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      11 Ways Your Online Store Can Compete with Mega-Retailers (And Win)


      It’s hard to grasp the sheer scale of mega-retailers such as Amazon. In 2018, Amazon alone was projected to take in almost 50 percent of US online sales. Plus, during the most recent holiday season, it accounted for 5 percent of the $1,002 trillion Americans spent. Launching an e-commerce store that can compete with those numbers is difficult, to put it lightly.

      Fortunately, your online store doesn’t have to beat the likes of Amazon or eBay to be successful. What it needs to do is find a share of the market for itself and learn how to thrive within that retail niche. That way, you’ll be able to scale your store and increase its earnings organically over time.

      In this article, we’re going to talk about 11 strategies you can implement to compete with e-commerce giants such as Amazon. We’re not saying you’ll end up making more money than Jeff Bezos, but every extra dollar helps, so let’s get to it!

      1. Focus on Niche Products and Services

      Wherever it is that you live, chances are there are a handful of online megastores where you can buy almost anything you want. Those types of stores excel at casting a wide net to catch as many buyers as possible. The problem is that they often can’t compete with specialized sites when it comes to offering more niche items.

      For example, while one of those mega-retailers might have hundreds of generic mugs for sale, you could offer to create custom designs, thereby filling a more specific niche.

      Personalization options are a way to differentiate products.  

      The main takeaway here is that if you’re starting out, the smart move is not to try and compete at every level. What you need to do is have a specific buyer persona in mind and focus on those buyers, offering the products and services they want. In many cases, filling a particular retail niche may even enable you to command higher prices, so it’s a win-win scenario.

      2. Offer Subscription-Based Services

      Offering subscriptions is an excellent strategy because it allows you to create consistent, recurring income. Plenty of big-box stores offer subscriptions. Amazon, for example, offers the incredibly popular Prime service.

      Amazon Prime is the world’s most famous subscription service.

      Even more niche stores, such as Humble Bundle, understand the power of subscriptions. On top of offering cheap video games, this store enables users to pay a set price each month for more stuff.

      Humble Bundle offers a set price for access to hundreds of games.

      Just because you run an online store doesn’t mean that all your income has to come from product sales. You can also offer subscriptions for monthly freebies, discounts in your store, access to exclusive deals, and more. Keep in mind, though — whatever angle you decide to take with subscriptions, it should synergize with your store’s products.

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      3. Provide Better and/or Cheaper Shipping Options

      Competing with massive online stores when it comes to shipping can be difficult. They move such large volumes of products that they can get access to discounts and perks small online stores can’t hope to match.

      What you can do to compete is offer better-quality shipping options for your particular region. In most cases, smaller stores will focus on specific cities or just one country. That means you have the edge over more global stores, since you may be able to offer faster shipping times and a more personalized experience throughout the process.

      In some cases, you might even have access to cheap shipping options you haven’t considered. For example, there are a lot of local startups focused around product deliveries. Partnering with them may enable you to offer ultra-fast low-cost shipping, depending on where your customers are located.

      4. Excel When It Comes to Customer Service

      The level of customer service you offer can make or break your store. People might be willing to take a chance and buy from a retailer they don’t know, but if you treat them poorly, you can be sure they won’t come back.

      Some of the most common service-related mistakes small retailers make include:

      • Taking too long to answer customer questions
      • Offering cookie-cutter answers to customers
      • Giving inaccurate shipping estimates or sending packages late

      Just to drive home how vital the customer experience is, keep in mind that happy clients are more likely to send new business your way. Likewise, retaining customers is much cheaper than collecting new leads. In other words, a little more time spent on ensuring better service can pay off for years to come.

      5. Optimize Your Online Store in Every Way You Can

      The difference between one and three seconds may seem insignificant, but it’s not — particularly if you run an online retail store. Studies show that if your website takes more than a few seconds to load, people start getting impatient. Amazon alone estimates that a one-second delay in its loading times could cost up to $1.6 billion in lost sales over the course of a year.

      In other words, your website needs to be fast. There are a lot of factors that can hurt its performance, such as:

      1. Using a hosting plan that doesn’t offer enough resources.
      2. Failing to optimize your images.
      3. Adding too many scripts to your pages.
      4. Not using browser caching.

