Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Addressing Gender Imbalance in Software Engineering Through Community and Mentoring

Addressing Gender Imbalance in Software Engineering Through Community and Mentoring

In this podcast Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods spoke to Nir Orman and Einav Carmon from Wix  about addressing the gender imbalance in software engineering through community and mentoring.

Key Takeaways

  • There is still a significant gender imbalance in software engineering
  • Mentor programs can help address the imbalance
  • Being a part of a diverse collaborative community feels safe and allows people to be their best selves in the workplace
  • Leadership is about helping other people’s voices be heard
  • There are focused tech communities who can support each other


Shane Hastie: Hey folks, before we get into today's podcast, I wanted to share that InfoQ'S International Software Development Conference QCon will be back in San Francisco from October two to six. QCon will share real world technical talks from innovative senior software development practitioners on applying emerging patterns and practices to address current challenges. Learn more We hope to see you there.

This is Shane Hastie for the InfoQ Engineering Culture podcast. Today I'm sitting down across half the world and 12 time zones with Nir Orman and Einav Carmon, both from Wix in Israel. So ladies welcome. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.

Nir Orman: Thank you Shane for having us here. It's very exciting.

Shane Hastie: My normal question is who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourselves, your background, and tell us a little bit about Wix.

Introductions [01:04]

Nir Orman: My name is Nir. I'm an R&D manager. I've been at Wix for three years now and Wix actually is a website platform that is built to help people build their online presence and was founded in 2006 and today we are all in and focusing on coming into the next evolution and using generative AI in order to build that platform and help people build websites and build their total online presence in the easiest way possible to reach the biggest customer base possible.

Shane Hastie: And Einav?

Einav Carmon: Hi, I am Einav Carmon. I'm a mom. I have three kids and three dogs. I've been a software engineer for about 20 years. Prior to Wix, I worked in different startups or medium companies and different programming languages and different domains from finance and advertisements to developer testing tools. I've been at Wix for the last six years and today I'm part of the infrastructure group and the developer experience team where we help Wix internal developers have the smoothest and seamless experience as possible so they can focus on their own work and their business object and help them ship software faster.

Shane Hastie: One of the reasons why we are having a conversation is that recently there was an International Woman In Engineering Day and you are both women in engineering, which is still sadly an imbalance. Einav, you mentioned to me before we were talking that you're actually interested in that research in the why is that imbalance still a thing today?

The gender imbalance in software engineering [02:43]

Einav Carmon: I think that's a good question. I think it has a very old roots where commercials had only the men and his kid playing computers and the woman and their female child was in the kitchen. And there is also the premise that women needs to be at home with the kids and have the men work and bring food to the table. And I think that made this field very male dominated in the past and it's very hard to break that. That's what I think.

There's also differences between women and men that are making it more of a challenge. For instance, men will answer a job description if they met 60% of their requirements and women will answer only if they had a 100% of the requirements. And knowing that fact can help women apply faster, apply if they only have 60%. Same thing goes to the way that women treat success and failure. We take success and credit it to external factors or others and we blame ourselves for failures. And once we know we can take credit and share the failure, we can shine more in the film.

Shane Hastie: Those are some research facts and these things you point out and it's just knowing that is important that women can then overcome the stereotype. And obviously there are stereotypes and not everyone fits that pattern, but these imbalances are not good for our industry. There's a lot of research into the value of diverse teams. And Nir, I know that you've got some opinions on that, so I'd love to explore that.

Diverse teams are more successful [04:26]

Nir Orman: Yes, so definitely diverse company is the more successful one and the more innovative one and one where people feel freely to suggest ideas and that brings the company into a whole new level and it's based on research. So as you're asking, it's really interesting to understand, so why is it not that simple? Okay, so let's just hire 50% of whatever.

It's not just female. Diversity is way wider than just men and women obviously. But I think that it's complicated because a lot of the times when people are considering their future careers, they start with thinking about, how am I going to work around having a family and having the work-life balance? And they immediately think even if no one says it to them that maybe it wouldn't work together. Maybe it would be too hard for them. Maybe they wouldn't be able to do it.

And sometimes it makes people stop themselves before anybody else stops them. Nobody put a stop sign, right? You stop yourself sometimes. Sometimes people do put a stop sign and then you just have to maybe find a different way or just ignore the stop sign. So I think that it's really challenging to work that imbalance and make it balanced. But I think it is possible because I know that in the environment where I work, since I've gotten to Wix in the past three years, I think that in most of the time my team had at least 50% women.

