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Diversity and inclusion in iOS development teams

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

Can you talk about diversity and inclusion in the workspace? How have you found a more inclusive hiring environment in your areas?

Kaya Thomas: That's a really meaty question. I think, when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, especially when it comes to interviewing, I think the hardest thing about when you're interviewing, especially when you are a person from underrepresented background, is a lot of times that interview will give you a signal to whether it's a welcoming place or not.

“So, I think being mindful of how your own biases can come up when you're interviewing.”

Luckily, I've had good interview experiences, but I definitely have friends who have spoken to companies and interviewed where they haven't been respected because they were a woman or because they were from another background and they felt like the person didn't take them seriously, or didn't really think that they had the knowledge and things like that. That definitely happens, and it's really unfortunate.

And I've also heard, on the flip side, where you got to think if you're not a person from a diverse background and you're our interviewee, and the person interviewing you is from a different background or underrepresented, how're you treating them. Because I've also talked to folks who are the interviewers, like for example, women who have been in an interview room, and the person they're interviewing is not looking them in the eye or is only talking to the male engineer and not really talking to them.

“I think companies are definitely great most of the time, making sure that they say, ‘Hey, this is a position open up for all types of people from diverse backgrounds, and we would love candidates from underrepresented backgrounds.’ Which I really appreciate.”

So, I think being mindful of how your own biases can come up when you're interviewing. But it is definitely, when it comes to interviewing or looking for positions, I think companies are definitely great most of the time, making sure that they say, “Hey, this is a position open up for all types of people from diverse backgrounds, and we would love candidates from underrepresented backgrounds.” Which I really appreciate.

I think, also, sometimes job reqs can be really, really intimidating. You look at a job requirement and it's like 15 years of in SwiftUI. It's like, “Wait, I don't have that.” And nobody has that, right? But I've already seen job requirements that have the SwiftUI. SwiftUI and Combine. And it's like, “Wait, really?”

“When you're applying to jobs, whether you're from an underrepresented background or not, realize that you don't need to have 100% of the criteria to apply for the job.”

And so, when you're applying to jobs, whether you're from an underrepresented background or not, realize that you don't need to have 100% of the criteria to apply for the job. And a lot of times the research show that, especially folks who are underrepresented backgrounds, oftentimes won't apply to a job if they feel like they don't meet everything on the criteria. It's like, don't hold back. If you have 60% of what's there apply because you never know. They might see the potential in you. You might still get that interview call and then end up getting the job. And there are a lot of stories like that. And so don't let a job req just completely intimidate you if you feel like you don't have every single thing on there.

Paul Hudson: I'm going to ask you to pause again, so we can start to unpack what you said because there's so much in that. I want to go back to this interviewer-interviewee relationship because it's really, really hard. I'm a well-off, educated, straight, white man from a Western country. I don't think about myself in any way as being any part of under-indexed groups. I'm just not, right?

And it's so easy, I think, for someone in my position to not even recognize the problem exists because we look around and we just see, “hey, there are some developers." And we don't see that they're all male. It doesn't even register on our radar that they're male. They're just people. They're just people over there.

And I've never had that environment where I've walked into a interview room and been faced with just a wall of men, sort frowning at me saying, “there's the whiteboard. Get to it." And interviews are horrible anyway. They're stressful, because you want the job. That's why you're there. And then to have this extra feeling that they are different to you or a group without you, or is this what the whole company's like? I can't even imagine that extra anxiety or stress that brings with it.

Kaya Thomas: Yeah, it does. It does bring a lot of stress and anxiety, and sometimes that imposter syndrome where you feel like, "Wait, I probably shouldn't be here." Or, "I'm not qualified." I've definitely had tons of moments like that. I think one of the things that really helped me is public speaking.

Because the first time I did my really first technical talk was a couple of years ago, and the conference itself was not really that diverse in terms of the audience and the other speakers. And so I was super nervous, right? I was like, “I’m going up here and I'm saying these things. Are they going to think I'm credible? Is anything I'm going to say, are they going to care? Is anybody going to even show up to the talk?”

“I really think the iOS community, for the most part, we really do care and we want to lift each other up and we want to help each other. And so I've loved being a part of this community because I've felt so welcomed.”

And I definitely had a lot of those nerves, and public speaking and really getting involved with the mobile community has helped me realize that my thoughts are valuable. My opinions are valuable. I definitely do have the knowledge. I'm a good iOS developer, and all these things. Because like you said, when you are in spaces where no one's really like you, it can be really intimidating and you could really doubt yourself.

One thing I would say is, personally, I really think the iOS community, for the most part, we really do care and we want to lift each other up and we want to help each other. And so I've loved being a part of this community because I've felt so welcomed. I've learned and grown so much from everyone, and I feel honored that people feel like there's a lot they can learn from me.

“No matter what your background is, don't be afraid to reach out to people because there are so many people who are willing to mentor and help.”

It's a great community, I think, to be a part of. No matter what your background is, don't be afraid to reach out to people because there are so many people who are willing to mentor and help. Like you, Paul, right? You do a lot of mentorship and you work with a lot of people from underrepresented backgrounds and help them learn Swift. And that is important, that more people are doing things like that because that goes a huge, long way.

Paul Hudson: I have a personal question for you, because one thing I struggled with is when I want to really promote what our community looks like. For example, when I want to do something like Swift for Good to show what our community looks like – a really broad range of people from various countries, various backgrounds, all sorts of things. Or when I want to invite speakers to my conference, I want to make sure they represent what our community is and what it should be.