      Reasons two through four fall under the category of poor website optimization. Still, it doesn’t matter how much effort you sink into optimization if your web host isn’t up to par. What we recommend is that you measure your site’s loading times, try to optimize them, and consider moving to a new host if you’re still not seeing the results you want.

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      6. Use Social Media to Promote Your Store and Its Products

      The largest online retailers can spend millions on advertising each day. At the same time, so many people are familiar with them that word of mouth alone is often enough to get them plenty of sales.

      ‘Mom-and-pop’ online stores, on the other hand, need to be much savvier when it comes to marketing. Since you can’t compete in terms of budget, the easiest way to get attention to your store is via social media. This involves:

      1. Being active on several social media platforms.
      2. Knowing how to engage with your audience and reach new users.
      3. Connecting with influencers who can promote your products.
      4. Using non-traditional forms of content, such as infographics, for higher engagement.

      The main takeaway is that small businesses need to make more of an effort to get online conversions. However, if you know which platforms to focus on and you have a good grasp of social media, these approaches should yield excellent results. Also, keep in mind that it might be worthwhile to hire a social media manager if you’re not as savvy in this area, as it’s essential to your store’s success.

      7. Work on Your Email Marketing Strategy

      There’s a reason almost every single website and online store wants your email address. They understand that it’s a powerful tool to drive sales and increase engagement. About half of all US internet users check their email multiple times per day, and up to 60 percent of users say that the messages they get influence their purchases.

      More importantly, email marketing is incredibly scalable, even for a small store. The more addresses you collect, the more sales you can drive via campaigns. What’s more, most email marketing platforms enable you to send an almost unlimited number of messages for a low price.

      That’s not to say that you should spam your subscribers, however. In fact, you should only contact them when you have something of value to offer, such as product discounts, important news, and so on.

      Amazon sends targeted email deals.

      If you’re already using email marketing but you want to get more out of it, then it may be time to review your strategy.

      8. Consider Streamlining Your Product Catalog

      It stands to reason that the more products you offer, the more sales you’re likely to get. The problem is that managing a huge catalog of items can be much more complicated than you’d imagine. For each product, you have to consider sourcing, storage, shipping costs, marketing materials, and more.

      For massive online stores, that isn’t a problem. They’re all about volume, and they can throw all the manpower they want at the above tasks. However, the more strapped you are for money and personnel, the more that overextension can hurt you.

      Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to run a successful online store that offers a limited catalog of products. SlimFold, for example, built an entire e-commerce experience around a handful of unique wallets.

      Alt text: SlimFold has a streamlined product offering.

      Offering a limited catalog ties in perfectly with targeting a specific niche of users. As long as you know there’s demand for the products and services you offer, you can limit them to give a feeling of exclusivity, and even test higher price points.

      9. Offer Multiple Payment Options

      When it comes to online purchases, most people rely on credit cards. However, there are a lot of payment processors you can use, including PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, and many others.

      You’ve probably noticed that a lot of the major online retailers offer several payment options during their checkout processes. This enables customers to pick whichever choice they feel most comfortable with, so the store doesn’t lose out on any potential purchases.

      Large retailers offer many payment options.

      For smaller online stores, dealing with a lot of payment processors can be a hassle. It means that your earnings will come in via multiple channels, you’ll have to set up accounts for each one, and you’ll need to make sure you’re in compliance with various policies.

      However, despite those downsides, offering multiple payment options is still the way to go for most online stores. At the very least, you should enable users to pay via PayPal and the most popular credit cards — just to cover your bases.

      10. Study the Competition Within Your Niche

      So far, we’ve focused mostly on how to compete with mega-retailers. However, it’s crucial that you don’t lose track of other smaller stores within your niche since they’re also competitors.

      Studying your direct competitors so you can provide a better experience than they do is incredibly important. After all, smaller stores can be much easier to overtake than e-commerce giants. You can compete with these competitors in a number of ways, such as:

      These are similar to some of the tactics we’ve discussed so far. Only this time, you’re competing against another David instead of Goliath.

