Startup Doxa uses data to rate tech firms on gender equality

San Francisco entrepreneur Nathalie Miller has a theory about what’s wrong with Silicon Valley’s hiring practices: fast-growing startups need to hire so many employees so quickly they often end up with the wrong people on their payroll. Even when tech companies and job seekers do their absolute best to find each other, it’s nearly impossible to predict whether the match will last — or to ensure a well-meaning startup doesn’t become an unfriendly workplace for women.

Miller experienced these hiring challenges as an early employee at Instacart, where she was the 20th hire and the company exploded to more than 150 employees in less than a year, she said.

“It was challenging to hire the right employees when you are going through moments of hyper-growth,” Miller said.

When a drunken coworker at Instacart announced that he “and the guys” had ranked the hot female employees and — congratulations! — she had won, Miller decided to do something about the entrenched and vile treatment too often bestowed upon women in tech. Instacart, she said, did everything a company could do to fix the problem and protect her and all female employees, but even a well-meaning firm wasn’t going to solve the larger challenge of keeping tech workplaces healthy for women and minorities.

So she left an otherwise lovely place to work, and a startup on track for a banner IPO, to start Doxa, which launches Tuesday.

Doxa is a website and data analytics tool to offer job seekers insight into what it’s truly like to work at a company. How are women’s opinions treated? What is the management style? Is the maternity leave generous?

The goal: Doxa will be a database of tech companies that offer what Miller calls “healthy workplaces,” or work environments where women are given equal opportunities to men and the frat-boy culture that permeates much of Startupland isn’t tolerated. It will also help guide job seekers to a company that best fists their personality. While the site is useful to both men and women, Miller says she hopes women will use it to make more informed decisions about their career — and not end up in terrible work environments that send them running from the tech industry.

“People move between jobs a lot in tech, but women are actually bouncing out and staying out,” Miller said.

Miller, who is the sole founder and currently the only full-time employee at Doxa, partnered with tech firms in the Bay Area to collect information from employees and managers at each company. Doxa posed questions that, in a roundabout way, aim to elicit responses that will shed insight on the traits of a company and its employees’ experiences, and women’s experiences in particular. Miller also visited companies to get a better idea of what it might be like to work there.

Once Doxa collects enough data, it creates a profile of the company. In many ways, Doxa’s data is more diverse and and impartial than what Glassdoor, the go-to site for employer reviews, offers. Doxa shows the average employee age, upward mobility opportunities, happiness, percent of women on tech teams and in leadership, pay gaps between genders and anecdotes from employees, among other data.

The job seeker can use the data to decide which company might be a good fit — and which to stay away from — and employers can use the data to see where they need to improve. If 95 percent of their women employees aren’t happy, for instance, a company founder should realize quickly they have a serious gender problem.

“With that data, then you can convince people to make a change,” Miller said. “Make these little changes first, and the bigger changes later.”

With diversity and gender equality on the mind of so many tech firms these days, Miller said she had an easy time forming alliances with Automattic, DoubleDutch, Eventbrite, Keen, Kiva, Lyft, Medium, Shyp, TaskRabbit and Instacart — yes, her former employer — to launch the site. She collected data from about a dozen more companies, but they didn’t meet her data-dictated standard of a healthy workplace for women, so they won’t be on the site.

Doxa isn’t charging companies to collect the data, but plans to begin selling the data to tech recruiters and allowing companies to post job openings on the site for a fee.

Miller has a master’s in sociology from UC Berkeley and started a microfinance company in Vietnam before entering the tech workforce. She built Doxa last year with a team of engineers, Web designers and data scientists; Miller bootstrapped the project and is planning to begin raising venture capital within the next several weeks.

This post has been updated to more accurately reflect Miller’s comments and to correct an error in the composition of the team that built Doxa.

Image: Screenshot of Doxa


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  • Mario

    Nobody is interested in this service, except feminist english majors.