≡ Menu
Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Why I Prefer to Hire Women

Woman

I have a news for you: IT industry is dominated by men.

- Pawel, why don’t you tell us something we don’t know?

There should be more women in the industry.

Which part of “something we don’t know” you haven’t understood?

Fine, you get the message. I just wonder why you don’t hire more women.

I confess in my current team there is round number of women. Zero. I worked with a few teams like this. And every time one of my goals was to bring a few women to the team. Why? There are a few reasons. I will generalize here and I’m going to do it on purpose. After an hour or so of interview you can’t really say what kind of personality you deal with, so you have to go with your biases and prejudices anyway.

  • Women bring different soft skills to team talent pool. They’re usually more open and emotional than men. Do a simple test and recall your last retrospective or check the record from it. Can you see how different arguments were pointed by women than by men?
  • Women bring more culture. Pure-men groups tend to change into something like herd of hogs. Bringing a woman on board magically improves everyone’s manners and language. I mean hogs are nice but I wouldn’t like to work with them.
  • Women are more responsible. This may be one of my prejudices but I find women more responsible than men. I can hardly recall any woman who came to work having heavy hangover while I have no problems to name a long list on men who did.
  • Women are more accountable. It is connected with the previous point. Women tend to treat their duties very seriously. Even when it is something they didn’t personally commit to but rather something their boss expects from them their commitment is usually stronger. And I think here about these unrealistic expectations many poor managers set against their teams too.
  • After all, there aren’t many women in the industry so don’t make it even worse.

Having said that, I’m not going to hire woman over man just because of sex. If there’s a significant difference between two candidates I will always choose a better one, not the prettier one. But at the same time every woman entering an interview with me has a small plus for free at the beginning. I guess I could put it as one of recruitment tips but changing your sex isn’t a great tip, is it?

On the other hand I’ve seen enough prejudices working against women to throw my two cents. And I have a question for you: having two similar candidates which one would you choose?

in: software business, team management

18 comments… add one

  • JFK July 14, 2010, 9:38 am

    While this article is respectful of women’s rights, I think it is misguided. I attribute this to the fact that you haven’t actually worked with a lot of women, perhaps only noticing a few who are not typical of the average working woman.

    First, don’t stereotype women. They have the same strengths and weaknesses as men. They are women who are responsible and accountable. And there are women who are not. Same applies to men. The point being that you have to hire people (men or women) who are responsible and accountable, not assume that you have scored a silver bullet by hiring women. I have worked with very good men and women and I have been unfortunate to have worked with some really bad ones (both male and female).

    Second, discrimination based on gender (either way) is wrong and, yes, illegal. “Why I Prefer to Hire Women” is as bad as the atrocious “Why I Prefer to Hire Men”. I know you have a disclaimer at the very end about that, but it is not enough to say “Having said that”.

  • jfbauer July 14, 2010, 9:45 am

    Pawel, I’m glad you took the time to write about this gender topic. One of my best technical teams had a female member added along the way and the overall positive, quality lift she brought to the team as a hole was significant even though her experience was more junior technically speaking. When she left after about 1.5 years there was a rapid decline of that original lift. I thought about working this mixed gender prospective in some articles I wrote on techniques to build a strong team (http://bit.ly/5voQjZ) but ultimately I passed because I couldn’t arrive at the succinct manner in which you captured here.

    BTW, to directly answer your question, yes, by all means, hire a woman of equal merit to a male candidate if your team is heavily male gender biased.

  • bhupinder July 14, 2010, 10:08 am

    Well, if there is a balance in demographics, I don’t see why there should be an imbalance in the workplace either. The best ratios I have seen in project teams is 70:30 (men:women) and it certainly needs to be better.

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 14, 2010, 10:25 am

    JFK,

    I warned that I would generalize here and I did. Yes there are women who are accountable and responsible and there are women who aren’t. The same you could tell about men. But no, women don’t have the same strengths and weaknesses as men.

    You won’t tell me that man, in general, are more sensitive than women. You won’t tell me that man, in general, has better manners than women. We could discuss about accountability or responsibility since I didn’t make any surveys – these are only my observations.

    I worked with different environments and with different people, both men and women. I am aware that I generalized my experience in the post. But you couldn’t write this kind of post without generalization or you’d have to write separate post about every individual you’ve ever worked with.

    But these are generalizations, not stereotypes. Stereotype says that young women get pregnant and then, even when they get back they have different priorities in life and job isn’t so important anymore. And I reject to base on this stereotype.

