Designing For Underrepresented Technologists First

I’ve written several times about leveling the playing field for women in tech, including our own actions at Foundry Group. I’m always keeping my ear to the ground for how to do this better.

Recently, I was connected to Kate Catlin, the Founder of Find My Flock, by my partner Jason. From the outside, it looks like Find My Flock is a tech job board that is enthusiastically open to all. What isn’t obvious is that they did 100% of their product research, design, and UX testing with developers who happen to be women and/or people of color.

This led to some very specific features:

  • You can filter jobs by benefits like maternity leave, trans-inclusive healthcare, or visa sponsorship.
  • You get a personal interviewing coach.
  • If a company wants a premium posting, Find My Flock has an off-the-record phone call with two developers in the company to make sure they’re happy.

While mostly driven by “determined intersectional feminism,” Kate thinks more platforms should be designed this way. She’s a former IDEO CoLab Fellow, and follows IDEO’s belief that you can spur the most creativity by interviewing users at the extreme ends of the bell curve, in addition to those in the middle.

To understand this, imagine you’re designing a new sneaker. You’ll come up with very different ideas if you go interview the most blister-prone ultramarathoner instead of the average neighborhood jogger.

Find My Flock took it a step further by interviewing only at the extremes. If developers most likely to experience unconscious bias feel this process is effective, supportive, and fair, then they believe everyone else will also have an outstanding experience as well. “This is not about handouts,” Kate says. “No one I know wants a job they haven’t worked for. It’s about a level playing field.”

What are your thoughts? How would major tech platforms be different if they had designed for underrepresented people first?


Also published on Medium.