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The Inclusive Team Tests

The Inclusive Team Tests are a collection of tests which can be used to roughly determine how inclusive a team is of a particular group. The level of inclusiveness (or disadvantagement) that a particular group might experience within a certain working environment can be expressed as a score on the test. The concept for these tests was heavily influenced by The Joel Test.

The Joel Test

Have you heard of The Joel Test? Go ahead and follow that link and read the article if you haven't. This can wait 'til you get back.

In case you haven't read it or don't go read it right now, here is the intro (from the linked article by Joel Spolsky):

I've come up with my own, highly irresponsible, sloppy test to rate the quality of a software team. The great part about it is that it takes about 3 minutes. With all the time you save, you can go to medical school.

The Joel Test

  • Do you use source control?
  • Can you make a build in one step?
  • Do you make daily builds?
  • Do you have a bug database?
  • Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  • Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  • Do you have a spec?
  • Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  • Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  • Do you have testers?
  • Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  • Do you do hallway usability testing?

The neat thing about The Joel Test is that it's easy to get a quick yes or no to each question. You don't have to figure out lines-of-code-per-day or average-bugs-per-inflection-point. Give your team 1 point for each "yes" answer. The bummer about The Joel Test is that you really shouldn't use it to make sure that your nuclear power plant software is safe.

A score of 12 is perfect, 11 is tolerable, but 10 or lower and you've got serious problems. The truth is that most software organizations are running with a score of 2 or 3, and they need serious help, because companies like Microsoft run at 12 full-time.

Of course, these are not the only factors that determine success or failure: in particular, if you have a great software team working on a product that nobody wants, well, people aren't going to want it. And it's possible to imagine a team of "gunslingers" that doesn't do any of this stuff that still manages to produce incredible software that changes the world. But, all else being equal, if you get these 12 things right, you'll have a disciplined team that can consistently deliver.

This is a wonderful concept and the test has become a widely accepted "grassroots" metric for the software industry. A number of companies now advertise their "Joel Test Score" during recruitment and many of the topics that the test covers are discussed on a regular basis (whereas previously they were often ignored).

The Joel Test has definitely raised the bar of expectations. Although it's an imperfect and sloppy test, it has been effective in improving the overall quality of companies by stating in simple terms the expectations and values that make a great software team.

Measuring Inclusiveness and Disadvantagement

The world needs The Joel Test for other topics as well. Specifically -- measuring inclusiveness and disadvantagement.

  • Inclusiveness means that no group is alienated by the practices and culture of a team.
  • Disadvantagement means measuring whether or not a team provides a level playing field vs creating an environment that advantages certain groups of people over other people.

The Ada Test: Women In Technology

A concrete use case is always a good starting point. To make it easy, let's pick a group and environment and roll with that. One of the more glaring issues that any developer will be familiar with: women in technology.

Women are a disadvantaged group in the technology industry. Women don't get hired as often, they don't get equivalent salaries, they get subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) discriminated against and mistreated once they have a job. Sometimes there is no obvious mistreatment but they don't feel welcomed or appreciated compared to others on the team and nebulous matters of "fit" become very problematic.

There are a lot of things to talk about here and there are a million reasons why, but for now we don't need to discuss those reasons or describe the problem in too much detail. We just want to do a quick and dirty measurement to see if a technology company does not disadvantage women.

Here's an example test, we'll call it The Ada Test after Ada Lovelace:

The Ada Test

  1. Does the ratio of women to non-women match your local census polls?
  2. Do women's tenures match that of non-women?
  3. Do women's salaries match that of non-women?
  4. Do women write code?
  5. Do women make business decisions without approval?
  6. Does your company's marketing portray women similarly to non-women?
  7. Do office conversations refrain from pointing out differences between women and non-women?
  8. Can a woman either challenge or embrace her traditional gender role without drawing special attention/comments?
  9. Are women able to openly discuss problems with how they are treated and are those issues acted upon afterwards?
  10. When a woman requests consideration for a uniquely female personal matter, are those requests honored?

Further Detail on the Questions

1. Does the ratio of women to non-women match your local census polls?

This one is fairly self-explanatory. An inclusive team will strive to reflect roughly the same distribution as the local population.