      11. Offer Only the Best-Quality Products

      Since you can’t generally compete with mega-retailers in terms of inventory, pricing, or shipment, you need to focus on quality. We’ve already talked about providing top-notch customer service, but making sure the products you offer are as good as they seem is also essential.

      These days, online megastores such as Amazon are getting overrun with cheap product knockoffs. That’s causing a real headache for the consumer, who doesn’t understand why they’re getting low-quality items from a retailer they know and trust.

      This opens up the opportunity for smaller online stores to attract those customers. In many cases, people who want high-quality items will turn to more specialized online stores. If you can guarantee that your products are the real deal, and you offer a solid return policy, this can be one of your best ways to get more sales.

      Supply Chain

      When it comes to an e-commerce business, you need to be realistic about your expectations. Competing with mega-retailers when it comes to inventory or pricing is just about impossible. However, there are plenty of e-commerce operations that manage to grow and thrive, despite all the competition they face.

      The key is to understand that although you can’t compete in some categories, there are plenty of areas where smaller stores can get a real edge. For example, smaller operations can provide much more personalized customer service or focus on product quality in a way that mega-retailers can’t.

      What do you think is the best way for online stores to compete with giants like Amazon or Walmart? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the DreamHost Community and let’s discuss!



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      Run a Small Business? Here are 8 Ways to Manage Your Stress


      There are plenty of perks to owning your business — like being the boss, for one. You get to see your own plans and dreams come to life. And you can set the company track exactly as you see fit. But the downside to running a small business? All of the stress that comes with it. That’s why learning to manage stress is crucial for small biz owners.

      “Managing stress is important as a business owner because typically, we tend to be sole proprietors or have few employees,” says Amanda Pratt MSW, LCSW, CPLC, The Chronic Illness Therapist, Imagine Life Therapy. “This means that if we burn out, it can ultimately slow business progress or momentum and when we aren’t well, our businesses can’t be well. We also know that if we cope poorly with stress, we tend to have worse physical and mental health outcomes overall, so business owner or not, this is an area that I feel should be a top priority for all of us.”

      Reducing stress should always be at the top of your to-do list to keep you sane — and your company healthy, too. “That’s why it’s important not to feel guilty for stepping back or prioritizing some ‘me’ time,” says Poppy Greenwood, mental health advocate, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of female entrepreneur support platform Meyvnn.

      Luckily, there are plenty of small business stress management techniques that will help take away the tension and anxiety of your work. Give these tactics a try to manage your stress levels.

      8 Ways to Handle Small Biz Stress

      Stressed small business owner.

      1. Recognize What’s Going Well

      “This is one of the first things I will point out to clients — it’s just as important to recognize what’s going well (if not more so) as it is to recognize where things aren’t going so well,” Pratt says.

      “Strategies that work best for us tend to play off our strengths. It’s also good to take inventory of areas of coping where we tend to have more engaged or active responses to stress (versus disengaged responses) and can inform our future attempts at other areas of stress management. We all have habits that come more naturally to us that are healthy, and I believe these are the strategies we should tap into first to address when creating a stress management plan.”

      Plus, when you consider what’s going right with your business, that instantly puts you in a positive mindset, which makes it much easier to combat stress. “Taking stock of things that have gone well helps you put into perspective the change you are affecting and the growth that you have achieved,” Greenwood says. “Feeling that you’re making progress, no matter how small, is one of the best ways to relax. It helps you to recognize you’re on a journey, and that your work towards whatever goal you have is pushing you forwards.

      “It also just makes you feel more organized,” Greenwood says. “Being able to identify where things are working or are not makes you feel like you have control over what is happening, in what can feel like the chaos of running a business.”

      Focusing on the good things about your business also keeps your mind in the present. “When you’re stressed, your brain tells you that you have to stay vigilant,” says Drema Dial, Ph.D., psychologist and life coach. “Your brain goes into hyperdrive with all the things that could be going wrong, will go wrong, might have already gone wrong, and how will you fix it! This is one way our brain uses to keep us locked into familiar routines. This is precisely why it’s imperative to break this cycle, which keeps us chained to unhealthy coping behaviors and keeps your stress level high.”

