[UbuntuWomen] what makes a company more attractive to techie women?

Jacinta Richardson jarich at perltraining.com.au
Fri Mar 7 01:19:36 UTC 2008

Esther Schindler wrote:

> I want to make this largely about POSITIVE things that companies can  
> do -- not just the painful anecdotes. 

* Send you employees on training courses.  Be proactive about this.  Some staff 
will argument well for being sent on a course while others will wait patiently 
for it to be offered - solve this by making it policy.  Find relevant training 
courses for your staff and ask them to choose their preferred courses and then 
send them on it.  I recommend at least 1 week of training each per year, more 
for the junior staff.  Invite employees to nominate other training courses to 
add to the list of approved training.

* Send your employees to at least three days of relevant conferences per year. 
This is in addition to that week of training per year.  Again be proactive, and 
provide a list of conferences you think would be useful.  Again, allow 
nominations for others as well.  Encourage staff members to present talks at 
conferences.  Provide opportunities for these staff members to practice 
presenting to their colleagues.  Run some Toastmaster or equivalent events if 
necessary to help people improve their confidence.

* Make it easy for staff members to take family members along on training 
courses or conferences out of town.  For example, allow them to have airfares 
booked by the company which they then reimburse, offer to have multiple names on 
the hotel room, find out - where possible - whether child-care options exist. 
Some conferences offer "partners' programs", offer to pay half the cost for the 
staff's partner - if it's an away conference.  (Some women don't like travelling 
alone, so making it easy for them to take their partner will help them feel more 

* Encourage your staff to arrive at 9am go home at 5pm, or 10am/6pm or whatever 
is appropriate for your office.  Staff shouldn't feel like they have to stay for 
long hours to fit in.  Doing so punishes staff with family or a social life. 
Likewise discourage work on weekends, beyond on-call duties.

* Offer positions at an appropriately decreased salary which match school hours. 
  For example 9am - 5pm is an 8 hour day.  9am - 3pm is a 6 hour day.  So make 
it possible for people to take 75% of pay, and work 6 hours if they need to. 
Schedule meetings and social events for the morning (morning tea) rather than 
punishing people taking this option.

* Allow employees to work a few days a month at home, as an alternative to 
special leave.  For example, a parent dealing with a sick child can probably 
provide most of their 8 hours of reasonable productivity throughout the day.  If 
you can trust your employees to work with little supervision at their desks at 
work, you should be able to trust them to work with little supervision at home.

* Encourage employees to use technologies such as instant messaging to hold 
online meetings with each other.  This can allow discussion between people in 
and out of the office with ease.  Handle the cases where staff abuse this to 
spend all day chatting with external people on a case by case basis.

* Chastise staff, when required, privately.  Humiliating staff members publicly 
makes your workplace feel very hostile.  Don't bitch about any of your staff to 
other staff members or management.  If you're having problems with any of them, 
deal with that directly and immediately.

* Require all staff to give weekly summaries of their progress.  Provide 
templates.  Sometimes progress won't have happened, and that's normal, but this 
allows those staff who are likely to assume you're aware of what they're doing, 
to actually tell you.  Don't mix this up with the monthly goals, achievements, 
blah things that some businesses try.  This shouldn't be a barrier to work, 
merely a summary of what your staff have been up to.

* Discourage office politics and shield your staff from it as much as possible. 
  Tell them what's going on with higher management, but don't make management 
issues their problem.

* Where staff members are all of the same rank working on various projects, swap 
  responsibilities around from project to project.  Don't allow one staff member 
to always dominate project management, or testing.  Likewise rotate who gives 
presentations at client meetings and who attends important meetings.

* If some staff regularly dominate meetings, by interrupting other staff, or 
always wanting a say about everything; while other staff never appear to say 
anything, change this behaviour.  Discourage interruptions.  Ask each individual 
to give you their timed (2 minute?) response to each issue.  It's important to 
be fair, and to ensure that everyone is limited to the time limit, rather than 
allowing one person to speak for 5 minutes while everyone else is cut off at 1 
minute 30 seconds.  Forbid interruptions to these responses, even if what the 
person said was controversial.  Allow general discussion of the issues *after* 
each staff member has had a chance to speak.

* Have a good mix of social events.  Don't always go down the pub, or have 
drinks and pizza in the evening.  Invite your employees to submit alternative 
solutions.  For example have catered lunches, BBQs or nice morning/afternoon 
teas; so that those staff who need to leave work on time still get the chance to 
be involved in such events.  This shouldn't stop you from having networked games 
nights with drinks and pizza; merely this shouldn't be the *only* type of social 

* Take all staff complaints seriously and investigate the cause.  Where one 
accuses another of misbehaviour, invite both into a meeting room and have the 
first remake their accusation, allow the second to make a response.  If the 
staff do not appear to be willing to work together, - if possible - shift both 
into other (separate) departments, or onto other (separate) projects.  This may 
reduce the accusations of favouritism and victimisation.

* Have a cleaner in who'll clean the microwave, fill the dishwaster, mop the 
floors, etc.  If your staff have to do the cleaning then typically it'll end up 
being the women who do it, and that's unfair.

FWIW I'm Jacinta Richardson, director at Perl Training Australia.  This is more 
based on my previous employment experience rather than from Perl Training 
Australia though.  Good luck!

All the best,


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