Finding an Inclusive Work Environment That’s Right For YOU
Silicon Valley got you worried about your job or search? Follow these simple tips for finding a non-toxic workplace.
4 min read
Equality in the workplace is a human right. You should never feel unsafe, harassed, undervalued, etc - you deserve to be comfortable and happy where you work. If you didn’t believe that already, I hope that the recent publicizing of the strength of women and minorities in tech coming forward with claims of sexual harassment, retaliation, unfair management, and other mistreatments have had you assess what you want (and deserve) in your workplace.
Below, I’ve gathered information from people in the community in a HackerNews (HN) thread and related sources to provide helpful tips in finding your next job with a non-toxic work environment!
If you care about the environment of the company you’ll be working at, you should care about its location first. The culture of different cities/states/countries varies greatly - not just in feel, but also by law! For example, as HN user cyorir pointed out, states like Texas, Florida, South Carolina, and more offer no protection for LGBT employees. Similarly, in Europe, very few countries have implemented anti-discrimination laws but these can be checked through ILGA Europe.
As for sexism in the industry, these issues can be rooted in geography as well. In 2016, NerdWallet did a study on the best US cities for women to work using data from gender participation as well as pay.
So make a couple quick Google searches on locations you’re interested in working in - and if you’re confined to a certain city, maybe what neighborhoods are best. You’ll be off to a great start.
2.) UTILIZE YOUR RESOURCES
There are many local, national, international, etc. communities for minorities in tech. Whether it be a Women Who Code meetup group in your area, female industry role models you can connect with, a women-friendly job search engine called InHerSight, a list of companies for people of color (both suggested by HN user unitorn), a Transgender STEM Facebook group, or whisper sites, there are plenty of places online or locally where you can ask people you like or trust for recommendations or thoughts on certain companies. And who knows, maybe some of these people will put in a referral for you at their company too!
AFTER YOU FIND POTENTIAL COMPANIES
3.) DO YOUR RESEARCH
Check the company’s website out. Do they have a “Team” page where they show their executives or maybe the full team? How is their current diversity?
Do they have a company culture page on their website? If so, does it list something with a direct vision, or does it have vague wording or only list their perks that are typical of bro-culture, like free beer and ping pong? Use this information (or lack thereof) to formulate questions for your interview (see point #5).
Check the company out on Glassdoor and look up your potential manager or coworkers on LinkedIn. If you want to get more in-depth with your searches, you can Google their company retention rate or use LinkedIn to see how long past minority employees have stayed at the company. Although a few bad numbers may not have any relation to a bad company culture, a trend within them may be a red flag
ONCE YOU GET THE INTERVIEW
4.) MEET WITH YOUR DIRECT MANAGER
HN user cnabek recommends “First, the most important person is your direct manager. Ask recruiters specifically ‘Did I meet with the person I'd be reporting to? If not I would like to meet them.’ This is the most key person, and if they are not your ally, no matter what the rest of the company thinks, you are sunk.” Ask your manager their views on culture and diversity in the company. The people that are your allies are the ones that want to work with a diverse group - not just for the best numbers for their company, but because they welcome and enjoy perspectives of others not just like them.
5.) ASK QUESTIONS
The questions you ask in the interview are what will give you the most insight into what the company is about. The quality of life, career development, and culture questions that Julia Evans suggests here are a great place to start when thinking what you want to know about the company. Feel free to ask about other women (or related diversity) at the company. “If they think that question is stupid, that is one of the biggest red flags.” Go in prepared with a list of things you want to know and the questions you can ask to find them out. If you don’t get your answers from one interviewer, you can ask another or contact your recruiter afterwards requesting to ask more. HN user Bethly suggests:
“[Ask] ‘What do you sacrifice when recruiting to ensure diversity?’ The answer should be either ‘it takes us longer to recruit because we ensure a balanced pool’ or ‘we have changed our process to allow many types of candidates to shine.’ If the answer is just ‘we spend lots of money on sending people to Grace Hopper!’ it means they aren't willing to inconvenience or piss off overrepresented engineers. You can't fix culture problems by spending money, and when ‘diversity’ is seen as separate from ‘recruiting’ in general it's a clear sign of a problem.”
AFTER YOU GET AN OFFER
6.) EQUALITY CHECK IT
Check Salary.com, GlassDoor, or Comparably to make sure that the numbers and benefits you’re offered align with the industry average for that area. If they’re lowballing you, don’t be afraid to make a counter-offer. Ask for advice in meetup groups or online forums from people you trust and move forward from there.
7.) PICTURE YOURSELF THERE
Some companies will offer you a chance to have lunch with them, or come in for half a day to experience what a day-in-the-life is like. Definitely take them up on this offer since this is how you will get a real feel for what your life would be like and how your interactions with your coworkers may go. If any red flags pop up right away, maybe this isn’t the place for you. If you have any unanswered questions, ask the recruiter or hiring manager if you can ask your manager or other employees a few follow-ups.
Lastly, imagine yourself working there - “not just with regard to the work you'll do, but where you'll sit, what the office environment is like, when and where you'll take lunch or your breaks, and how long you'll spend getting to and from the office.” Your overall happiness depends just as much on how comfortable you are in the workplace as how much you enjoy the work that you will be doing. If you’re at all uncomfortable with some aspects, did not get along well with your manager, or something in the interview seemed like a red flag, maybe this company isn’t the place for you. Everyone deserves an amazing work environment and there’s plenty of perfect companies out there for you. Don’t give up looking and remember that it and you are worth it.
Hi friends, I'm Kim! I'm a fourth year (of five!) computer engineering and computer science student at Northeastern University in Boston. I've worked four full-time software developer internships (or as we call them at NU, co-ops) so far at EMC, Apple, Starry, and now Turo! I also enjoy art and design, rock climbing, swimming in lakes, and doppler radar - though my passions lately have mainly revolved around diversifying the tech workplace. Please don't hesitate to send me a message; I'd love to chat!