HOUSTON–ThoughtWorks, a Chicago-based tech company, was just named the top company for women in tech at the Grace Hopper Conference, the largest gathering of female technologists in the world, currently underway in Houston, Texas.
Among 60 tech companies surveyed for the Top Companies award by the Anita Borg Institute, the nonprofit behind the Grace Hopper Conference, ThoughtWorks had the most female representation in tech roles.
Most notably, 59 percent of entry level tech jobs are held by women. ThoughtWorks, which provides agile development and design services, employs 4,000 people nationwide and is headquartered in Chicago.
That number does decrease as you look at higher level jobs at the company: 46 percent of mid-level tech jobs, 30 percent of senior level tech jobs, and 23 percent of executive tech jobs are held by women at ThoughtWorks. However, this was significantly higher than the tech industry at large: the Anita Borg Institute found on average women hold 21.5 percent of technical jobs across top tech companies.
In a speech accepting the award at the opening keynote at the Grace Hopper Conference Wednesday, ThoughtWorks CTO Rebecca Parsons said she sees this as proof that diversity and good business go hand-in-hand.
“For over 20 years our missions driven organization has thrived on the unyielding belief that technology stands on the very epicenter of both business and social change,” she said. “Our continued growth has shown that idealism can harmonize with great technical work. Social good and profit, yes it’s possible.”
“Now is not the time for us to rest on our laurels, let’s redouble our efforts as one community,” she said to a cheering crowd. “We are not done, not by a long shot.”
To improve their company’s diversity, ThoughtWorks has looked beyond traditional four-year computer science degrees as a qualification when hiring, purposefully onboarded employees through a five-week program that simulates real projects, and cultivated a company culture that rewards teamwork.
Nicolette Chambers, a developer at ThoughtWorks (pictured right, second from the left) was hired at the company three years ago after doing an internship through i.c. stars. Through an internal skills training program, and built-in weekly meetings with a mentor, she was able to work her way from a software tester to a developer.
“That additional support really makes a difference,” said Chambers. “It’s exciting to be on teams where there’s people from all over, people with different experience levels and skills levels. To me, that’s what really sets ThoughtWorks apart.”
Theodora Skolnik, also a developer at ThoughtWorks, learned her technical skills through Dev Bootcamp Chicago. Though she said she would have been happy with any job as a developer out of the program, the diversity of ThoughtWorks made it her “dream job.”
“I was like wow, I can get a job and on top of that have people not give me special support, but treat me with…equal opportunity,” she said. “It definitely did matter to me, I just didn’t know it was possible.”
But she also appreciated that Parsons said there is still work to do—she recently transitioned to a new team where she is the only woman. But she said that ThoughtWorks is the type of place that encourages that conversation.
“At ThoughtWorks people are quick to say ‘You’re totally right and I was wrong,’” she said. “I really like that culture because it pushes people to grow and to learn about other people’s differences, and to learn about privilege and to learn about meritocracy.”
Images by Karis Hustad
This story was written as part of a Women in Tech fellowship sponsored by the GroundTruth Project and SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Other stories reported from the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference in Houston can be found at the TechTruth Women in Tech site.