      2. Identify Your Stressors

      “Identifying your stressors is vital to be able to tackle them,” Greenwood says. “Stress usually comes from a problem you haven’t yet started to solve or are having trouble solving. I think the best way to identify stressors is to take a step back. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re constantly working and adjusting and testing to grow. Being in that kind of intense mindset all day long can really constrict a wider perspective you need to really pinpoint the areas that are causing you stress and how best to tackle them. Once you’ve identified what is causing you stress, you are much more able to work out how to deal with it. And even just identifying what is causing you stress can help alleviate some of it.”

      Remember that people respond to stress in their own unique way. “Self-awareness is key here because everyone is different,” says Mike McDonnell, international speaker, serial entrepreneur, global brand co-owner and podcaster. Once you know what stresses you out, you can delegate those tasks to others. If that’s not an option, knowing that a particular part of the job triggers anxiety can help you prepare to tackle it and just take a deep breath before going in. Over time, you can work on changing your response to the stressor.

      “We can do this through practicing mindfulness techniques to open our awareness to our body sensations, thoughts, and behaviors,” Pratt says. “We can also self-monitor through journaling or tracking mood states, symptoms and thought habits. And while it’s good to identify stressors, it’s even more important to identify our perceptions and responses to these stressors. Research shows us that it matters less what the stressor is and more how we respond to the stressor.”

      3. Build a Solid Schedule

      “Structure is important because the more we plan, the less we have to actively anticipate what might happen,” Pratt says. “Planning helps us have a greater sense of self-efficacy or confidence in our ability to handle whatever might come up.”

      When you have a regular routine, you know what to expect at work, and that gives you a sense of peace and control, making it easier to keep stress at bay. If you know in advance that you have a difficult item to cross off your to-do list, tackle it first thing in the morning to avoid that sense of dread. Plus, you’ll feel accomplished and ready to conquer whatever else comes your way.

      “Your body also likes a routine — it’s good for your circadian rhythm, which is effectively your internal body clock that can dictate things like when you feel tired or energized and can really impact your ability to focus,” Greenwood says. “For example, I know my energy and concentration dip around 3 p.m. So, in my routine around that time, I usually have a workout scheduled that gives me some time away to re-energize.”

      A common complaint from small business owners is that there are never enough hours in the day. “Usually when we delve into this issue, the problem is not a lack of time but a lack of a schedule,” Dial says. “A schedule allows a person to plan, to anticipate, and helps keep life organized. I recommend that all activities go onto a schedule, even play time!”

      4. Prioritize Your Time

      There’s a reason “self-care” has become such a buzzword — we’ve come to realize just how crucial it is to carve out time for ourselves to keep a healthy mental state. Looking after yourself is key to keeping stress under control.

      “Prioritizing ‘me time’ is really important because it is so easy to get caught up in what you’re doing, you can really forget about yourself and who you are — separate from your business,” Greenwood says. “Taking time for yourself, or using it to go out with friends and family, is often what re-affirms your belief in what you’re doing. It’s really important to not lose yourself within your business, because that, in the worst case scenario, then can lead to your business itself losing its way.”

      As a small business owner, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of always being on the clock. Just as you schedule time for certain tasks you need to get done, you should schedule free time. “I teach clients to see their downtime as beneficial to creativity and efficiency because they tend to work better after taking a break,” Dial says. “Taking a break allows the brain to take in new information and to generate creativity.”

      5. Learn to Say ‘No’

      “When you’re starting out, you may not have the luxury of opportunities flying at you, so you say yes to everything,” McDonnell says. “But eventually you focus on your mission and ask yourself, ‘Will this help me get there?’ before deciding yes or no.”

      Of course, saying no can be really tough. But it’s important to remember your value and that you have limited time. “Instead of thinking you may offend the other person, it’s an opportunity to show them that when you decide to do something, you really value what you’re doing and you’re doing it on your terms,” Greenwood says.

      Otherwise, taking on more than you can handle is the fastest way to fall into a stress trap. “It’s important to learn that setting boundaries is necessary to safeguard small business owners’ well-being, their time, and to protect their business,” Dial says. “When approached with a request, the small business owner should ask themselves the following: ‘1. Is this something I want to do? 2. Do I have time to do it? 3. What is its importance level, and will it fit it into my schedule?’”

