Careers in information technology have long been male-dominated, but the world is changing. Diversity in information technology is becoming a priority, and Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) talent isn’t specific to a gender, color, race, or region. The greater diversity of candidates the industry can attract, the better for the field and the companies that hire SREs. From my perspective, creating opportunities for all in a DevOps culture is the future of the space, and we can all learn from a more varied team dynamic.
How a DevOps Culture Can Thrive with More Women
A DevOps culture embraces transparency, collaboration, communication, and shared responsibility. Women are naturally more predisposed to this mindset. Unfortunately, for years, women faced barriers to break into technical roles. That’s evolving, but we still have work to do.
The advantage of diversity for an organization, specifically the addition of more female voices, are many, including:
- Driving innovation with diverse mindsets and experiences
- Showing a company has a commitment to creating opportunities for all
- Expanding the talent pool, especially in a field where there is high demand and low supply
- Helping with employee engagement and retention, which is a consequence of greater representation
The State of Women in Tech
Where is the barometer on women in tech? More women are pursuing technical careers, and that’s a result of efforts to introduce young girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM). Those young, impressionable minds are also seeing women in technical leadership roles.
In fact, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a report showing more women are earning STEM degrees. They are quickly catching up to men in the number graduating with a bachelor’s degree in science and engineering.
However, the number of women earning computer science degrees is steady but not at the same level as men. In 2019, 17,786 women graduated with computer science degrees, compared with 67,288 men. The NSF study also concluded that only 38 percent of female computer science degree earners work in the field. Overall, the employment of women in computing and mathematical careers in the U.S. in 2019 was 26 percent, according to the NCWIT scorecard. For all professions in the U.S. in 2019, women were 57 percent of the workforce.
That data rings true when looking at industry surveys too. In the State of DevOps Report 2020, a study of DevOps professionals, only 16 percent of respondents identified as women out of 2,400 responses (That was slightly up from 2019, where 15 percent of respondents identified as women).
In the Stack Overflow Annual Developer Survey, which included respondents from the U.S., India, and the U.K., only 7.9 percent identified as women. The same research also noted that DevOps professionals are 28 times more likely to be male than female. It’s the most disparate function of IT roles, according to the survey. The contrast is a little less for SREs (22 times).
Based on this data, I’m going to make a few assumptions.
- Young females see the promise of STEM degrees and careers but look to other segments instead of computer science.
- Those who do receive a computer science education don’t stay in the field compared to their male counterparts, signaling a breakdown in recruiting and retention.
How can we all participate to close the gap?
Closing the Gender Gap
There are some great groups and organizations working to close this gap. It’s a three-pronged approach of awareness, advocacy, and action.
One group that’s doing this well is Women in DevOps, a global movement to amplify the voices and encourage opportunities for women and minorities in the field. This group has made major strides in normalizing women in the field. It has worked with Sony, Deliveroo, Expedia, Facebook, and Deloitte.
Another is the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). The group targets K-12, higher ed, and companies with a message that inclusion builds better communities and futures. Its partners include Microsoft, Bank of America, Google, Intel, and Merck.
Specific employers are also focusing on diversity initiatives and pledging to hire more women in technical roles. A few examples include American Express, E*Trade, Microsoft, Eventbrite, AutoNation, and PwC.
These organizations are pushing the conversation on diversity further. They are walking the walk, not just saying it’s a good thing. Underrepresented groups do have champions.
What About Equal Pay?
Another aspect of closing the gender gap is pay disparity. Equality on the job also means women receive the same salary as men with comparable experience. Looking at the entire tech landscape, the gap is closing. A study by ChartHop found that men in tech earned 22 percent more than women in 2020. However, that was down from 30 percent in 2018. That gap is slightly larger than the national average across all industries in the U.S., which is 18 percent.
For SREs specifically, women’s income is about $4,000 less than that for men. The numbers in this comparison of averages are rather low from my personal experience placing them, but its basis is available information. Ultimately, as a recruiter in the field, I don’t believe there should be two scales of compensation for men versus women. To achieve true equity, organizations need to base compensation on experience and nothing else.
Why I Believe Diversity Matters in DevOps
Uniformity in thought, backgrounds, and experiences rarely leads to innovation and invention. If a team is a sea of sameness, there are no unique perspectives. That composition can harm any organization or department. I feel it’s especially concerning for DevOps, which thrives on the balance of differences (i.e., development and operations).
The data on the impact of diversity speaks for itself, highlighting that it’s good for business. Diversity is beneficial for companies in many ways and can lead to higher revenues (companies with above-average diversity scores have 19 percent higher revenues due to innovation.)
A McKinsey report on diversity declared that companies that embrace gender diversity on leadership teams are 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability and outperform competitors by 27 percent on value creation.
A Pew Research report found women are better at working out compromises, being ethical, and better at mentoring—all favorable traits in a DevOps culture.
Beyond the data, I know from personal experience that diversity helps companies thrive and be more agile.
Successful Female DevOps Leaders Are Plotting a New Course for Others
I’ve had the opportunity to work with and know several female DevOps leaders. A few I want to identify have some inspiring stories and are great representations of breaking down barriers.
Jessica Kalinowski is the assistant director of reliability engineering at Chewy, the pet care and product e-commerce website. It requires outstanding leadership and skill to be responsible for reliability on such a high-traffic, complex site as this.
Tina Huang and Divanny Lamas lead the startup Transposit, a DevOps orchestration platform. Huang and Lamas are exceptional technical minds who are also forging a new path and new company where diversity isn’t negotiable.
The Future of DevOps: Why Women Will Only Elevate the Culture
Increasing the number of women in DevOps is only going to elevate the culture. More companies will strive to diversify, understanding it makes teams stronger and more successful. The DevOps culture aligns well with diverse players, and women embody DevOps values. They bring attributes and abilities to the industry that will push DevOps efficiency and success further.
What’s Your Plan for Diversity in DevOps Recruiting?
Any company can commit to diversity, and they’ll benefit from it, according to research and success stories. If your organization needs support in finding talented female SREs, contact us today.