I always take pride in that. And whenever we are in some daily meeting and we have more women than men, I'm always aware of that and I always take a screenshot of it and I'm always saying, "Let's appreciate that moment because it's not the common and it's not something that happens to everybody everywhere." So it is something to appreciate and I'm working really hard to get to that balance point.

Shane Hastie: To make that the norm. So what was your journey to R&D Manager?

Nir’s journey to R&D Manager [06:17]

Nir Orman: I started in the army. I was a simulator instructor for F-16 and I heard a lecture back then about innovation and I thought that it's really cool how you walk in the mall and it recognizes where you want to go and you put the key down on your table and it immediately turns into your table and the fridge orders the food by itself and all that stuff. So innovation sounded like something really amazing that I want to do that.

And when I went to university, I studied electrical engineering and computer science. And on the second day one woman came to me and she said, "are you the second woman here." And I was shocked because apparently I am the second woman and we were just the two of us. So it's pretty hard to be just two women. And pretty quickly we drove apart because of different courses and stuff, but you have to understand that it's okay.

I had a lot of friends. So it doesn't matter if you are just the only woman out there, you can still find connections with other people and it doesn't have to be a woman's clique. And once I graduated and started working in the industry, I worked at some small startups, some bigger startups, some really big companies, and I always knew that I wanted to be also in the leadership field because I always felt like I have two parts of my brain, the part that is more technical and the part that is more leadership, people, management oriented.

And I felt like I cannot use just half of my brain. I have to do something extra with the other parts. So I found myself initiating the first Hackathon in one of the companies that I worked at and I found myself starting this R&D women community at Wix recently. And I always do that extra thing and that leads me to management. I've always loved doing that and I felt like it's a part of me.

Shane Hastie: Thank you. Einav, you mentioned, again in the conversation we were having before we started recording, a mentor program, how's that working and what are the benefits?

Being part of a mentor program [08:13]

Einav Carmon: I'm taking part in the Israel's largest community of women in engineering and data science called Baot. They have a lot of beautiful programs. They have blogging program, they have 30 hours for an outside project program. It's really beautiful community and I'm taking part in the job search mentoring. I help women in the process of job searching. I help with their resumes, I help with interview simulations. I guide them. I help with the networking and mostly I hold their hands in this really rough process that sometimes we tend to take very personally. And I know this one-on-one might be small steps, it feels very individual, but I feel that this has some sort of a ripple effect because I know those women that I mentored into the field will mentor others in the future.

Shane Hastie: And a mentoring program, a community program, what's involved in setting that up in a way that it is effective and makes a difference?

Einav Carmon: I feel that there should be a really good match between the mentor and the mentee. You fill a questionnaire and you have the same background and the mentor has to be someone who is experienced in the search job and experienced in interviewing and can really help to ease the process of getting into the field. There were times that it didn't work, it wasn't a good match, but most of the times it works well and it makes me very happy every time I help a woman get a new job.

Nir Orman: One more thing regarding making it effective for the community. It's really important. It's sort of like being a product manager, I guess. I've never been a product manager, but I'm guessing because you have to understand what are the needs of the special community, okay? So what are people looking to get out of it? So one of the first thing that we did was send out forms to understand why would women want to come to our community meet up? Because I know that a lot of the women who already made it sometimes look back and they say to themselves, "I happen to be a woman, but it doesn't matter, I'm an engineer, so why do I have to go to these meetups? I don't want to tag myself or categorize myself as a woman. I'm just an engineer doing her job and it doesn't matter and I don't want to go to all of these meetups."

So one of the things that we've seen when we've asked that question is that women want to come to these meetups to do networking and I think that's a really important goal just to meet other people that are like you and that are trying to get around in the company and trying to get maybe to their next role or just feel like they have friends and they can go have a beer someplace with someone.

And I think that's really important. So we're building it so that it's not just coming into hear lectures, but it also is really tailor-made for the specific needs of women. So if they say they want mentoring, we will assign mentors. If they say they want networking, we will have time to mingle and have fun together. And I think that's the main point of it, trying to get it right for their needs and the needs may change. It's not necessarily that the needs that were when you started the community are the needs in six months from now. So it's really important to keep getting more data and gathering the data of the needs.