      Saying no is also key to setting boundaries. “When we don’t set boundaries, we end up feeling taken advantage of, burned out, stressed out, and end up as people pleasers, workaholics, isolated, or feeling misunderstood,” Pratt says. “Simply stated: Boundaries are one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health and wellness.”

      6.Delegate or Outsource Tasks

      When you’re used to being the boss, it can be hard to let go and give up control. But as any small business owner knows, you can’t do it all. And if you’re trying to, then you’re probably not doing a good job at every single thing. That’s why learning how to delegate or outsource certain parts of the biz is a foundation for being successful.

      For example, do you struggle with Facebook but love working face-to-face with clients? Hiring a social media manager might free you up to do just that. Figure out how you want to spend your time — and what you’d rather avoid.

      In the end, outsourcing allows you to grow your company. “It’s important early on to recognize where your weaknesses are, so that you can hand over those areas to other people who do them much better,” Greenwood says. “Doing this can also relieve so much stress, not having a task hang over you that you know you need to do but that you struggle with and find time-consuming.”

      7. Choose Your Tools Wisely

      Work tools and software are meant to make your job easier — not harder. But if you’re spending more time learning how to use them than actually using them, it’s not doing you any favors. “It’s important to choose tools wisely, because they are meant to be the things that take away stress and help with tasks instead of adding to the problem,” Greenwood says.

      Opting for reliable small business appsweb management tools, and hosting services will always pay off in the end. Imagine if your business’ website went down? That’s why it’s worth using DreamHost hosting and WordPress to have one less thing to worry about.

      “Test out different software until you find the one that takes your stress away so you can benefit fully from it,” McDonnell says.

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      8. Unplug During Your Off-time

      “You’re not a robot,” Greenwood says. “You can’t work all the time and expect to maintain the same level of productivity and efficiency. You need to replenish your energy levels, and not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When you’re working on your business, you want to be present and in the moment. That would be difficult if you’re unable to unplug in your off time and feel a conflict between your work life and your personal life.”

      As a small business owner, you probably feel tied to your phone, but you need time away from answering emails and checking in with customers. “Unplugging and doing a digital detox allows parts of your brain to rest,” Dial says. “Reading, watching TV, going for a walk, and talking with others are all great ways to engage a different part of your brain. Make sure you take time for activities you find enjoyable. It’s essential to combat stress by seeking out experiences that will help restore you.”

      It’s especially important to power down your devices and avoid blue light, which can keep you awake, at least an hour before bedtime. Plus, you won’t have to worry about an email keeping you up that night. You’ll sleep better so you can be rested and alert for the next day of tending to your business.

      Breathe In and Out

      It’s no secret that running a small business is one of the most challenging (and stressful) things you’ll ever take on. But it’s also one of the most rewarding! So tell us: how do you manage your stress as a small-biz owner? What keeps you fired up as you “Rise and Grind?” Connect with us on Twitter and let us know your thoughts!





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      30 Ways to Be an Ally for Women in Tech in 2019


      Happy International Women’s Day! First celebrated by suffragettes in the early 1900s, this worldwide holiday held every March 8 is as relevant and necessary today as it was then. While the fight for equal voting rights has mostly been won, gender parity on the economic front is, sadly, far from a reality.

      The 2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report shows a wide gender gap in education, health, economic opportunity, and political empowerment — a gap, the report predicts, that could take up to 108 years to bridge.

      Let’s speed up that clock, shall we?

      It’s time to make gender equality a priority, starting in our own workplaces. While women are and have been making amazing strides in the tech industry, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and even more so for women of color:

      How can individuals (remember, we all deal with unconscious bias) and companies be allies for women in tech? Whether you’re in an enterprise leadership spot or a recent hire at a startup, you can pitch in. We’ve rounded up 30 ideas to create a better, more inclusive environment — for everybody — at every level in tech.

      Getting Started

      Use these tips to do some background research and get started on your quest to building a more inclusive workplace.