    Regarding discrimination: actually I feel safe. Probably if I worked purely with women I’d write a post titled “why I prefer to hire men” but I work in IT, which is dominated by men. This domination goes too far if you ask me so I point why I think it is a good idea to hire more women.

    I feel safe because of one more thing – so far I’ve never made hiring decision because of gender bias. And I doubt I will.

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 14, 2010, 10:31 am

    John,

    I guess there’s something very hard to catch when it comes to adding a woman to team of hogs… I mean men. Team slightly changes because now they work with a woman. That’s probably more of a subject for psychologists than IT managers so I’m not going to try to define it here. I just call it “a different soft skill set.”

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 14, 2010, 10:35 am

    bhupinder,

    Actually I’ve seen teams dominated by both genders and I’d say most of the time that doesn’t work well. But if we’re generalizing (and we do) IT industry as a whole is heavily dominated by men. I’m not if demographics should be our target but still more variety usually means better environment.

  • Kurt July 14, 2010, 10:55 pm

    Tricky topic. As far as I know, recent research indicates that women developers don’t actually do their jobs differently to men. To suggest otherwise is probably doing more harm than good.

    There is a problem, but the absence of women in development is more of a symptom than the root cause. When we suddenly discover that women are more equally represented then we will know that we have started to solve the real problems.

    I also disagree that simply adding women to a team makes men behave. A culture that has a problem attracting women employees, is likely to have the type of men that actually get worse when adding a women to the team. They will treat her like a sex object, make comments about her appearance, act a bit sillier, try and hit on her, become distracted.

    As men we need to grow up basically, start learning about gender issues, and making a stand against inappropriate comments and behavior. Men that act like dicks around women should be treated like dicks. Once we sort things out at the cultural level women wont be as disgusted at the prospect of being around us as they currently are.

    We have to cut down on the dirty jokes, the poor personal hygiene, the dressing like homeless people, the general anti-social behavior, the primitive understanding of gender issues. We have to get rid of this idea that development is 100% hiding behind a screen typing in some software that has been designed on paper elsewhere. We have to emphasize that SW dev is primarily a creative, collaborative endeavor rather than purely technical.

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 15, 2010, 1:07 am

    Kurt,

    I’ve never suggested that women do their job differently than men. The difference is not within capabilities but within traits and soft skills. Almost neither of these are crucial to do our jobs efficiently yet almost all of them are used this way or another at workplace.

    And because typically we work with few women their impact can be so significant.

    I don’t agree with your sad view of results of adding a woman to a team of men. Actually I’ve never seen the situation you describe while I’ve seen numerous counterexamples. This may have roots in cultural differences though.

    It is exactly as you write – development goes far beyond our screens and keyboards. It is social effort after all, and that’s exactly where these differences between women and men play their role. The more imbalanced teams are the impact is bigger.

  • Lisa Crispin July 16, 2010, 9:23 am

    First of all, I salute you for blogging on this topic. For some reason, it is so inflammatory to say there aren’t enough women in software development and we ought to try to do something about it. Diversity is good on all levels for many reasons – more viewpoints and cultural diversity foster more innovation; it makes a more pleasant work environment (IMO). Gender diversity is an important part of that.

    When I started my first job as a programmer in the early 1980s there were as many women as men. In the late 90s the number of women on my teams took a nosedive. There’s been a lot of research to examine that. I’ve had to work on a lot of all-male teams. Though I love my teams, I’d sure like to have more women around. Don’t we all want someone we can relate to more on our teams, at the same time we appreciate working with a diverse group?

    Though we’ve tried hard to recruit women, we haven’t been very successful. I don’t know why. We don’t get many women applications for developer or tester jobs to start with. My teammates feel more comfortable working with people who tend to be geeky and techy, and for some reason it seems like fewer women fit that mold. It becomes a chicken and egg problem.

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 16, 2010, 2:43 pm

    Lisa,

    I’m surprised. I wasn’t aware that domination of man started in nineties. In our case (central-eastern Europe) this imbalance was there since the beginning of the industry, but it actually means nineties too. But the fact is few women chose engineering specializations so statistics plays against them.

    To be honest I don’t see the change coming anytime soon. You may be right it became a chicken and egg problem.

  • sas July 18, 2010, 1:20 pm

    15 years ago when I first started in IT the numbers of female employees were really really low. As the only woman in a department of 60, (and the only redhead!) I stood out.

