WIT Recommendations to An Inclusive Information Technology Community at Harvard

Diversity fosters a more creative and innovative workforce and helps businesses avoid turnover. Studies estimate that transitioning from a single-gender office to an office evenly split would translate to a 41% revenue gain [10].


Members of the Harvard Community:

  • Teamwork:
    • Attend workshops and/or seminars and become aware of microaggressions and how to identify them. Being educated on the manifestations of workplace gender discrimination—from the subtle to overt—and having clear guidance on how to respond when one detects it, equips one to recognize microaggressions and offer support to others. [1]
    • Talk about work culture, inclusivity, and work life balance to help create a welcoming culture in the department/group/school.
  • Inclusive Meeting Practices:
    • Provide agendas and supplementary materials in advance of meetings and share notes following the meeting.
    • Rotate who takes notes during the meeting, orders the coffee, distributes information prior to meeting.
    • Don’t interrupt others or dismiss thoughts and opinions; don’t participate in mansplaining (explaining a topic in a condescending way).


  • Inclusive Culture:
    • Encourage annual participation in workshops and/or seminars to increase awareness and knowledge of stereotypes and bias. Educating managers and employees equips them with a gender framework to recognize bias and avoid building gender biases into new processes that they co-develop. [5]
    • Encourage everyone to speak up; listen to and act against concerns about bias and discrimination.
    • e.g., ask “What do you think?”; reiterate something shared by a woman and make sure to give her credit; include women in email lists; include women as speakers at IT Summit, panels, and other events
  • Promotion:
    • Establish a clear path of promotion within the institution/group, which should include tracking both traditional and nontraditional work related tasks and providing specific, objective feedback to your employees regardless of the gender. Gender bias is more likely in the absence of clear criteria for making decisions or sufficient performance information about the people being evaluated. Narrow definitions of success can also amplify bias. [5]
    • Ask the same level of commitment, progress, reporting, etc., from everyone. Women are subjected to a higher bar requiring more evidence than men to be seen as qualified. [5]
    • e.g., participation in committees and mentoring programs

Hiring Manager:

  • Job Descriptions:
    • List only the specific skills required, avoid clichés, gendered language, unwelcoming words, and buzzwords. Using an idealistic job description potentially eliminates viable applicants from the pool; a realistic job description attracts qualified candidates [3][6]
    • e.g., coding ninja vs. skilled at coding
  • Screening Process:
    • Remove candidates personal information from CVs to focus on their specific qualifications and talents. This process can be done by hand or by using software specifically designed for this purpose. An anonymous, systematic process for reviewing applications and resumes can improve the chances of including the most relevant candidates in your interview pool and combat potential bias. [7] [2]
  • Interview:
    • Avoid non-work related questions during an interview that might make a candidate uncomfortable and bias the hiring process; use structured interviews and test technical abilities using remote homework. Gender bias is more likely when decision-making contexts are ambiguous, lacking clear criteria for making decisions. [5]

e.g., What is your favorite video game?

Diversity and Inclusion Dictionary

  1. Microaggression: a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

e.g., “You are so articulate.” The message being sent here is it is unusual for someone of your race or gender to be intelligent.

  1. Unconscious/Implicit Bias: Social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.

e.g., Women aren’t as interested in engineering or tech related fields in general; therefore, they are not considered as successful or the right “fit” for positions. (You can visit Project Implicit https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/index.jsp to take an implicit bias test and become more aware of your own possible biases)

  1. Privilege: Automatic unearned benefits bestowed upon perceived members of dominant groups based on social identity.[4]

e.g., Seeing individuals that look like you in multiple positions of leadership.

  1. Mansplaining: Explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.

e.g., Explaining to a female engineer that has been working on a project for months, a “solution” to fix the problem when a plan was already discovered by the female.



[1] Basford, T.E., Offermann, L.R., & Behrend, T. S. (2014). Do you see what I see? Perceptions of gender microaggressions in the workplace. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38(3), 340-349.

[2] Bertrand, M. & Mullainathan, S. (2004). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experience on labor market discrimination. The American Economic Review, 94(4), 991-1013.

[3] Born, M. & Taris, T. (2010). The impact of the wording of employment advertisements on students inclination to apply for a job. The Journal of Social Psychology, 150(5), 485-502.

[4] Case, K. (2013). Deconstructing privilege: Teaching and learning as allies in the classroom. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

[5] Correll, S. J. (2017). SWS 2016 Feminist Lecture: Reducing gender biases in modern workplaces: A small wins approach to organizational change. Gender & Society, 31(6), 725-750.

[6] Gaucher, D., Frierson, J. & Kay, A. C. (2011). Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(1), 109-128.

[7] Knight, R. (2017). 7 practical ways to reduce bias in your hiring. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/06/7-practical-ways-to-reduce-bias-in-your-hiring-process

[8] Koh, Y. (2017, Dec 14). Management: Gender bias crops up in job ads --- phrases like 'whatever it takes' and 'driving innovation' can be a factor in who applies. Wall Street Journal Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1976349308?...

[9] National Academy of Sciences (US), National Academy of Engineering (US), and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. (2007). Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US)

[10] Sara Fisher Ellison, Wallace P. Mullin (2014) Diversity, Social Goods Provision, and Performance in the Firm. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jems.12051