      1. Celebrate International Women’s Day

      Timely, right? Acknowledge the holiday in your workplace and on social media. Throw a party and order some cupcakes. Recognize and thank female colleagues and other women who’ve made an impact on you and important contributions to your team or company. The International Women’s Day website lists ideas of commitments you can make to work toward gender parity this year — visit and make a commitment, share your goals, and invite colleagues to do the same.

      2. Study Up

      Read books and blogs for, by, and about women in tech. Become familiar with the challenges — and triumphs — of women in the industry, and stay up to date with relevant news and issues. Lucky you: we’ve already put together a reading list to get you started.

      3. Follow the Leaders

      Follow techie ladies and female industry influencers on Twitter and Medium. For ideas on who to follow, consult your colleagues for suggestions, ask women you respect who they are following, and spend some time exploring the hashtag #womenintech.

      4. Get Inspired

      Helping others on your team or in your company will benefit everyone. Set a goal to focus on the success and growth of your colleagues and cultivate an attitude of encouragement. With this mindset, you will take an interest in the empowerment of all your coworkers — including the women. Get inspired by watching Kare Anderson’s TED Talk Opportunity Makers and, especially if you’re in a leadership position, read up on Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers.

      5. Get Motivated

      Did you know that an organization with at least 30 percent of its leadership comprised of women could add up to 6 percentage points to the net margin? If for some reason you can’t find the motivation to spend efforts supporting and recruiting more women in the tech industry, at the very least, numbers like this can be the inspiration.

      On the Ground Level

      So you’re not in much of a leadership position. You can still make enormous strides toward crafting your company’s culture. Read on to learn how. (Pssst! Leaders, don’t skip this section — there’s plenty for you here, too!)

      6. Amplification

      Author Therese Huston suggests this technique to make sure that women — and everybody, really — are heard and get credit for their contributions. To amplify a colleague who has just shared a good idea in a meeting, speak up, name and credit the first person, and repeat the idea.

      And don’t just amplify an idea because it came from a woman! Naturally look for promising ideas and do your best to make sure it gets its due. If you’re a woman who feels interrupted or overlooked in meetings, try teaming up with a fellow female coworker (or a male ally) and committing to amplify each other’s ideas.

      7. Keep a 50/50 Mindset

      Sometimes, a man in tech may worry about coming off as patronizing when he may simply intend to do his part to support his female colleagues. To help offset this fear, men and women alike might try to keep a 50/50 mindset. That is, about 50 percent of the world’s population is male, and the other 50 percent is female. So ideally, half of the workforce would be male, half female — this is the ideal gender parity.

      At your workplace, while the numbers of male and female employees probably don’t even out, men and women should be equally valued, honored, and heard. So everything you do could be working toward equal opportunity and visibility for women and men; many of the ideas shared here work equally for both genders. We would all appreciate a little help getting credit for our ideas and support in our work.

      8. Speak Up

      Don’t be afraid to point out non-inclusive or downright bad behavior, even when you spot it above you in the leadership chain. Consider approaching the perpetrator or their supervisor privately; you don’t want to embarrass them, and they may not have been fully aware of the behavior. Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your company’s culture and say something.

      9. Make Friends

      This may feel very “back to the high school cafeteria,” but take a look at who your work buddies are and try to expand your circle a bit. If you’re a guy who spends most of your day talking to men who are similar to you, make an effort to diversify your clique. If you’re a lady, a strong circle of female friends at work can be a huge support — but don’t forget to reach out to men, too.

      10. Share Stories

      As you develop relationships on your team and within your company, ask your female friends about their experiences as a woman in tech.

      If you’re worried about sounding patronizing, try framing it in terms of, “I’ve read discouraging statistics and stories about women in technology, and I’m wondering what your experience has been.”

      And women, don’t be afraid to share your experiences — good and bad.

      11. Inclusive Language

      When talking with coworkers outside the boardroom (around the proverbial watercooler), suggest a colleague share more about a project or product she’s working on. Ask her more about an idea she brought up in a meeting and have a genuine interest in the work of those around you. This will help foster an environment where credit is given where it is due — something women in tech, unfortunately, miss out on at times, thanks to unconscious gender biases.

