What women in IT in Poland can learn from the ladies in the business in the Silicon Valley? That it’s not only the employers or men, but also themselves who are responsible for fairer rules on the market – says Mandy Edmund, Managing Partner at Swing Talent, a recruitment company working both in Silicon Valley and Warsaw for clients such as Docker, PicsArt, DataStax, RocksBox and Ticketfly.
Why did Swing Talent choose Poland?
To answer this question I need to go back to the very beginning. Swing Talent started out as an engineering recruitment agency placing top engineering talent at venture backed start-ups in Silicon Valley. We basically cut our teeth in engineering but as the market changed. We quickly realized that and we branched out into all go-to-market roles (Sales, Customer Success and Marketing). Engineering became less of our focus because the candidate pool was much too small for the engineering needs of the Valley. Too many start-ups needing the same people. Soon my Managing Partner Jo Overline, my brother Matt, who is the Head of Strategy, and I realised that our partners need not only the best candidates available on the market, but also the most innovative technical solutions. That’s how our company split into Swing Talent and Swing Development.
As our activity thrived, it became clear that searching for good people is not enough. „Good” doesn’t meet our partners’ requirements, they expect the best! So we started to look for other markets to expand on and we tried a number of countries, yet it was Poland that provided us with the professionals we were looking for.
They have a great math and tech background but it’s not only the education and skills that we need. We also look for the kind of team spirit that is crucial when working on devops to make even the boldest projects possible, and we found it in your country.
That’s when we come to women in IT. When was the moment you realised that something had to be done about the gender gap in the Silicon Valley?
Still there are things that need to be done, but it turns out that companies want to hire women and not only to fill the quota. Over the years they started to realise that diversity is what helps the business grow. Women and men think differently in a lot of ways, so creating mixed groups of employees lets you see various problems from different angles. It impacts everything from engineering to marketing. The example of Sheryl Sandberg showed the whole branch that it works and shouldn’t be treated as an exception.
However, the problem lies deeper. It’s actually the small number of women who apply for the jobs in IT that makes it hard to get this balance to work. It means that encouraging women to take up STEM positions should begin earlier, at the stage of education.
How can we do that?
Girls who are interested in taking up STEM positions shouldn’t think of themselves as the only ones in the „boys’ club”. Women in IT should support each other and share their experiences! In SwingDev we organize a lot of girls-only events but we also create the atmosphere in which women can feel supported and cared about. It doesn’t take a lot to do that but you just need to focus on what is important. Sometimes these can be fun events showing the women onboard that there are many of them and they can and should collaborate while creating a friendly working environment for themselves.
If you are a woman in the branch – please back the other girls! Don’t leave them behind while climbing the steps of your own career, even if supporting other women may slow you down at some point. It’s worth it! Tell them about your professional experience and let them know what you’ve been through. Show them your scars!
The CEOs who are working with us know the business value of diversity, not only when it comes to gender, but also the nationality and origins of the people they employ. When they come to us, it’s not: „<<wink,wink>> We want women”, but: „We WANT women”. They understand that when your company is stuck at the stage of a „boys’ club”, it simply doesn’t meet the needs of the market anymore.
OK, but do the employers of Silicon Valley understand the needs of their female staff? Like the necessity of work-life balance?
I think it’s an important issue not only to women. Men also want to have private lives and more and more of them are becoming involved and caring fathers.
The conclusion I can draw from my observations is that the companies don’t expect anybody to work from 8 to 8, but in our times and with the technologies we have at our disposal it’s not the work-life balance we want. We’re talking more about work-life INTEGRATION. Say, you wake up early in the morning and before you start the day, you go online and do some work. Later on you have breakfast, drive your kids to school and spend a couple of hours at work. Meanwhile you may have some break and visit your children at the kindergarten that is often located in the same building or somewhere near the place you work. After you do your job, you get home for dinner and spend time with your family, and in the evening, if you want or need to, you might work a little on your laptop. You can create your own schedule and employers understand that, as long as you do your work. For the same reason, both in Poland and in US people are also permitted to work from home if they have some important family obligations.
Does it happen a lot in USA that women are discriminated as „potential mothers”?
It doesn’t happen a lot these days but this kind of discrimination does exist. It’s not only the job of employers to introduce the culture of acceptance for moms. The women themselves should demand from their partners to take the family obligations as well as they do. If we share these obligations equally with men, there will be no reason for treating us differently on the market.
The good thing that is happening is Poland right now is that many men in IT – I dare to say, more than in other branches – take father’s leave…
No wonder. Modern men understand how important their role in the family is. That is why we have to demand also from our male co-workers to accept our needs, as they are not that any different from ours! It may be complicated for some women to realise that, but to be fully satisfied with our lives, we need to care for three areas: the professional matters, the family and our own well-being.
It can be tricky, mostly with young children.
As a woman who’s been in the business for years and has twins herself, I can say that I’ve always cared about these three fields but it’s been hard for me as well to find the balance between them. The father of my children is amazing, he is always willing to share the duties fifty-fifty. But in the end of the day it’s us women who tend to take up too much on ourselves. We like to think that we do everything the best. We need to let men enjoy parenthood on equal terms and this also should be our message to other women in the business. Otherwise we may demand equality but never get one also because of our own thinking.