Women make up only around 20% of the tech workforce. While Factual manages to beat this statistic (~25% of our engineers are female), we still have a ways to go to reach total equity. Factual has developed a few programs to help us get there; we have culture groups geared toward women and other minorities in the tech space, as well as FWE, an in-house group of Women in Engineering that meets regularly to discuss topics and issues specific to our female engineers. One of the biggest outcomes of these programs is that Factual now sponsors its female engineers’ attendance of the largest gathering of women in technology: the Grace Hopper Celebration.
The Grace Hopper Celebration, an annual conference produced by AnitaB.org, consists of 3 days of talks, workshops, networking, and career fairs. It caters to professionals, college students, and academics, with a focus on technical and professional development. All the big tech companies that you’ve heard of recruit at Grace Hopper, and the conference brings in big-name speakers — alumni include philanthropist and pediatrician Priscilla Chan and founder and CEO Tammy Sun, whose company Carrot provides a fertility service included in Factual’s benefits! For those of us who attended the conference this year, it was incredible to see the amount of resources that tech giants poured into recruiting diverse candidates for engineering roles. But Grace Hopper is more than just a glorified career fair – what makes it truly special is that it’s an intentional space for those who identify as women in technology to be celebrated, centered, and understood. It can be difficult to thrive in such a male-centered industry when you are a visible and palpable minority. Connecting with women who are experiencing and fighting the same battles that we are every day made our experiences feel more real and valid.
A lot of the community building and learning took place during the talks, workshops and other networking spaces. In a panel titled “Action Steps For Change: Ways To Create A Diverse Workforce at Every Level”, female innovators discussed issues related to diversity, like the all-too-common challenge of retaining female engineers and leaders, and how the most successful products are built by diverse teams. It was disheartening to hear leaders agree that women aren’t celebrated and compensated enough for their accomplishments, and that the equity struggle exists at all levels. However, it was valuable to hear their solutions and advice; it’s crucial that we advocate for ourselves and our fellow female engineers, and find leaders who will do the same.
All of the things we learned at Grace Hopper were incredibly inspiring and empowering. In order to bring back what we’ve learned, we’re committed to making bigger strides towards tech equity here at Factual and in the greater Los Angeles community. We will continue to speak and share with those around us, and we’re excited to participate in more minority-centered tech conferences. Our recruiting team is changing their strategies to show how diversity is a priority in hiring, and who knows, maybe we’ll be recruiting at Grace Hopper next year!
– Stephanie Porter (Lead Software Engineer) and Yenny Zhang (Software Engineer, Data Analysis)