      Also, use inclusive language in both speaking and writing. Especially in formal documents or wide-reaching emails. Despite what your high school English teacher might have taught you, they is now an acceptable neutral third-person pronoun that will help you avoid the awkward “he/she” construction.

      12. Find a Protege

      Do you know a young woman who might be interested in tech? Get her a book about science and technology, invite her to job shadow you, or suggest local STEM-oriented programs or day camps. Consider volunteering at one of these programs on your own time to provide an example and real-life mentor to girls and students in your community.

      Taking the Lead

      In a leadership role, you are uniquely positioned to make a real difference in inclusivity in your workplace. Here are a few good places to start.

      13. Invite Feedback

      If you’re in any sort of leadership capacity, make sure to invite, request, and encourage feedback on the work environment you create. And when you do get negative feedback, accept it graciously and take steps to make necessary changes. Consider offering your team some sort of way to offer feedback anonymously and make clear that you’re specifically working on inclusivity.

      14. Sing Praises

      Offer complimentary feedback to your team members and colleagues freely and openly. Notice and thank others for their contributions, and draw other people’s attention to good work and good ideas you’ve noticed. Be authentic and genuine in your praising and make an effort to notice the good turns and successes of all your colleagues. You’ll be more and more aware of the good work going on around you — and may be inspired to achieve more yourself.

      15. Nominate Women

      Any industry awards or recognitions coming up? Consider nominating a woman or suggesting that qualified coworkers apply. Same goes for internal company awards: is there a woman you could nominate for the honor? Make sure to keep a 50/50 mindset here as well. Perhaps half the awardees or nominees are women. Or if a man won last time, a qualified woman should be considered the next time around.

      16. Listen

      Listen to what your colleagues, teammates, and those you manage are saying. And we don’t mean be creepy; pay attention when others speak to you, try to understand the emotions and thoughts sparking their comments, and truly consider their ideas.

      Simply listening will deepen your empathy for a variety of experiences and foster creative solutions. And go a step beyond listening: actively ask for ideas and experiences in formal and informal settings.

      17. Share the Spotlight

      If you’re in any sort of leadership role, you’ve got a lot on your plate. And you’re most likely completely capable of handling it all — that’s how you got to be a leader in the first place. But take a minute to ask yourself: do you really have to be the one to give the presentation, take the lead on a project, or interview the prospective hire?

      Is there someone else on your team, maybe someone with a different experience or background from you, who is as capable of performing that function? Or maybe there’s someone you could mentor through the process. This is a simple way to give women leadership opportunities and more visibility.

      18. Make Time for Mentorship

      On that note, make sure to invest in mentoring. Let your colleagues and others know you’re open to sharing your expertise over lunch or coffee and, as stated above, invite capable team members to learn new roles and participate in leadership tasks. On the company level, try implementing some sort of formal mentorship program.

      19. Invest in the Future

      Gender inequality in the tech industry won’t change overnight. In an industry once filled with women, men dominate the workforce. Consider some sort of community outreach, such as coding events or a “bring-your-daughter-to-work” day. Team up with organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code to host a program at your company. Volunteer as a mentor or guest speaker at local schools. For example, DreamHost has teamed up with Girl Develop It to promote software development and STEM education among women.

      Invite Expertise

      Conferences, trainings, seminars, and summits at the company level or beyond are great opportunities to showcase the expertise and experience of your female colleagues. Commit to better events by inviting more diverse voices.

      20. Avoid the “Manel”

      It’s time for the all-male panel to go the way of the dodo. An even greater offender is the all-male, all-white panel. Panels are a perfect opportunity to showcase a diversity of voices and to invite some female expertise. If you are invited to speak in a panel, ask about who you’ll be participating with and suggest inviting female or minority participants.

      21. Equal Speaking Time

      If you’re planning an event, commit to creating a better ratio of female and minority speakers. “Better” could mean better than last year, it could mean closer to 50 percent than zero — or you could go all out as the Shift Forum does and require perfect 50/50 gender parity. At the very least, strive to select speakers that reflect the diversity of experience in your company. If you need help tracking down a guest speaker, DevelopHer has a list of women ready to speak on tech-related topics, and Women Talk Design promotes female speakers in tech.

