It's a Wednesday evening, in downtown Seattle. Half of the startup employees are gone for the day while half can be seen milling around white boards solving the day's problem. Moments later, women begin to file in, grabbing a chapter from Cracking the Coding Interview, a book designed to help women get through coding job interviews and taking their seats.
"I think the way to look at this might be to start from the opposite end. Use the higher numbers first, and move backwards..." coaches Julie Michelman, a Data Scientist and volunteer coach at the event.
As I observe the women, I notice that the vast majority of these women have more technical knowledge than the vast majority of men I have been working in the field during my more than 20 years in the field, revealing a new context to the gender gap issue.
Could it be that women are not being hired because they are more qualified?
"Did you hear that there was a job fair coming up soon," asks one woman?
"No, I didn't when is it," replied another?
"It's just for women and non-binary people, so the only employers attending are ones that are interested in hiring women," explained Nathalie Steinmetz, the founder of She's Coding and the event's moderator.
It was difficult for me to comprehend what it would be like for one of these women to be working in one of the male dominated corporate environments that many times are my clients. I suspected that in those environments any technical women probably wouldn't feel comfortable speaking or asking question like they were able to do as a part of this safe event. Just imagine what talent might be there right within your department, within your team in fact, waiting to come out if you just, well, let the woman speak for once.
Seeing that these women were far superior in their technical skills compared to the average male programmers that I know, I quickly agreed to become a sponsor of the job fair.