When Experienced Women Engineers Look for New Jobs, They Prioritize Trust and Growth

Automattic, WordPress.com’s parent company, set out to learn how to boost applications from women and non-binary developers.

How can we increase gender representation in software engineering?

Our Developer Hiring Experience team analyzed this topic in a recent user-research study. The issue resonated with women engineers and a strong response enabled the team to gain deeper insight than is currently available from online research projects.

Seventy-one engineers who identified as women or non-binary responded to our request for feedback. Out of that pool, 24 answered a follow-up survey, and we carried out in-depth interviews with 14 people. This was a highly skilled group, with the majority having worked in software development for over 10 years. 

While some findings aligned with our expectations, we still uncovered a few surprises. 

The Job Hunt

In initial job hunts, respondents were found to rely heavily on their existing networks and on personal outreach from companies.

If they do not have a pre-existing connection with a company, they’ll likely scrutinize it for red flags before they submit an application. Job descriptions are searched for any discouraging language — for example, if parental leave descriptions only refer to mothers. Information — about the job, salary, team, and hiring process — is key for encouraging applications.

Stack Overflow is a popular resource for job hunting; whereas Glassdoor is viewed as less useful, and more as a venting forum for former employees or unsuccessful candidates. 

The Hiring Process

The most favorable hiring processes represent a growth opportunity, rather than being purely evaluative. Communication and responsiveness are important, as is the visibility of other women within the team. For some participants, interviewing is seen as a skill to maintain. These developers are continually keeping an eye on job listings to stay abreast of their options. However, the chance for growth was the most widespread reason for actually leaving a current position. 

Job Satisfaction 

Consistently being able to have an impact, including leadership opportunities, stood out as important; if this is lacking, experienced women engineers are likely to seek new employment. Dissatisfaction can also be caused by being pushed onto the management track and having to fight to continue to focus on technical work. 

The data showed women are looking for more communities focused on connecting to other senior-level women, and around more technical topics. Concerns around online harassment can put women off trying to build their network online. 

Changes at Automattic 

We are working on Automattic’s employment branding to reflect our findings. We are in the process of gathering resources to better describe work at Automattic, and we’re encouraging existing developers to increase their visibility outside of the company — whether through writing or engaging in their communities. 

In job postings, we have removed any gameplay or language that emphasizes hiring as a competitive process — for instance, we no longer mention application volume. Instead, job postings highlight learning and career opportunities for the candidate. Adding the term “Senior” to postings is also being tested. Although this implies a job ladder that does not necessarily exist here, the research clarified that its absence sent the message that all positions are mid-level roles, without the path to growth that women candidates tend to look for. 

We are also managing candidates’ expectations by making the whole hiring process more transparent, and have created a public page outlining the hiring process.

We’ve made it easier for interested applicants to have casual chats with other women at Automattic. We also offer candidates the opportunity for one-on-one calls with a member of the Developer Experience team during the final stages of hiring; this has started with under-indexed candidates but with a view to rolling it out to everyone. These chats take place outside of the formal hiring process to provide an opportunity for the applicant to ask any questions they have and for the company to better understand their career goals and motivation. 

We are tracking the progress made and are excited to be able to contribute data to the field of gender representation in engineering. If you’d like to take a more in-depth look at our study, please do read the more detailed write up on our developer blog, or download the PDF!

Interested to learn what positions are currently open at Automattic? We’re always hiring


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20 Comments

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  1. JanBeek

    Bless you for conducting this study, posting your findings, and contributing data to the field f gender representation. In 1962 when I was applying for a job, the interviewer actually asked me, “Why do you want to work? You have a husband. Why don’t you stay home and take care of him and start your family?” Indeed we’ve come a long way since those days!!

    Liked by 26 people

  2. Mia Winhertt

    Wonderful initiative. One more step ahead in encouraging gender equality. 🙂

    Liked by 13 people

  3. dawnautom

    As a trans lady reading this article warmed my heart, I always love to hear of companies that are hiring trans and non-binary people especially these days with a government that is trying everything to slat us down !!!

    ❤️✌️
    BY FOR NOW

    Liked by 10 people

  4. Rojan

    Thank you for a wonderful post !!!

    Liked by 9 people

  5. fivotech2018

    Very informative! Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 8 people

  6. Tom Atkins

    We men could learn from this.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. KC Redding-Gonzalez

    Maybe we need more women to start their own companies. Why should we wait for men to “allow” us into a world we already inhabit? I say there are plenty of women smart enough right now… gett’em girls!

    Liked by 14 people

  8. Berry

    Thank you for the post 😊

    Liked by 8 people

  9. Rojan

    Without empowering and encouraging women we are never gonna reach our goals. “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things”

    – Mother Teresa

    Liked by 7 people

  10. deepanilamani

    Wonderful news for all the highly skilled ladies 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  11. ShowcaseCityOnline

    Very good idea👌

    Liked by 9 people

  12. Explorer

    Very informative😊

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Mrs. Price

    Wow thank you so much for sharing this with us! I bet so many women feel heard. Thank you thank you thank you! I totally agree we need to represent more women and diversity in every work place!!!
    I’ve had a customer actually ask me why I wasn’t home in the kitchen and I told him that I was too busy paying my own bills.

    Thank you.

    – meettheprices.blog

    Liked by 4 people

  14. hmaxwell217

    I love this post. It’s inspiring

    Liked by 2 people

  15. wanami eric

    Great! I wish I could attend the Workshops and grab the valuable insights

    Liked by 2 people

  16. stevelabours428

    I’m all for women empowerment! I work for a WMBE! This article was very insightful, and one example of that is I wasn’t aware of the term “non-binary” and did a quick online search.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Logan

    From my perspective, a computer scientist, I agree that there is an under representation of women in the field. Posts like this one is what aids in implementing change into the rapidly expanding field. Good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kanupriya Sharma

    Truly inspiring!

    Liked by 4 people

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