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Why We Removed the Word ‘Hacker’ From Buffer Job Descriptions

***Quick update: We’re building a more inclusive Buffer! We’d love your feedback on our new Diversity Dashboard.*** 

Not too very long ago, developers at Buffer were called “hackers.”

We had front-end hackers, back-end hackers, Android hackers, iOS hackers, traction hackers.

We started using the word “hacker”in Buffer’s early days because—at the time—it felt like the most inclusive way to describe the work developers were doing. I asked our CTO Sunil to describe what the word meant to him:

“I think the original reason why we liked that word was because hackers are just people who get things to work well and fast. A ‘hacker’ doesn’t necessarily need a computer science degree or a lot of experience or need to be excellent in mind games, puzzles etc.”

Recently, as we began to grow and ramp up our hiring, Sunil noticed that Buffer was seeing a very low percentage of female candidates for developer jobs—less than 2% of candidates.

(We now receive 11 percent of applicants who identify as female.)

In researching this challenge, he met with Angie Chang, the Vice President of Hackbright Academy, an engineering fellowship for women, and discovered that the term”hacker” might be one reason why.

Angie said the “hacker” title might not be as inclusive as other titles and could be tough for many to identify with. She mentioned that many organizations that work with Hackbright often revisit their job listings in order to paint a clearer picture of what it’s like working there.

A team effort to change our job descriptions

Angie’s take on the term was great information to have, and a few months ago, Sunil opened up a discussion with the team about a name change for the “hacker” title.

hacker changeThis started a great and important conversation. The more we thought about it, the more it seemed as if the “hacker” term was no longer the best representation of the engineering roles we had and wanted to have on the team.

We wanted to be as inviting in our job listings as possible. This also seemed most in line with the way we hire, prioritizing culture fit over technical skill.

We thought about some other ways to describe the development roles on our team, including options like:

  • Engineer
  • Developer
  • Maker
  • Builder
  • Programmer
  • Specialist
  • Artisan
  • Architect
  • Helper
  • Code experimenter

Through lots of discussion, we generally agreed that engineer sounded neutral, and developer sounded the friendliest, clearest and most inclusive of all.

“Developer” is the option we ended up choosing, and the one that you’ll see today on our jobs page. (We’d love to hear how that feels to you, or if another option might be better!)

Even if titles don’t matter to us, they still matter

It’s interesting that while we were having this discussion about external job titles and descriptions, inside Buffer we were more or less doing away with job titles and descriptions as we became self-managed.

Internally, our titles weren’t important, but the outside world did not have much of a way of knowing that—and titles go a long way when someone is looking to apply for a role.

Although “clarity” is one of Buffer’s 10 values we strive to live every day, we definitely could have been doing a better job of paying attention to the connotation of every word in this case.

In putting together this post, I discovered that the wording for job descriptions is a challenge many organizations and candidates face. Here’s a great example from Hire More Women in Tech showing some of the seemingly small changes that can lead to a more diverse pool of candidates.

better job descriptions

It was eye-opening for us to realize the ways we had perhaps been implicitly biased without realizing it. In fact, there’s an awesome Storify curated by Erin Kissane on creating job descriptions that don’t alienate.

It has a ton of useful information, and I’ve learned a lot from it. Here’s just a quick peek, but definitely read the whole thing if this is a topic of interest to you!

inviting job descriptions

Can any candidate picture themselves at Buffer?

Continuing to refine the way we represent our job opportunities to the world is likely to be an ongoing challenge. We recently updated the look of our jobs page to add a bit more personality, and we made a conscious decision to randomize how team members’ photos are positioned on the page (different images show up in different spots each time you reload the page).

This felt like a way to A) acknowledge that our roles and passions are fluid in a self-managed team, and B) allow any potential candidate to have the opportunity to picture themselves in any position at Buffer.

buffer jobs page

Some diversity resources we’re digging into

As we begin to dig deeper into this important issue, we’ve been discovering a lot of great resources that I thought might be helpful to share here. Here are some of the articles, books and videos we’ve been watching, reading and studying lately:

women in engineering

gender distributon

There’s lots of work for us to do

We don’t expect applause for the small change from hacker to developer in our job descriptions.

