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How I think Outlandish has become a female dominated place of work

24 Oct 2019

Last Thursday (17th October 2019) I experienced with great pride an Outlandish monthly meeting where there were not even the same amount of women as men, contributing the same and respected the same, there were THREE TIMES as many women as there were men present. Nine females to three men.

First of all this for me, was an amazing milestone and one that crept up on me and I only realised how far we have come sat in that room with lots of lady faces looking back at each other. I can’t tell you how emotional I was realising that this was now pretty normal in Outlandish and the wider Space 4, and I hadn’t even noticed.

A screenshot of our monthly meeting

I started here 8 years ago as the only woman amongst 3 men, and taking a role that was traditionally female. The organiser. The administrator. The project manager. To be completely frank, I didn’t particularly notice it because the people I worked with (and still do today) are accepting, open-minded, smart, wonderful people to be around and it really didn’t matter that I was female. I never felt singled out more than any of us (!). BUT, that didn’t mean all females felt comfortable coming in to a male dominated environment. And we were male dominated. So what things have happened to encourage this development?

Here’s what I think…

We have actively tried to recruit diversely, especially devs

We knew we wanted to have a more diverse team, in every respect. We think having diverse opinions ultimately brings about better decisions and change. We also work in a crazily male dominated industry and wanted to do all we could to buck the trend.

We foster an environment that accepts different work-life balances

I had my first child in 2013 and was the first in Outlandish to do so. I took 4 months off with no maternity leave as we were self-employed and didn’t have the reserves to be able to pay anything (although they gave me a rocking maternity gift). I came back 3 days a week with my husband staying at home to look after Cora and wanted to be able to ‘balance it all’.

When I came back I was strict with having (and still have) clear times that I have to leave, I always prioritise my children over my work, and I make no apologies for this. This is now how we all work. More of us have children but it isn’t just about working parents. If someone needs to go home to take their dog to the vets, their grandparents to the doctors or you just need some time alone. You take it. Your work-life balance is essential and work comes second over you and your family’s wellbeing.

Our mission is as much about changing the world as it is about being a fantastic place to work

Our Theory of Change goal is:

“Outlandish lives and shares a transformative approach to tech business that brings about positive social change, balanced with the importance of a positive working environment”

We weight those two parts equally. We invest and spend time ensuring that our working environment is what we want it to be just as much as we invest and spend time ensuring that our projects are delivered successfully.

We have diversified our business

This is a bit of a cheat. We now do less hard techy work compared to more softer skills work. We sell workshops and design sprints as much as we do web and data development. We have opened a co-working space that is managed by the wonderful Polly and Maddy. We do more design work on the whole than we used to. It’s certainly easier to find experienced and talented women in these areas than in core development roles. But two of the women in that monthly meeting have just started with us as developers. This is an exciting time for Outlandish.

Me

I’m going to take some credit here as the first woman in. I hope that people see when they get here that women’s opinions, inputs and efforts are equally valued, listened to and acted upon (that doesn’t mean everyone’s are, always btw). I have as much impact in this organisation than any man, and always have. I’m proud of that.

I’ve been working hard with our wonderful comms guru Pete Burden (he hates being called that, but not really) to improve my own communication skills, my own understanding of what drives me, what bothers me, what my needs are. I’ve learned how I can lead without having to be the boss, how to support the group to get better at REALLY communicating, and I see that as the most important thing I try and do at Outlandish. The one thing that I think has helped me the most over all of it though, is realising that it is up to me to embody and model what I want others to understand and do. Practice what you preach.

Through me being a strong and equal member of the team that always ensures what is important to me is heard, but also who tries to listen and support those who are also trying to share, fosters a culture where others feel comfortable to speak up, share their fears and true communication is valued.

It’s hard work to go against the tide in anything, and Outlandish manage to do this in many, many ways. I’m proud of what we are trying to do, but we certainly aren’t there yet. I still want to understand better how we can support more junior developers in to Outlandish, how to get more female members (there are still only two of us, love you Kayleigh) and encourage more people to truly be embodying the culture we are trying to create. This means being truly open to differences and accepting firstly that they exist and that is good, it is ok and then working with them to ultimately create a better more inclusive culture. We have definitely got somewhere, but we are going to work hard to keep improving.

Wanna come work with us? abi@outlandish.com

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