Chloe Stevens On Closing the Diversity Gap in STEM
Site Reliability Engineer at Google
Chloe Stevens is a Site Reliability Engineer at Google working on the reliability of Google products such as Gmail and Calendar, currently based in Zürich, Switzerland. In the office, she also runs the “Gayglers” (Google’s resource group for LGBT employees) and facilitates courses to promote diversity in the workplace. She has prior experience at Google working as a Software Engineer in Datacenter Software and Search Ads, and at University of North Carolina Greensboro as a research assistant. She graduated from Swarthmore College with Bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science.
1. What do you do and what is your background in STEM?
I am a site reliability engineer at Google, and I work specifically on Google Calendar. That means that it’s my job to make sure that Google Calendar is up and running 100% of the time – I look after everything relating to the reliability of the system. My job involves a lot of coding and software development as well as some on-call work, so I can respond immediately if something breaks.
I’ve always been interested in maths and science and when I went to university I was lucky enough to get into a couple of computer science classes. It was then that I realised I just really enjoyed programming. I actually enjoyed that more than the math work I was doing, so I ended up going into software engineering after university.
2. Why do you believe in supporting diverse STEM talent?
I think it’s the right thing to do, to provide everyone with an equal opportunity, to succeed to the best of their abilities in whatever they want to do. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case right now in STEM – I don’t think everyone has the same opportunity to succeed.
It’s particularly important in STEM because people are building what the world will look like in the future. If we have a narrow set of people building that technology, then that technology will only serve that narrow set of people. When you have a diverse group of people in STEM you’re starting to build technology and solutions for the whole world, and for a much broader segment of the population.
3. What is the biggest challenge in achieving STEM diversity?
I think there are two main things – the pipeline, and retention. Firstly we need to increase the diversity of people coming through the pipeline in STEM and this should start early with elementary education. Secondly, there’s the issue of retention and making STEM a welcoming and inclusive environment. I think that the second problem is a much bigger challenge for achieving STEM diversity. We all have a responsibility to change what the culture looks like, to make it a place where anyone can feel like they can succeed and have the same opportunities.
I think that if you’re a minority, the most important thing that you can do is to find a company, or a team, or a project where you feel really welcome and where you feel like you can succeed. I feel like I’ve had that opportunity at Google.
4. What inclusive hiring strategies do you see as key for closing the STEM diversity gap?
If you have a woman coming in for a job interview, make sure that at least one woman is interviewing her. During the interview, make sure the candidate doesn’t feel intimidated and ensure they can see people at the company who are like them.
There are lots of things that can be done to make the hiring process less stressful. For example, you could call the candidate ahead of time to let them know what to expect on the day of the interview. These calls will help all candidates, but they’re particularly impactful for minorities as well.
I also think that we, as an industry need to get better at accepting less traditional backgrounds and more flexible opportunities. For example, offering internships for people who are older or who are looking to start a new career. I think we should be looking at more ways in which we can actually change who we look at as candidates and what the interview process looks like. This will help achieve more openness to people with diverse sets of backgrounds.
5. What is your advice to diverse talent looking to join or progress within the STEM sector?
Finding a mentor is really important. Look for someone who has had similar experiences or, whatever the reason, is going to be a champion for you at your job. I think that it’s important to find a person who is 10 or 15 years ahead of you in their career, who is willing to offer you advice or even just have lunch with you every so often. For me, that’s been a really, really huge help. Finding people like that encourages you to feel like you can make it that far too.
If you’re looking to join or make progress within STEM, you don’t have to accept an environment that doesn’t feel good for you. And just because you’ve ended up in an environment that doesn’t feel good, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a better one in the future. Just remember that your talent is valuable and important and if you don’t feel good about where you’re working, you have every option to go and find somewhere else.
I can understand why people leave STEM if they have a bad experience, but I also think that there is a lot of good within the industry. Sometimes you just have to stick with it in order to find those good places.
Phaidon International’s Inclusive Talent series brings together Hiring Managers and industry professionals to address industry pipeline challenges in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics).