Marta & Joss: on women at work.

  • Marta Gonzalez Ferrero
  • Lead QA Analyst
  • Joss Wyatt
  • eCommerce Product Manager
  • Company
  • MADE.com

We sat down with Marta Gonzalez Ferrero (Lead QA Analyst) and Joss Wyatt (eCommerce Product Manager) from the team at MADE.com to discuss what it's like working at MADE, why the tech industry still has an imbalanced gender split, and how you can make your company more appealing for women.

Transcript.

Marta: So my name is Marta, I am Spanish and I've been working in tech for a very long time. Already from college I got a degree in Computer Science and I landed my first job in testing accidentally as a grad student. And then I continued working in testing ever since, both in Sweden and here in London, so it's been quite a while.

Joss: I'm Joss, I'm a Product Manager and I look after the checkout [0:00:30] and post-purchase part of the journey on our site. I got into product actually working in digital consultancies and agencies, working on a variety of different technologies, websites, hybrid apps, native apps, across multiple sectors like financial services, pharma, and data science.

What are some of the changes that you’ve seen in the tech industry over the years?

Marta: I think, from my perspective, it's definitely been a shift focusing [0:01:00] more towards the individual being people and important assets for the company. Not just cogs in the wheel that you can, you know, use and dispose as you see fit. I think that has brought a really welcome change in terms of how to be able to do your work and still be able to keep a good work to life balance. It just increases flexibility and the way you can [0:01:30] tailor how you can work to something that really works for you. And not just the company.

Joss: Yeah, I think as well as becoming more inclusive, because tech is now a very attractive industry to work in, it's become less corporate and talent is so sought after that the people working in the tech industry are defining how that culture is setup from company to company. Like Marta said, it's flexible, it's about trust and empowerment, and [0:02:00] if you're getting your work done, that's the primary aim. It's outcomes focused. If you can deliver on what you need to achieve, how you get there is up to you.

Marta: Yeah, it's not like a 9 to 5, you need to clock in, you need to clock out. As long as you do your work then you're free, which is really good because it didn't used to be like that at all. [0:02:30]

Do you think it's become an easier space for women to fit into?

Joss: I think so. I think that it's a cycle, you know. You get a few women who are involved in tech or getting those kinds of jobs, and then other women see "it's for me, I can do that to". And then it just creates more and more openness, and more and more people joining the tech industry. I think, also, from my perspective, I'm not a developer, I'm not technical. [0:03:00] I come from a humanities background and I still work in tech, and I still am very much involved in what goes on day-to-day. And I think that's nice as well, that education around it's not just a bunch of coders sitting in a dark room, not talking. Yeah, I think breaking those stereotypes really helps.

Marta: I agree, I think it's definitely become an easier world to work into. I think, as well, that historically, [0:03:30] I don't know why it has been so much more male dominated. When I did my degree, we were something like maybe 10% women in it. And I think, now, those things are way different. There's a lot more women thinking that they can, and it's partly because tech is getting a reputation for being flexible and for being the kind of job where you can actually have a career and have a family at the same time, [0:04:00] which for many women is important. But also, because like Joss's saying, it's a cycle and there is a lot of women in tech that are being outspoken and showing all the women, particularly younger women like we've done with the work experience thing at MADE, for example, that yeah it's a good thing to do. And just because it's tech, doesn't mean it's just for guys, you know. We can.

Companies often find it difficult to improve the gender split within their tech teams. Why do you think that is?

Marta: A smaller pool to begin with! [laughs] It's much harder to find women, just [0:04:30] because there aren't any. That's a problem that needs to be addressed even at education levels and at entry levels. And it's an interesting one, because when I was doing, well when I was in Sweden, I did some part time work in teaching and I was teaching programming to early year students in college. And it was fascinating how many of the girls just had [0:05:00] this mental block of "this is tech, I can't do it". That's the kind of thing that I think is breaking down now, more and more, but it still needs to be addressed at that point. Because that widens the pool. If you don't have anyone that wants to do it, then you're never going to get anyone to do it. It's really hard that way.

Joss: I think that is the problem at the moment and hopefully it will even out more, but I was more involved with recruitment at my previous company and I think just learning some [0:05:30] things about, you know, using tools that can identify gender bias in job specs and, again, it's that cycle. If you've got a mostly male company, they might not be thinking about that, so it's how do you develop that awareness, and then how do you take steps to actively combat implicit bias or trying to make it a welcoming environment to women. Because, I think, if it's a mostly male workplace they might not be thinking "oh, a woman wouldn't want to work here!" Just because [0:06:00] it's "fine for us". So I think, things like identifying gender bias, understanding that, I read somewhere that, in a job description you've got all the requirements and men will look at it and just be like "oh yeah, I meet a few of those, I'll apply anyway" and women will have to feel like they tick off at least 80% of those before they apply. So how do you encourage women, you know the small pool of women out there, to apply? I think it's making it [0:06:30] as open and approachable and available, as much as you can, to get them to actually get a foot in the door.

