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InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Mitch Shepard on Managing for Diversity

Mitch Shepard on Managing for Diversity

This is the Engineering Culture Podcast, from the people behind and the QCon conferences.

In this podcast recorded at QCon San Francisco 2016, Shane Hastie, InfoQ Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Mitch Shepard founder of WiRL about her talk at QCon and the challenges around gender diversity in the tech workforce. 

Key Takeaways

  • Gender diversity and women leaving tech roles is a real and serious problem
  • There are compelling reasons to have a more diverse workplace – both ethical and bottom line results
  • “It’s nobody’s fault, but it is everybody’s problem”
  • There are physiological differences between the male and female brains
  • Don’t assume anything about anyone because of who they are or any characteristic they may have – we are all different 

0m:34s - Introductions

1m:44s - Gender diversity and women leaving tech roles is a real and serious problem

1m:54s - Men and women have different strengths – the value of leveraging diversity

2m:09s - A quick preview of her talk on gender differences

  • What people’s motivations for caring about the topic are
  • The business case for attracting and retaining more women in tech
  • Things you can do to be an inclusive leader
  • The brain science that shows how men and women are wired differently
  • Men and women approach most things in different ways

3m:34s - Reasons why the system is so broken

3m:49s - Our business environment was shaped and formed in a time when women were not engaging in the workforce but were working at home.  The culture of businesses were based on male ways of thinking, and that didn’t change when society changed and women moved into the workforce

4m:34s - “It’s nobody’s fault, but it is everybody’s problem”

4m:49s - There is strong, systematic bias which gives men an advantage which goes long and deep

5m:09s - Things driving the recognition of the issue at a personal level are often related to leaders who see the issue and are driven by an extreme sense of fairness, and seeing the women they care about impeded in their career growth

6m:14s - The business case for diversity is compelling – businesses who have a higher percentage of women leaders than the average consistently achieve better financial performance

7m:24s - If a company knew it could increase their return by 10-15% by investing in a product, they would do so; investing in diversity is that valuable but it is slow to happen

8m:04s - Brain science differences, mentioning some books to read: The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, and Unleash the Power of the Female Brain by Daniel G. Amen

8m:44s - There are seven distinct regions of the brain that tend to differ between men and women

9m:59s - Different stress responses between men and women.  There is an additional response to the “fight or flight” mode which was recognised – “tend and befriend” which is common in many women

10m:41s - Women are more likely to want to talk through challenges and be participative in dealing with stress, whereas men tend to tackle it with fight-flight responses

10m:49s - The oxytocin response to stress in women, which is negated in men due to testosterone

11m:44s - A story of delivering a tough performance review to a women and how the brain science helps understand reactions; women will share a negative experience on average 32 times, men will share on average five times

13m:39s - Different “amygdala hijacks”  - men tend to retreat and process things alone, women tend to be with others and process things verbally

14m:04s - Men have “the nothing box” – the males and female brains at rest show very different levels of activity, women showing much more activity even when resting.  Women have more connective pathways between the left and right brain hemispheres

15m:29s - Women’s intuition is a real thing – there is a part of the brain which is responsible for “gut feelings” and these feelings are real

16m:41s - It’s impossible to “check your emotions at the door” – our emotions inform what we think

16m:54s - Listen to people’s gut instinct or intuition – they are usually picking up small signals that others may miss

17m:24s - The best response to intuition is curiosity – “tell me more about that” rather than dismissing the feelings

18m:34s - There is a lot of diversity within genders – we are not all the same but approx. 80% of men fall within the bell curve of male brain patterns and 80% of women fit in the female brain patterns

19m:19s - Don’t assume anything about anyone because of who they are or any characteristic they may have – we are all different and the way people operate will be different for each individual

19m:59s - A story of Barbara Annis’s initial work and recognising learned behaviour

21m:24s - Women often feel that the onus is on them to adapt to the male workplace rather than the workplace adapting to diversity


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