Women in Our Workplace – Why Chromatic?

Diversity in tech has been a passion of mine for as long as tech has. Ever since college, where I had an amazing female professor as a mentor, I’ve been trying to do whatever I can to get more women into the tech world. Whether that’s working with Girl Develop It or Drupal Diversity & Inclusion, it’s something that means a lot to me.

When I started working at Chromatic in the fall of 2014, I was the first woman to be hired. The company was much smaller, but I had a good feeling about it. We’ve since grown to 15 people, 5 of whom are women. Many companies claim to have a "pipeline" problem - that not enough women are applying, which is why they aren’t hiring them. So far, Chromatic hasn’t had that problem. We wanted to find out why not. I asked each woman in the company, including myself, a handful of questions about searching for jobs, what made them pick Chromatic, what Chromatic does well, and where we could improve, along with some more general questions about our job-searching experiences.

What did we see in Chromatic that made us want to work here?

  • A distributed company that is well-established.
  • A company that does quality work.
  • A company that cares about its employees, personally and professionally.
  • A company that does remote work deliberately and correctly.
  • People who are passionate about their work with a sense of humor.
  • A place to learn and grow into a great developer.
  • Leadership we could trust.

Was there something in the job description that made you think "Chromatic is a place that supports women?"

  • Job description made me feel that the company supported their team members.
  • They offered solid benefits for a very small company, which told me a lot about how much they cared about their employees.
  • No language like "rockstars" or “ninjas.”
  • Already other women working here as developers.

Kim: "Not necessarily. However, speaking with Alanna during the interview convinced me that Chromatic might be a “place that supports women." During the one time we chatted before I was hired, she explicitly said that one of the things she likes the best about being part of Chromatic was that she felt supported, and that was one of the huge tipping points that prompted me to hop onboard.”

In your job searches, have you found other companies (no need to name) that you felt did not/would not support you/make you feel comfortable as a woman employee?

  • When everything on the website, job description, or other communication is male oriented, or full of sports metaphors.
  • Any company that mentions working a ton of hours - that’s less supportive of women and diverse candidates by default because care work tends to fall to those folks.
  • Doesn’t mention health care or maternity leave? Nope. Things like childcare and healthcare are really important. If a company supports families, they’re more likely to support women and diverse candidates, as well as their employees as humans.

Have you ever refrained from applying to a job because of the language of the posting? Why? What kind of language in a job posting bothers you?

  • Language that indicates they are very tightly wound, overly professional, no personal touch.
  • Anything with "rock star" or “ninja,” “hacker” or any of that. Makes devs seem more like a disposable commodity rather than human beings in a mutually symbiotic relationship with their employers.
  • Anything that makes it sound like there will be an unreasonable work week.
  • Job postings that call for the skill level and experience of a senior developer with the salary of an intern.
  • If the requirements are ridiculous and it looks like it was an automated posting, or written by an individual who does not know the difference between Java and JavaScript.
  • Companies that put stats in their job postings … we’re 43.3% women, 65% this and 18% that ... it feels like they’re just hiring women for the statistic and not for their skills and perspective.

Have you ever been turned off to a job because of the "culture" or perception of a company? Why?

  • Any kind of "bro" culture or “startup” culture. I want to work somewhere that respects their employees, respects their time, their lives, etc. any place that says they have foosball and beer in the office makes me think twice.
  • If I am interviewing in person or online, and I don’t feel like there is chemistry, then I usually move on.
  • If a company is all white males - there is no way I’m going to put myself in that situation.

What do you like about working remotely? Do you think it helps with diversity in a company? Why?

  • Allows for flexibility – not all people are productive from 8-5.
  • Allows those with other responsibilities like working mothers/parents, people with illness or disability – anything that might keep someone from being able to perform at their highest in an office, to work around their schedule.
  • Helps with geographic diversity.
  • I like not having to commute and polluting the environment.
  • Remote teams means you have much larger net to cast in terms of finding talent, so I think it definitely helps with building a diverse team.
  • Being able to travel and work from anywhere with internet.
  • Being able to focus and be comfortable in your own space.

What do you dislike about working remotely?

  • Not being in the same physical space as my teammates, only because they are such cool people!
  • Isolation, not having a tangible relationship with co-workers.

What do you think about Chromatic’s culture?

  • It feels more like you are working with a group of friends.
  • I love how open the company is with how things are going and their willingness to share that with the team.
  • I appreciate that they get to know you on a personal level rather than strictly what you can provide for them.
  • I like we are supported as remote workers specifically, the company is focused on that, not as an afterthought.
  • I appreciate we are not about 24/7 hustle at the expense of our lives. Work/life balance is a very real thing at Chromatic and we still succeed and delight our clients.
  • I love we support one another – I appreciate the atmosphere where no one goes it alone and everyone is extremely supportive.
  • Everyone in the organization is involved in key decisions and their impact on the business is huge. The whole team has a voice and the leadership embraces the idea that good decisions can come from anywhere.
  • We have a great engineering culture – experimentation and debate is encouraged, we are motivated to understand the tools, workflows, and technology of the software we are building, there’s a focus on high-quality code through code reviews.
  • I love how much Chromatic cares and is willing to work with you if things are going downhill in your life or you need support.
  • We have a good commitment to increasing diversity.
  • There is a family vibe – there’s a warmth and care between us and clients and among ourselves.

There were some key points that really stood out from all of these responses. Never use gendered language or phrases like "ninja," “rockstar,” etc. in your hiring. They can and will drive away applicants. However, diverse teams attract diverse applicants! Caring about your employees as humans helps them perform and care about your clients, your company, and your work. It’s common sense, it’s good business sense, and of course, it makes sense as humans.

Speaking of humans, we need flexibility! Remote work helps integrate life and work, and also helps attract and retain diverse talent. It can also help with work/life balance, which is absolutely essential to having a happy and healthy workplace.

Last but certainly not least, the culture of your company is essential. Culture doesn’t just happen organically, it’s something purposeful and intentional. Having a warm, inclusive, supportive culture, where everyone has a voice empowers all of your employees. This should include both your engineering culture and your "soft" culture – how you interact, your company values, how those values are expressed to clients and within the company. Your culture should be expressed and come through in everything you do - and when done right, it will help attract the right people.