    As my experience, responsibilities and confidence as a project manager grew, I realised that what I added into the mix was unique: importantly I wasn’t a true techy geek, so I wasn’t competition, nor was I invading their turf, I asked the questions that the customer might ask, but mostly I let them do their jobs. I don’t know if this is down to my gender or not.

    Looking back, I have tended to recruit and promote women into leadership roles more times than men. But this often depends on the project, the organisation, the customer as much as the role or the person.

    Interesting debate :)

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 18, 2010, 2:31 pm

    Sas,

    From my experience – if a woman joins the team different point of view is what you can take for granted. I don’t think it’s really about being geeky but more about the way we look at the world around.

    That’s a bit off-topic but one thing I observed when we were watching movies with friends is how much different is the story perceived by women and by by men. In terms of watching movie that’s just a starting point to a discussion, but when we look at project it may save team’s butts if someone is able to spot problems only because she looks at different details.

    So, as it was stated here a few times already, diversity is good and since there are few women around hiring them is a good thing. Nevertheless I still won’t hire mediocre woman over good man. After all I’ll have to work with them.

  • Danie July 19, 2010, 7:50 am

    First I’d like to say Pawel, great topic!

    Second, is I’m a 30 year old female working as an Agile Project Manager. I’ve only know one other female in Agile Project Management…I actually changed my career from Accounting to IT and have been in this field for 8 years now. I don’t regret my choice but I will say that I have yet to have a women on my team (not counting my virtual teams in India and Manila…who tend to have more women in QA). It would be nice to see more women in IT but I found out in public, such as at a gathering, when people ask what I do for a living and I tell them, women are the first to show their disinterest. I’ve actually had men say, ” Wow, really?? You don’t LOOK like you’re in IT.” I didn’t realize that you had to be unattractive to work in the industry… I will say that while yes, I am an attractive women and yes, I am a huge computer geek…most women don’t find the appeal in IT. I don’t think they realize that you can be creative, have fun , and work with Technology. I love my field and if other women don’t find it appealing and I do….well, then its my own hidden secret.

    BTW, I have never been hit on by any of my male co-workers because my knowledge speaks for me. If anything, my all male teams respect me and my work and have never crossed the line. Not to have any men get offended at this post but let’s be honest…it’s like sports if you talk the talk and walk the walk they really aren’t paying attention to your gender or looks….hahaha

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 19, 2010, 8:15 am

    Danie,

    I think you nailed it. As long as you do your job hardly anyone cares whether you’re woman or man.

    And it’s good to see another voice of support for the opinion that appearance of woman in male team doesn’t trigger offensive behavior.

  • YvesHanoulle July 19, 2010, 1:59 pm

    Gladwell has an interesting chapter about this problem in his book Blink.
    It is about hiring women musiscians. The classica musical industry only started hiring women after they did audition behing a screen.
    I’m very much in favor of doing PairProgramming during interviews. Unfortunatly this won’t help to do a blind interviews.

    Check out diversity in Agile that wants to promote all kind of diversity. We started this year with a project about women. This has given very hard reactions by lots of people.

    y

  • Jurgen Appelo July 19, 2010, 2:01 pm

    I didn’t notice you had blogged about this.
    But in retrospect, perhaps unconsciously, my blog post 2 days later appears to be my answer to yours. :)

    It’s About Being Competent, Not About Being ___
    http://www.noop.nl/2010/07/its-about-being-competent-not-about-being-___.html

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 19, 2010, 2:29 pm

    A funny thing is I have a huge lag in my reader and I haven’t read your post until now. What a coincidence.

    It is about being competent. But it is also about diversity which is good. At least this is what I found in your yet-to-be-published book.

    As I said, I won’t hire you because you are ___. I will hire you because you’re a good specialist. And if I have only ___ in my team I will likely choose === or +++ or — if I have a choice (which is rarely true).

    And in this very case (women) there are other arguments besides diversity which I pointed in the post.

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 19, 2010, 2:37 pm

    Yves,

    It is a very interesting point you raise. Actually I haven’t thought about activities like pair programming. I have no experience in this area but I think, despite possible occasional clashes, it should be very beneficiary to both sides when pair programming is done by a couple witch differs much from each other. And yes, I think woman and man play as a good example here.

    Anyway, I was thinking wider. It doesn’t matter that much whether a woman is a developer, quality engineer or project manager. It works as long as she’s the part of the team.

Leave a Comment