Shane Hastie: What does a great diverse collaborative culture look like, feel like?

What does a diverse collaborative culture look like? [11:34]

Nir Orman: I think it feels like you're at home. It feels like you don't have to apologize for what you are and for who you are. And it feels like no one's judging you for being whatever it is that you are. And it just feels like if someone mistakenly makes you feel uncomfortable, you feel like you can say, "Dude, that was not cool. Let's not do that again."

And you would feel that that comment is appreciated and that comment is understandable because everybody wants to feel safe in their workplace. And I think one of the things that makes workplace really successful is that people feel a psychological safety. I think there's also a research by Google that says that.

And so once you get to that level, it doesn't matter where you're from, which accent you have, what color is your hair, or how old are you, or which gender you are or whatever, all of these things, you still feel like you're a part of the company and that your contribution matters. And that makes people want to do their best job and bring their best selves into work every day coming in with a smile. And that makes it also fun and also successful.

Shane Hastie: And how do we design that? How do we deliberately create that space?

Ways to create safety [12:48]

Einav Carmon: I don't know if I can say exactly the rules. I can give an example. For one of my first design reviews at Wix, I just came from a small startup where I had to push with elbows to get my opinion voiced. And in this design review we all sat around the table and the developer reviewed the design and there was a lively conversation that I didn't take part of because I was shy, because I was new, because I didn't think my opinion matter because this is my first few weeks at Wix.

And in the end of the conversation the tech lead said, "Okay, now we go around the table and everyone says what is their opinion on this design review?" Everyone had a seat at the table and had their moment to shine and talk about the design. And I remember clearly that what I said meant a lot and people quoted me and said that I was right and we should change. I don't remember exactly what, but I remember the feeling that this is so different. So I think having an option to talk and not causing people to have to raise their voice or use their elbows to be heard, I think that's a good start to hear everyone and to feel included.

Shane Hastie: Nir, as a leader, as the R&D manager, how do you hold that space?

Nir Orman: I think that it's really important for R&D managers to be aware of that and really I think what Einav just described sounds like an amazing leader who was sitting in that room. So I think the first point is that you have to be aware of it. And the second point is that you have to understand that if you're sitting in that room and you're not doing anything, when you see someone not speaking, then you should be doing something about it and you should be helping people find their voice.

And I think that's generally what leadership is about, helping other people find their voice. And once you see those people who don't think that it's worth hearing them, then you have to let them be heard. And I'm sure that everybody has something meaningful to contribute. So I think that's the main issue here as a leader finding those.

And even if you see that someone is not speaking their mind or you see that someone is treating someone else, I don't want to say disrespectful. I hope nobody does that, but for example, then you have to step up and say, "That's not how we want to be rolling. Let's change that so that everybody feels safe and we want to hear everybody's opinions." And it's fine, even if your opinion, I don't know, in another story it was a happy ending, but sometimes you say something that maybe wasn't really that correct for the design review, but that's also fine because if you didn't say it, you wouldn't know why is it wrong?

And once you've said it and you got the constructive feedback about it, then you can really learn from it. So even if it wasn't the right thing to do, it's still worth talking and hearing what other people are thinking about what you said. And if you're not talking then you're just missing out so I think it's worth speaking up.

Shane Hastie: Switching topics, what are you passionate about in technology at the moment?

The impact of AI and LLM in technology teams [15:41]

Nir Orman: For me, the immediate buzzword of Gen AI and LLM is really interesting. I understand that this is going to change everything from being an individual contributor and just coding a hundred percent of your time to engineering managers and it's just going to change everything. And I think we're starting to see it, but we're not quite there yet. So I think one of the things is using Generative AI once you're writing your code and we still don't know how to tackle all the problems that brings with. It starts with the prompts that you're writing and how do you keep it in the source control and how do you modify the code once it was written by a machine?

And all these things that we think we don't even know which challenges we're about to face. And also for the managers because how do you lead such a group of people who are writing maybe prompts instead of writing code? It's a little bit different. And I think for university graduates it's definitely different because ever since I graduated I got to use a lot of the stuff that I learned in the industry. But what are people who are just graduating now from university going to do with all that hard work that they did in the past, I don't know, three to four years because maybe you don't need that anymore or at least don't need it as much? So we're definitely going to have some other challenges which are really interesting to see and to take part in to solve.

