in daily life. For example the accusing phrase “Why do you women always need special treatment (German: eine Extrawurst)?” Apparently this is a common reaction encountered when talking to people about the wording of job ads and how it might affect underrepresented groups like female engineers for instance.
Participants also voiced their concerns that they would eventually leave the community if it turned out to be more about complaining and talking about deficits rather than getting things done. Also someone summed it up nicely by stating: “I would leave if we don’t work together as a team: I want everyone to be involved in all the actions we take and the company should see us as a team, not so much as individuals”. Ultimately this was a big part of what the offsite was all about: to grow together as a team that can bring positive change to the company.
Next up was crunching some numbers after an invigorating lunch break: The human resources department (HR) had provided us with data correlating age and genders in the IT department. These statistics could be compared with surveys conducted by us previously. We preprocessed everything beforehand, creating diagrams in order to explore correlations visually. This allowed the group to gain an informational overview rather quickly and then proceed to analyzing and interpreting the data to identify the current state of diversity.
The most important part of the day followed: Defining a concrete community goal. From there, specific tasks could then be derived to contribute to that overall goal. After considering different aspects of diversity (age, gender, nationality, proficiency level,
educational and cultural background), the group voted and decided on the community’s first focus: Gender diversity in IT at IS24. Analyzing the data confirmed that most people from the IT department believe there are currently too few female engineers, regardless of how they rate this fact. To counter this, a concrete goal was then formulated: Double the percentage of female engineers at IS24 until the end of 2017 (which equals to ~14%). Limiting ourselves to the tech community of IS24, rather than aiming to target the organization as a whole or even to include AutoScout24 is justified by the assumption that it is precisely here, in the tech community of IS24, where we can have the greatest impact.
As an aside, our long-term goal is unequivocally to encompass all aspects of diversity, for example black women, people over 50 or Asian men in tech, all of which are underrepresented in our company. Increasing the percentage of women in tech is merely a starting point on which we want to focus for now.
In addition to the main goal, we also want to raise the visibility and acceptance of the diversity community within the company and convey our findings to our colleagues as well as inform them about our work. Reinforcing our cooperation with HR and being more involved with the recruiting process are other important steps towards achieving more diversity.
At the end of the day, we parted with a good mutual understanding of our next steps and action items. We’ll be busy during the next year of community work for sure!