As an initial goal, examine your organization in terms of proportion of women and non-women vs. degrees awarded to women vs. non-women in your organization's field. For example, a manufacturing firm would do well if 25% of its engineers were women if ~25% of Mechanical Engineering degrees are awarded to women.

While degrees may or may not be the best metric, and using this metric may only be passing the buck of sexism to the education system, it's at least a good starting point.

2. Do women's tenures match that of non-women?

If an organization finds that they have a higher turnover among women employees, it's time to examine the root cause of that turnover. Are women employees not receiving the same opportunities for advancement, training, etc.? If not, they have a strong incentive to seek employment elsewhere.

3. Do women's salaries match that of non-women?

Studies in the United States reveal that women are payed only 77% of what non-women are paid for the same work, and in the European Union women are paid 16.4% less than their equally qualified non-women counterparts. Pay equity is an essential feature of inclusive teams and failure to provide your women employees with competitive pay will contribute to higher employee turnover (see question 2).

4. Do women write code?

While all roles in an organization are required to make the business successful, are women concentrated in non-technical areas of the organization, such as marketing, sales or administration?

5. Do women make business decisions without approval?

Many technical organizations operate on the principle of "ask for forgiveness, not for permission." Are women expected to seek approval for their decisions whereas non-women are not? Are women given the power to contribute as equal members of the organization or are they all concentrated in areas where their work is directed?

6. Does your company's marketing portray women similarly to non-women?

Are women frequently the "clueless users" in your help videos? Are women in your marketing materials shown wearing revealing clothing whereas non-women are not? Is emphasis paid to a woman's appearance in your collateral versus how a non-woman is presented?

7. Do office conversations refrain from pointing out differences between women and non-women?

Conversations that regularly focus on the differences between types of team members are an example of othering behavior.

8. Can a woman either challenge or embrace her traditional gender role without drawing special attention/comments?

This question can be interpreted in both a positive and negative way. Are women rewarded only if they act like "one of the boys" and engaging in non-traditional women's behaviors, such as going to strip clubs? Are women rewarded for embracing their traditional role, such as receiving a promotion for wearing revealing clothing? If a woman enters your office with a short hair cut, does her appearance become the subject of discussion, with people wondering aloud why she would make such a choice?

9. Are women able to openly discuss problems with how they are treated and are those issues acted upon afterwards?

In every team, people will say and do things that will cause friction with other team members. If women bring up these matters, are they discouraged from doing so to keep the peace? Are they told to "lighten up", or that they must grow a thicker skin and not take things so personally?

Assuming women are not discouraged from airing grievances with co-workers or management, are these concerns taken seriously? In the case of a co-worker, does the behavior that caused consternation cease? In the case of a discussion with management, is appropriate disciplinary action taken or is the issue aired and then simply ignored?

10. When a woman requests consideration for a uniquely female personal matter, are those requests honored?

There are some things in life which may only be relevant to women. Does the team accommodate those concerns and treat the with equal merit to other concerns which might be more generally shared by the team?

For example: breast feeding is something that only women do and breast feeding concerns might become part of the daily activities of a woman on your team. Does your office provide facilities for nursing mothers to breast feed or express milk (pump)? If not and such facilities are requested, is a solution created that is not simply a response to "use the toilets"? Are her concerns understood and dealt with vs being dismissed?

Usage

The goal is for no group to be disadvantaged, so to address that, we start by applying some basic metrics using the test score metaphor.

  • If your company scores 10/10 or even as low as 8/10 on this test, high fives. That's awesome and rare (though it should be the standard).
  • If your company scored 7/10 or less on the above test then there are serious problems which should be a red flag to a woman who is considering working for your company.

Hopefully, folks will come to job interviews armed with this test. Hopefully, employers will self-test and will either reflect on how to improve their environment, or will proudly display their high Ada Test scores in their job advertisements.

Project Goals

The goal of this project is to create a generalized test which can be applied to any situation and from that base, create numerous more specific tests which focus on certain groups and environments, each with their own unique names.

In the Ada test, one could easily replace "woman" and "women" with any potentially disadvantaged group, like say "homosexuals", "Muslims", "midgets" or "redheads". We could even replace it with general terms like "the concerned group member". By stating a test in general terms it would allow that test to apply to a lot of situations rather than just focusing on a particular demographic in a particular kind of environment.

This project can collect and maintain these tests and ensure one is available for any scenario.

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