SoundCloud has a variety of resource groups, and one such group is called Women in Engineering, or WINE. The mission statement of the group — which is open to people of all genders — is to work “on initiatives to attract and ensure an environment for women to thrive within Engineering at SoundCloud and in the industry.”
This is accomplished in a variety of ways — from hosting monthly events like meetings and lunches, to scheduling regular internal knowledge-sharing sessions. And in 2021, one of the group’s initiatives was to support woman and non-binary engineers at the company in writing and publishing posts on our engineering blog.
To get started on this initiative, I met with Aleksandra Gavrilovska, one of our backend engineers and former iOS Engineering Manager, to talk about what we wanted to accomplish and how we’d do it. But before we could proceed, it was important to first figure out the barriers engineers were facing. So we created a short survey and asked members of WINE to take it.
We ended up with answers from 20 individuals, or 37 percent of the members of WINE. Of those 20 people, 7 of them said they would likely publish a post in the following year.
When we looked at the reasons people weren’t writing posts, the top answers were:
We also asked what could motivate people to write more, and the most common answer was having someone help them choose a topic.
Next, Aleksandra synced with Tiffany Conroy, SoundCloud’s former VP of Engineering, who agreed to host a workshop for brainstorming ideas.
The workshop took place in March of 2021, and there were 23 participants. Although the goal was to increase the number of blog posts, the workshop was also geared toward WINE members who were interested in doing demos — which is a bi-weekly event on Friday afternoons when engineers at SoundCloud share what they are or were working on — or presenting their work in other public ways, like at conferences or meetups.
In total, the workshop was approximately 90 minutes, and it included interactive breakout sessions where participants talked with one another, formulated their ideas, and expanded on them. At the end of the workshop, everyone had at least one topic they could confidently write a blog post about, along with an outline of what it should entail.
We looked at blog posts in the time frame of 2016 to 2020, and saw that there were 64 total posts published. Of those 64, only 6 of them were written by women — less than 10 percent. However, after this workshop, we published 6 posts by women.
Here’s a breakdown of the statistics for 2021:
Total Posts — 14 Total Authors — 15 Women Authors — 5 Posts by Women Authors — 6
That means that 43 percent of the posts published in 2021 were written or co-written by a member of WINE. Ideally, we want that number to be at least 50 percent, but it’s still a huge improvement over the 10 percent from the five-year period before.
It’s safe to say we were successful in what we set out to do, but our next challenge to tackle is how to keep this momentum. As new people are always joining SoundCloud’s engineering organization, repeating this workshop would be a good start, as it was clearly a successful first step at getting more diverse voices to contribute to our blog.