What Square Is Doing to Build a Female-Friendly Culture

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A female engineer at Square shares what the payment processing startup is doing to make the company friendlier for women — and more awesome for everyone who works there.

 

By Madelin Woods (Front-end Engineer, Square)

Lately there’s been a lot of chat in the industry around how to get more women in tech. Being a female and an engineer, I’ve learned that it all starts with creating a positive and supportive work environment. This doesn’t just happen – it takes effort. Here are some things I’ve been helping with to continue to build a positive culture for everyone at Square.

Some Really Exciting Things We’ve Done

About a year ago we started a simple Google Group, (women@ Square), as a place where we can email and post neat articles, books, events, etc. The goal was not to respond to a “boy’s club” with a “girl’s club”– the discussion is open to the whole company. There’s already a fair amount of discussion throughout the company over email, so this was a great way to informally get some activity rolling and gauge interest in creating a more formal group.

Since then, we’ve hosted an internal speaker series, inviting women who work on cool projects to come in and chat with us about how they built them. We’ve also had luncheons and Q&A panels with some of our female execs and a board member. Even smaller events, like lunches and happy hours, are great because we break out of the office setting and get to know each other one-on-one. There’s no one person who’s in charge of the group, which allows anyone to be able to step in and create an event around something they’d like to see happen.

On the engineering side, we’ve gone to and spoken at conferences and events together. Recently, we hosted an event called Code Camp, where we brought 17 college ladies in for code projects and workshops for three days. This was quite possibly my favorite three days at Square, ever. These types of events have led to many great friendships and rad projects within the company.

Making Connections

I’ve come to realize that it’s really important to connect with your co-workers outside of the office, whether through Square planned events or random encounters. Interestingly enough, through a random hallway encounter a couple of my lady coworkers and I decided to book a fun trip to Paris together. At the time we casually knew each other, but this trip changed everything.

In the following months, we found a way to work together on the same team, started going to yoga together, and we landed an illustration project in a gallery show in LA. The gallery show spawned an idea for a hack week project, which later led to an event and product launch at Square. Lesson learned, the things you do outside of work with your co-workers can have a huge impact on your work!

The hack week event mentioned above coincided perfectly with International Women’s Day. Our hack team planned, designed, engineered, and launched our first Square Maker’s Market – a craft fair where women entrepreneurs were invited to come to Square and sell their goods. We even had a booth featuring the creations from Square employees. The response was incredible.

Where We’re Going From Here

Our goal for our women’s group is to highlight and celebrate the awesome talent at Square and to encourage more women to join our team. This doesn’t mean that we’re filling seats with females just to fill a quota – we set the bar high. Honestly, I hope that someday there’s no need to have to have special women-oriented events and email groups. For now, I can only hope that by creating a better work culture for ourselves, we can help pave the way for a more balanced tech industry.

Does your company have a community of awesome women? I’d love to hear your stories. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions around what you can do to build a women’s group at your work, or if you want to collaborate on any events.

Women 2.0 readers: Could you borrow any of these ideas to build a more female-friendly culture at your company?

About the guest blogger: Madelin Woods is a front-end engineer at Square, an amateur urban gardener, illustrator, and an avid traveler. Previously, Madelin has worked at Exygy, Make Magazine, Wolfram Research, and co-founded the Champaign-Urbana Design Org. Follow her on twitter at @madw

 

Photo credit: Sagolla