What do you think proves most effective in making a company an appealing environment for women?

Joss: I think it starts from there, and making sure you don't shy away from it. I still think, being a woman, like, you have a family, I don't have a family, but it's not something that you talk about. Or that you feel comfortable just being like "oh well, yeah I might want a family in a couple of years". It's like, oh, how might that impact my career; how does the workplace [0:07:00] feel about that? Luckily, MADE is very clear, it doesn't need it written out explicitly, it's very obvious from the way that everyone behaves that it encourages that...

Marta: Particularly in tech.

Joss: Particularly in tech! But for other companies who are looking to increase the number of women that they have in their workforce, don't shy away from questions like "what about families?" Or, if it's a boys club at the moment, is that going to stop me from being able to progress? You know, it's harder [0:07:30] to make those connections. Do you have groups for women and female-led initiatives. I've always worked in places with those kinds of groups, and it's nice.

Marta: I also think, and this may be a bit controversial, that you have to work with the guys as well. Because I find sometimes, like, in terms of family flexibility for example, you offer parental leave to both men and women but it's more often the women that take it. [0:08:00] But if you make a point of saying hey, look, we have four of our guys out on parental leave at the moment, so that their wives can focus more on their career for a while, or whatever. We have shared parental leave and all that stuff. That to me speaks volumes, because I know, as a woman I can take it, but I want to make sure that if someone else doesn't want to, because they want to focus on their career, their partner would be able to if he was working for MADE. So it's not [0:08:30] just focusing on the women in your company, in your industry, its what the men in your company can do for women outside that company, that then may want to join. So that kind of thing often doesn't get thought about. And it's also not about parental leave only, because flexibility applies to work to life balance in every area of our lives. So what happens if you really like to travel? For example, you may not have children, but you may want to be able to travel as long as you can do [0:09:00] your work, so why not? It doesn't depend on whether you're a women or not, so you know, but it's that kind of thing that I think make a huge impact on how women see a company in order to apply to it.

Joss: Yep, completely agree with that. It's like, you know, women are scared of saying "I want a family" but men are having the families too.

Marta: Exactly!

Joss: Why is it such a big deal for women?

Marta: I think that's a really good way to put it. It's, I think, it needs to stop becoming a big deal. It needs to become something normal. Who takes their parental leave? [0:09:30] Or who wants to do these things that requires flexibility? Whoever, it doesn't matter. You're a boy, or girl, or whatever. Gender neutral. We don't need to have policies for one or the other, it just works.

If you could give one piece of advice to women looking to break into the tech sector, what would that be?

Marta: Don't be afraid of not meeting all the expectations and not asking for what you think you want to do. Because, very often people will be willing to discuss it, at the very least, [0:10:00] and if you don't ask you're never going to get it, ever. Ever. Believe in yourself and speak up.

Joss: Yeah, I think the people that work in tech just seem to be so chilled out and friendly. And there are so many resources now, which is great, and increasingly more for women and people of minority ethnic backgrounds. And all you have to do is ask and go and talk to these people, find out what you might be interested in. You don't have to think that it's tech so I have to be a coder, you might want to, but there's other options. [0:10:30]

Marta: There are so many things, yeah.

Joss: There are lots of different types of tech companies, what kind of... it's not just what kind of job you want, but what kind of life do you want. How do you see that all fitting together? And how can you achieve that. I think that's it. Talk to people.

What do you love most about working at MADE.com?

Marta: I love the people. I think the tech team, in particular, it feels like you're always amongst friends. So it's great because it doesn't matter what kind of help you need, [0:11:00] if you need it. Or sometimes if you didn't need it, it can be because you're having a bad day, or because you don't understand something that you need to do, or because you have too much to do, or whatever. There's always someone available to help you, in any way or shape or form. Either by sitting down with you and working on the problem, or by giving you a hug in the kitchen. It's amazing. To me, it makes you feel that coming to work is not coming to work, it's just a different way of doing something [0:11:30] that you really enjoy, so it's fascinating.

Joss: I do feel like it's a really special culture...

Marta: It is.

Joss: I remember when I joined, I was just sitting at my desk and then all of a sudden somebody started clapping. And then the whole floor was clapping. And then I was clapping! And I was like, why are we clapping? I asked the person next to me, they were like "I don't know, we just do it sometimes if somebody starts it, it's for something". That's so nice!

Marta: And there's usually, generally, a reason somewhere. But the thing is everyone joins in and no one feels weird about it. [0:12:00]

Joss: Yeah, I think the other thing that really struck me is that people are so good at their jobs, and it's such a nice environment. But there's no ego. There's no one throwing their weight around or trying to show that they're better. It's just such a collaborative, nice environment.