At Noom, 20 percent of the developers are women — 28 percent if you include current interns. As this spreadsheet (created by Tracy Chou from Pinterest) reveals, these numbers are somewhat unusual.
I was the 6th employee at Noom over five years ago and the first female engineer. Having joined Noom early on, I’ve never experienced or witnessed any controversial or discriminatory events. I’ve always been treated as an equal and never had to justify my position. We have hired more female developers since then and recently our first VP of Engineering, Max Whitney.
So I work with a great team of talented engineers of both genders, I get to work on things I’m interested in, what’s my problem? Why start something? Well, based on the media, there seems to be an almost continuous stream of negative experiences for female developers in other companies. I always wondered if I was just really lucky and in a privileged position, if those were unusual instances, if they were exaggerated, etc. And then I realized that I had no easy way to find out.
I didn’t know any other female engineers from other companies and it was hard to meet them. You don’t just run into them at a conference (at least not as easily as you would meet a male one), meetups are full of guys, and many women who attend are recruiters (which makes it extra hard to meet women, since we all assume the other women are recruiters), and I’m not one to make a new friend in a large group of people to start with.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands and create an event that I would be comfortable attending and that was targeted only toward women. I asked Noom for a budget to throw a dinner party for women who work in tech and got approval. We asked everybody in the office to refer any women they knew in tech and ended up with a list of 20 interested participants who came from engineering, product, and design departments of startups in New York. We picked a restaurant, sent out invites, and kept our fingers crossed.
We were worried people wouldn’t show up, that there might be awkward silences, that the attendees wouldn’t know what to do at such an event. Oh, how wrong we were. The moment people started showing up, the talking started and the noise level rose with every arriving attendee. Cocktails and wine were served, small groups emerged, broke up, and rearranged. Food was served family style, so no one had to stay glued to their seat. We even had to ask everybody to stop talking for a moment in order to do a round of introductions (not that it was really needed at that point).
I got to talk to people from small companies and big companies. Some were the only female technical person in their company, some had a setup similar to mine, and best of all, I never got the “Oh, you’re an engineer?” reply I so often hear. Everybody who left expressed how much they enjoyed the evening and that they hoped we would do it again.
We left exhilarated and because it was such a success, Noom decided to greenlight more dinners in the future. We’ve hosted one more dinner since then, which was equally successful, and will be starting back up in the fall. If you’d like to come or you know someone who should be there, you can send us your and/or their contact information to WomenInTech@noom.com. We look forward to meeting you!