Shane Hastie: How do we bring people on that journey with us? How do we bring our teams along because these are new competencies, these are new skillsets?

The need to constantly learn new skills [17:14]

Nir Orman: The only thing I think is constant in this world right now is change and you have to get used to that. So things are changing ever faster as we go. And I think that the way to bring in innovation is really related to the previous topic that we had about being heard. And I think at Wix it was amazing to see that the thing we did in order to bring innovation in and to bring that new topic of Generative AI into Wix as a Hackathon where everybody can be heard and everybody can suggest ideas.

It's not just coming in from the top. And the fact that everybody knows that they can suggest ideas and that the cool next feature could be their idea is making people really want to pitch in and bring the best ideas. And that's a great example of how to bring innovation into your organization and let people be heard.

Shane Hastie: Einav, what's exciting you, what are you looking forward to in this interesting changing future?

Einav Carmon: As we said, I have three young children, very young and I'm really excited to see how they are growing up into this very techy world. And my biggest is already creating games in Scratch and I'm really excited to see what will happen when he will be a software engineer and how the world is going to look like when people are programming since their are three or four. The change is going to be exponential.

Nir Orman: Is there still going to be software engineers years from now? We don't know.

Shane Hastie: If only we had a crystal ball. Anything else either of you would like to cover?

Einav Carmon: Maybe we can go back to having a community. Nir did amazing job at creating an internal Wix community, internal for R&D women developers. There is also for the last six years, Wix has organized external community called Women in Tech. We're having a series of events or meetups led by Wix's female managers and developers. The goal of the forum is to increase women's presence in tech field and we put emphasis on having both lectures of women in engineering culture and deep dive technical lectures on each of these events. I was actually in one before I was at Wix and it was a really great experience.

Shane Hastie: So Nir, Einav was talking about how that external community was of value. How did you put it together?

Nir Orman: Actually it wasn't me. The external community was way before I joined Wix by two amazing women, Aviva Peisach and I think Moran Weber was also taking part in that. Maybe some others. I'm not sure, don't want to miss anybody. But I think they felt like at the time the thing that was the most important was bringing that value externally. And I've recently talked to Einav about it and she said that she feels that now it's the right time to bring it also within Wix and we're continuous of that external program.

So it's two different things. One is actually contributing to the external community and the second one is taking care of women who already are in the company. And I think it's really an amazing closure because the woman who started the external meetups, the Women in Tech meetup founded Women on Stage, which is an amazing organization that is teaching women how to take the stage and really increase the number of women speaking in technical conferences.

I was lucky enough to be in the first class of that course and since then I've been giving technical talks, which I would never have thought that I would do that unless I took that course. And once I took the stage and I was talking on stage and we started this Women in R&D, within weeks I suddenly understood that the reason why I could start that stage is the Women on Stage program, which was founded by someone who left Wix a few years ago.

And that made me realize that once you have more women on the stages, eventually you'll also have more women behind the stage and building the stage. And once you find yourself building the stage, you're also responsible for giving the stage to others. And that makes diversity have no limits at all because the more diverse the stages are, the more diverse the backstages are and that just makes everything limitless. And I think that's an amazing closure to understand that this was all part of the bigger cause of that organization.

Shane Hastie: And that circle around is probably a useful point for us to close our conversation, but if people want to continue the conversation or find out more, where do they find you?

Nir Orman: So you can find me on Twitter at Nir Orman or on LinkedIn, or you can also send me a message on my personal website Feel free contacting me and I'd love to help anybody who's looking to make their organization more diverse or just want to find their future job and need help searching for it. So feel free contacting me.

Einav Carmon: I'm mostly on LinkedIn, you're all invited to message me there. I would recommend watching videos from Women in Tech Forum, all the meetups, they're all really good material for understanding the culture and understanding the biases and how to fight them.

Shane Hastie: And we'll make sure to include the links to those in the show notes. Thank you both very much indeed.

Nir Orman: Thank you so much, Shane, for having us. It was great.

Einav Carmon: Thank you so much.


About the Authors

More about our podcasts

You can keep up-to-date with the podcasts via our RSS Feed, and they are available via SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast and the Google Podcast. From this page you also have access to our recorded show notes. They all have clickable links that will take you directly to that part of the audio.

Previous podcasts

Rate this Article