And the nature of the beast is that I talk to the same 20 or 30 people that I know are excellent. I've seen them talk, I'm friends with them, we hang out, whatever. I know I can rely on them, because obviously there’s a lot of risk in these things. I don't necessarily want to have a wild card in there. This must carry with it, on your side of things, an extra weight, because not only are you massively underrepresented proportionally in our community, and therefore I expect feel perhaps you've got to aim higher than everyone else because you represent a lot of people who aren't there. But also you're being asked to write books and do talks and more. And you work with Black Girls Code and you do work there. You're doing way more than anyone could realistically be asked to do. That must be awfully hard for you.

Kaya Thomas: It is a lot of pressure. And that's the reality of it. I feel that, once you are one of the few who get in the door and are able to build success, like you've said, you then become that representation. And then there's an expectation, then, that you are doing all of this stuff, right? You are being super visible in the community, writing blogs, writing books, speaking.

And it is definitely, I would say a lot of pressure sometimes, and it's hard. For me, I think it's still important to make sure that I do want to be a good role model. I do want to show people from all different backgrounds that they can learn how to code, that they can build careers in technology. And I do want to make the industry better than it is.

“I think that the only thing that can alleviate that pressure is if we continue to make the community more welcoming, more diverse, more inclusive, so that no one feels like the pressure that they have to be the representation of whatever that identity is.”

Then eventually, one day when I'm not in the industry any more or I'm retired or something, I would hope it would be a better industry than I came into, because I want it to be better for the folks that I'm hopefully bringing in. It is definitely pressure, and I think that's something that I'm still learning how to grapple with and deal with. I think that the only thing that can alleviate that pressure is if we continue to make the community more welcoming, more diverse, more inclusive, so that no one feels like the pressure that they have to be the representation of whatever that identity is. And that we have people from so many different backgrounds and everything that it's a bit better there.

Paul Hudson: I'm not sure whether you saw Pixar's mini movie Pearl, about the ball of thread.

Kaya Thomas: Yes! And when she kind of acclimated and changed herself to be like the others.

Paul Hudson: So, to summarize the folks who haven't seen the little movie, it's a ball of wool joins a company, and no one looks like her. They all behave differently. They all ignore her, and she changed herself into one of them. She fits in and they think she's brilliant. And then another ball of wool joins the company, and she takes pot shots at that other ball of wool to try and conform, and then realizes what's happened to her – she's lost where she came from. she lost that she was one of those people, and realized the mistake.

It it's really short, but amazingly well done. It's one of those things that it's difficult for some folks to talk about because they want to think it's all roses, and it really isn't roses. But by taking it out of there and saying, “hey, it's a ball of wool," we can all comfortably talk about it and address that problem, and hopefully bring it back into our own workplaces.

Kaya Thomas: I love that short film. I definitely recommend everyone giving it a watch because it's really short and it says a lot in that amount of time.

Paul Hudson: One of the things you said in your massive onslaught of gold nuggets, you mentioned that often, when a job comes up and it's full of 15 years of SwiftUI or whatever it is, it's extremely common for women particularly to say, "I don't have all those things, therefore I won't apply." Whereas statistically, men are more likely to say, "I have a handful of those things, even missing some of the required things. I will still apply."

“Whoever is responsible for giving out those opportunities, which you're already doing, but whoever's responsible, whether you're a conference organizer or you're a podcast host, et cetera, is making sure that you're inviting people from all different types of backgrounds.”

And in the same way that I said to you earlier, that it's very easy for men to walk around confident, thinking is just normal. I wonder to what extent women realize how much men do this. To think about job stuff, because I do podcasts. I do conferences. I do interviews and books and stuff. And I can tell you, I can tell all women listening, I get exclusively cold call requests from men. "Can I contribute to your book? Can I speak at your conference? Can I, whatever, whatever, whatever, whatever, whatever?"

It’s always from men. They don't wait to be asked. They will go out and cold call or ask out of the blue, “can I take part in this thing?" Without having been asked themselves. Whereas mostly women seem to wait to be invited, in my experience, which is limited.

And I wish more women knew that. That men really are saying, "Hey, can I be on?" I have people already. This is like episode four of Swiftly Speaking. I've already had three men say, “can I be on Swiftly Speaking, please?" And zero women! Because it is just so common. And even though it's brand new, they just put themselves. We all do it, put ourselves forward.

And I don't know whether the solution is telling men to relax, chill out, let everyone have some space here, or for women be pushier. I don't know. Both seem bad. I can't tell which one's the worse of the two, you know?

Kaya Thomas: I feel like, whoever is responsible for giving out those opportunities, which you're already doing, but whoever's responsible, whether you're a conference organizer or you're a podcast host, et cetera, is making sure that you're inviting people from all different types of backgrounds.

“So we want to make sure that whoever is responsible for giving those opportunities is doing the work. They're putting in that work to have a diverse pool.”

Because like you said, the people who will ask you may not be from all different types of backgrounds, but you have the onus to choose who you bring on your show, who you invite to speak at your conference and et cetera. So, I think that the onus is definitely on the people who are providing those opportunities, whether it's the employer or what have you, and making sure that you are getting a diverse pool of people.

Because unfortunately, I just don't think either way is not great. We don't want to tell men, “oh, stop going for opportunities. Be less confident." And we don't want to tell women, “make sure you're being super aggressive and pushy." Because there's a lot of perceptions there, so we want to make sure that whoever is responsible for giving those opportunities is doing the work. They're putting in that work to have a diverse pool.

Paul Hudson: Absolutely. I would say folks, if you go to conferences or listen to podcasts or go to websites or whatever, and they have only male speakers or one in ten is female or whatever it is, you are voting with your feet. You're giving them support and money and presence and space, and you're encouraging where we are right now. So, please do vote with your feet and say, “listen, I'm not going to go to this conference, podcast, whatever it is any more because it's just not where I want our community to be." Or even vaguely effective of where it actually is today.

Kaya Thomas: Definitely.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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