Do You Want to Make Your Studio More Diverse?
Hi, I’m Na’Tosha! I work as Lead of Engineering Tools in R&D here at Unity, and I write and tweet about various things. One of the issues I’m most passionate about is actually a social issue: how we can increase the prevalence of women in technical organizations.
When I was at GDC back in March, I talked to several developers who were all running into the same problem: they wanted the development teams in their studios to be more diverse, particularly in terms of increasing the number of women on their teams, but they didn’t know how to make it happen.
It’s a hard problem, no doubt. You can’t force diversity of any kind — or, well, you can try to, but you’re probably not going to end up with a maintainable result. This is because diversity is actually just an outcome — it’s a byproduct of a healthy organization. While it’s true that you can’t just make diversity happen, you can encourage it to grow by focusing on making your studio as inclusive as possible.
While there’s no authoritative answer regarding how to increase inclusivity in a workplace, since we at Unity have recently launched a series of “Women in Gaming” workshops, I thought it would be timely to share some of the tips I think work best.
- Review your wording — everywhere! How do your job descriptions read? Do they encourage only “rock stars” to apply? Statistically, most developers are average — most of us fall into that fat part of the bell curve. Additionally, many of the best engineers, those that do fall into that tiny, desirable sliver of the bell curve, often suffer from impostor syndrome — they won’t self-identify as rock stars.
Do your job descriptions have long wishlists of “required” skills that are nearly impossible for a single person to fulfill? You may have heard this statistic before, but it’s worth mentioning again: men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women hold back unless they meet 100% of them.
Putting these two together: by using exclusive language and/or unrealistic requirements in your job descriptions, you can inadvertently miss out on a big, viable portion of your candidate pool. Instead, focus on only the few actually required skills, and spend the rest of the posting talking about how the candidate will make an impact within the team and organization. Instead of appealing to “rock stars”, help candidates fit themselves into the role.
- Look for biases in your hiring processes. An important element to focus on here is making sure that you don’t have a homogenous sourcing pipeline. Logically, if you don’t have a diverse set of inputs to your hiring process, you won’t have a diverse output. Make sure your job listings are not only posted in the usual areas, but actively circulated among forums and mailing lists for minority-oriented organizations and user groups. Make sure you are working with the right recruiters, preferably ones who emphasize and have experience with building diverse teams. You don’t want anyone inadvertently screening qualified applicants out of your candidate pool before you even get to see the applications.
- Avoid hiring exclusively from the network of people you and your employees already know. This is such an easy trap to fall into. After all, hiring people we know is so much more comfortable, right? We already know them. We’ve adjusted to their personality quirks, and we’re familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. But, given the choice, we, as humans, tend to pick friends who are similar to ourselves. So if we hire only from our own networks, we end up hiring more people like us and making our networks even more homogenous as they grow.
- Review your benefits. People from different demographics have different needs in their working environments. How do you handle maternity leave or religious holidays? Do you have flexible working hours, flexible dress code, etc.? Your compensation package and company policies can be excellent ways to demonstrate your support of a diverse workforce. A great starting point is simply to ensure (and advertise!) flexible working hours for employees to deal with family or personal matters.
- Brand your organization as an organization supportive of diversity. If you have the resources, you can launch your own diversity initiatives. Start with a small, one-day conference, or even just a social event — but make sure to advertise the event in the communities for your target demographics.
Even if you don’t have the resources to launch your own diversity initiatives, your studio can still support diversity by being vocal about supporting others’ initiatives. You can also offer your workspace as a meetup location for local user groups or organizations geared towards bringing minorities in the tech world together.
I can’t guarantee that doing these 5 things will improve the diversity of your team, but I can guarantee that each one contributes toward an environment in which it can blossom and flourish.