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How One Woman is Exposing Discrimination with Code

Reflections of an engineer who has had enough.


On her first day on the job at her newly assigned team at work, Susan J. Fowler received a strange text from her manager. An engineer at one of the most elite startups, she was shocked to find that the text indirectly elicited sex. Although her story is one of the more well-known ones, her story only scratches the surface of what women face in the workplace. From daily micro-aggressions such as snide comments and interruptions, to outright rape, women still face challenges that block them from reaching their full career potential. However, these accounts are only glimpses into the underlying systemic discriminations rampant in workplaces.

Women (or the lack of) in the workplace

Statistics show that it is important to have an equal representation of women in the workplace. According to a study by McKinsey, “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” This year, women made up 33% of Facebook’s overall teams (17% in engineering), 31% of Google’s and 37% of Goldman’s (2015). And these are only the companies that actually report their workforce make up. The majority of companies do not publish their diversity statistics, or they make it extremely inaccessible. Companies have a lot of work to do before they are anywhere close to achieving gender parity

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) collects data about gender and race/ethnicity from companies with more than 100 people, which you can find here.However, finding information on specific companies is extremely difficult as published data only comes in aggregations and analyses. This has led to the rise of websites such as FairyGodBoss, which provides reviews of company culture by women for women and self-reported spreadsheets of EEOC statistics.

Putting Pen to Paper


This power inequality has been on my mind. A couple months ago, a Wellesley alumna Eleanor Cheatham approached me with an intriguing way to tackle the problem. What if you could find out these statistics while going about your day-to-day online activities? This topic was on my mind for the past six months.

Introducing: ActiveRank

ActiveRank is the culmination of that effort. It is an open-source Chrome extension that shows how female-friendly companies are, with data pulled from crowd-sourced website FairyGodBoss, as well as other verified data sources. By female-friendly, we look at equality in gender pay, benefits that allow women to stay in the workplace in motherhood, and equal percentage of employees split by gender.


Our goal with ActiveRank is to bring attention to the treatment of women in the workplace, as well as start the conversation around transparency (or lack thereof) in diversity data. By giving users the ability to interact directly with the data, we hope to get people thinking about diversity in the workplace more often.


Of course, ActiveRank is imperfect since this is a weekend hackathon that we decided to polish a bit further. We hope that as more data on gender statistics is put online, our statistics will become more accurate. We also chose to open-source this project to make it as democratic as possible — if you have a better way to rank the companies, please contribute to ActiveRank!

However, we want you to think even bigger. What can you do to help push companies to expose gender-related data? Are there companies, people you could reach out to — or even encourage your network to share their experiences and data points on FairyGodBoss and Payscale so that other women on the job hunt can benefit.

Without knowledge, there is no power. So let us fight for knowledge.

Non Ministrari sed Ministrare. Not to be ministered, but to minister.

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Originally published at medium.com

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