A look at our team page shows that we have quite a ways to go in regards to both gender and overall diversity, and some of you have even been conscientious enough to share with us your thoughts on how we can improve in this area.

We hear you, and deeply thank you. There is plenty of work for us to do.

Right now, we’re working on diversity in multiple ways at Buffer. Various task forces are exploring topics including:

  • Forming a strategy to measure and understand diversity in our candidate pool
  • Creating a diversity dashboard with figures we can share each month (Update: Done! Here’s our Diversity Dashboard)
  • Forging relationships with the many organizations and groups representing underrepresented populations in tech
  • Crafting an official family leave policy for Buffer (Update: Done! Here’s our policy of self-managed family leave)

I’m excited to make progress in these areas and report back to you. We’re not there yet, but we will be.

Members of the Buffer community have been amazingly kind to share their thoughts with us about diversity. If you’ve got thoughts, ideas, or even critical feedback for us, I’d love to hear all of it in the comments.

  • This is perfect. Thank you for doing all of this great research and being a part of the conversation!

    • Thanks, Alison! Excited to share more resources with you and Zapier and keep working on creating our diversity network! :)

  • slfisher

    Really nice to read about a company making efforts in this area rather than mumbling about pipelines and letting it go at that. Thank you.

    • We have a ways to go, but it feels great to get started. Thanks for checking this one out!

  • Nice story Courtney. Recently I was listening to an interview on diversity in the workplace, and one of the things that was mentioned was that when gender roles are switched in smaller tasks that the performance of the team members improves, specifically when men do tasks that have been historically perceived as being done by women. For example, in a conference call or meeting if a man takes notes they were more engaged and had more of a “team-player” mentality. (I apologize for not remembering the source, if I find it I’ll come back and post it.)

    For me, I find that my work is much stronger and has more clarity when my team is more diverse (age, gender, ethnicity just being some ways). I always look for diversity as a sign that I will be stimulated, challenged and inspired in a work setting. Too much homogeny is a sign of potential groupthink and lack of originality.

    Good work for taking on these diversity projects!

    • Ooh, that’s so interesting! There are some similar studies mentioned at the very very end of that Google video, basically that men and women performed differently on tasks, entirely based on how they are framed. Fascinating!

  • Love this :)

    • Thanks, Jo! I have truly appreciated our conversations and you moving us forward here!

  • It’s cool to see how intentional you folks are, Courtney. Re: diversity research and dashboards, an idea comes to mind:

    What if every month, combined your data and Buzzsumo’s to get an idea of who’s sharing your content? You can drill down by region, gender, etc. It’ll help you aim to create content that resonates with diverse audiences (which, of course, is how your applicants and customers hear about you).


    • Whoa, that’s an awesome idea, Jeffrey! That addresses such an interesting challenge for us in understanding how our content spreads throughout different communities! Amazing stuff; thanks a ton for sharing your thoughts here!

  • alex

    Thank you, this was actually very eye opening. Some new considerations even for day to day language

  • YES :) So glad to see this happening. I will definitely be including this in ModivHQ’s Tech Diversity Tuesdays roundup this week. Thanks Buffer!

    • Sounds awesome; thanks so much for helping us reach out to new communities, Rachel!

  • Must admit I am shocked by the proposed reevaluated job descriptions. “average” is “dominant, stand apart, determined”, better is “community, relationships, intimately”? Or “strong” vs “proficient”, “perform” vs “collaborate”, “satisfy” vs “sensitive to” – I’m sorry, but isn’t that terribly sexist in assuming the usual stereotypes about women (love to communicate, emotional, sensitive, avoid confrontation, don’t want to compete). Sure if it works better in attracting women, use it, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (I’m male, though). The “average” examples also seem contrived to cater to stereotypes about men that also suck.

    • kgunette

      Tichy, I’m the one that pulled those descriptions from ERE to, and I agree that they’re problematic, but the larger point is that language matters. And truly, a lot of the “standard” language used in job postings turns a lot of men off too, not just women. I’d definitely say: if you think you can write better, please definitely do! Companies should look to their values and mission to guide them in how they attract talent, and write job descriptions to attract great talent.

      • Melanie Archer

        For some of us, the term “hacker” still has connotations of anti-sociability, even criminality. When I see “hacker” in a job posting, I think, “oh, so this company hires heedless script kiddies, not thoughtful professionals.” Glad to see your discussion of problematic terminology!