      22. Volunteer

      If you’re a woman, volunteer to speak on a panel or at a conference (or suggest another female speaker). If those in charge of planning the event are creating programs that are less than diverse, step in and provide a solution — even if that solution is yourself. Or offer to research a list of female techies outside the company that could be invited to share. Consider adding your name to a database of female tech speakers, such as the 50/50 Pledge.

      23. Don’t Go

      If you’ve been invited to or discovered an interesting tech conference in your field, check out the speaker lineup. If the diversity ratio is too low to stomach, just don’t go. And send feedback to the organizers letting them know about your objections.

      Diversity-Centered Hiring

      An inclusive workplace begins with creating a more diversity-friendly hiring process.

      24. Review Hiring Practices

      More diversity in your company will get you better results and give your customers a more realistic representation. Diversity starts in your hiring process so if you have any control over the hiring process, set aside some time to discuss how it can be improved to attract qualified applicants from a variety of backgrounds, including women.

      If you aren’t in a position to affect the hiring process, consider suggesting a review to someone who does. The next few ideas are great jumping off points for changes to make the hiring process more inclusive.

      25. Avoid “Bro-Speak”

      Take a look at your job listings and review them for language that is non-inclusive. The wording of your job descriptions could potentially signal that your team may be unwelcoming to women. The app Textico will scan your listings for language that could repel women — including phrases like “Nerf gun” and “crush it” — and suggest more neutral terms.

      26. Set Required Skills

      Set an agreed upon set of skills, capabilities, and qualifications in advance that a hire must have. Make sure that every candidate is judged against this specific criteria and hold yourselves to it.

      27. Make Candidates Anonymous

      Find a way to hide details such as gender, age, race, etc. of each candidate as long as possible during the application process.

      A 2000 study showed that when professional orchestras had musicians audition behind a screen, the number of women chosen rose sharply, suggesting that when people are assessed on ability alone, women are much more likely to rise to the top.

      Several apps can help you take away the bias, including GapJumpers, which hides identifying information and even résumés until after applicants complete a test you design to assess their skills. This app was built based on the results of the orchestra audition study.

      And Blendoor, much like Tinder, lets job-seekers and recruiters seek each other out: candidates can see company details and diversity ratings, and companies can only see information about skills, education, and work history. Kind of like LinkedIn but without the profile picture.

      28. Reach Out

      When it is time to hire, you probably have your go-to networks find a steady stream of applicants: your alma mater, suggestions from a former mentor, a particular coding program, a social networking group. This is a familiar way to find people you’ll probably like and trust, but it is also a great way to hire the same type of employee over and over.

      Try posting your listing as publicly as possible. Maybe reach out to a college you’ve never contacted before, or ask your female colleagues if they have any recommendations or connections. Diversifying who sees your job listing will lead to a more diverse candidate pool — and, hopefully, a more inclusive workplace.

      29. Fuel Your Talent Pipeline

      Widen your pipeline by supporting and engaging with organizations like Code2040, an organization of Black and Latinx techies, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which focuses on launching minority students into business leadership careers. Specifically, consider ways you can fuel your female talent pipeline, perhaps by reaching out to and creating relationships with tech schools and colleges with higher numbers of female students and grads.

      30. Form Inclusive Interview Panels

      Make it an unbendable rule to always have at least one woman on every interview panel. A female panelist can help other female applicants feel welcome and vet for gender bias. Consider creating interview panels that are as diverse as possible to project your team’s interest in diversity and inclusivity.

      If you aren’t in a position to impact the composition of an interview panel and are invited to participate, suggest that a woman be added into the mix. And women, don’t be afraid to suggest to your supervisors that you would be willing to help interview candidates.

      A More Inclusive Industry

      Putting in just a little effort to improve your company’s culture can make a big difference in recruiting and retaining a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Gender parity in the tech industry won’t happen overnight, but change can’t happen without a little effort.

      Every tech worker has a role to play. We’ve given you 30 ideas to get started; pick one to start with and work up from there.

      What else have you or your company done to create a more inclusive and balanced workplace? Any tips or experiences to share? We’d love to get your take! Join our discussion on Twitter or Facebook.





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