        • Ah, very interesting point, Melanie! I bet you’re not the only one; thanks for sharing that!

      • Sure, language matters. I just wanted to point out that the examples provided are extremely bad in my opinion. Also, some of those things mean something. For example “Competitive” might sound off-putting, but to me it would also imply that it is well paid because it is a tough job. Obviously that’s not for everyone, but perhaps not every job has to be for everyone. Perhaps some jobs really are competitive. And again, I would think it sexist to presume women don’t want to be competitive – I suppose some do, some don’t, just like men.

  • Nailah

    I was just thinking about this after seeing an article on women in social media, and there were few women of colour. I think it’s important to also see diversity outside of male vs. female in the workplace.

    • kgunette


    • Wonderful point, and I absolutely agree, Nailah! We have plenty to work on in all directions when it comes to diversity, and want to make sure to focus on all underrepresented groups in tech, including people of color. Black Girls Code is one group on my list to reach out to. If you happen to know of any others I’d be super grateful to hear about them!

      • Nailah

        That’s great to hear that you’re reaching out to Black Girls Code! But I think it’s also good to highlight existing tech folks in these diverse categories.

        Visibility is everything in terms of creating a diverse company (and) culture. I know Buffer does interviews and I think it certainly would be inspiring to do a #bufferchat with some of those individuals as it would motivate people like me and others, to apply!

        As always I love everything Buffer does and acknowledge the path to diversity is a long but a worthwhile journey :).

        • Great suggestion; thanks so very much Nailah! There are so many great directions we can go with this. :)

  • Love this…and passing it on to more members of my work community. Language is so important!

    • Thanks so much for helping us spread this one, Caitlin! Would love to hear any feedback from your community!

  • Jeff Harris

    When I recently applied for a developer job at Buffer, I included a link to my CV in the application. A couple of weeks went by and I received bad news; I wasn’t going to be offered an interview after “careful consideration”. I checked my server logs which revealed my CV hadn’t even been viewed. I don’t think Buffer has ever taken hiring seriously, or the guy in charge of hiring (Sunil?) doesn’t do his job properly. Either way I feel they are a disingenuous company and I’ve yet to hear an explanation.

    • LeoWid

      Hey Jeff, thanks so much for stopping by here! And that’s a great point, really glad you brought it up – I think we should likely explain our hiring process a bit more transparently, as I think it might be quite frustrating for some and we’re not doing a great job at it right now, especially as transparency is something we’re so excited about. I think you’re right, we’ve likely not reviewed your CV even though we’ve certainly reviewed your application.

      We’ve written a bit about it here:

      You’ll see that a lot of the components of what leads to us moving ahead with an applicant aren’t CV related and we make most of the calls based off of the application email and the Twitter feed someone has. We simply found that hiring off of CVs hasn’t helped us very much to gauge culture fit, which we consider the #1 element for us to bring someone on board.

      Hope that might be helpful, definitely keen to answer more questions you might have about our hiring process and also keen to give more thoughts on your application if you’re interested!

      • Leo, thanks for the clarification. When looking at Twitter, what exactly are you looking for? And what do you not like to see?

        • Hey there, just hopping in for Leo here! Mostly we are checking out each applicant’s social media presence as it relates to our 10 Buffer values, trying to determine whether they seem to be focusing on things that are important to us like positivity, gratitude, self-improvement, etc. It’s quite an inexact science; I’m sure we have plenty of room to improve!

          • Jess

            Considering the current online climate turning down people who aren’t active on Twitter is likely to bias you away from women/minorities. I know I’ve moved away from twitter due to Gamer Gate and related movements.

          • Wow, that’s a really great point, Jess; thanks so much for sharing that insight. We’ve been considering a move toward being a bit less Twitter-specific, and this is a great nudge to keep going in that direction!

          • Chris

            Hi Courtney – I concur with Jess. My wife is a seasoned developer but she shut down her Twitter/publicly visible social media presence because so many of her female friends and colleagues have experienced misogynistic harassment for simply existing on the internet while female.

      • Darryl D

        This is interesting to me. I too applied to a position but, didn’t get any response.

        I added my twitter account but, I’m not that active because I’m usually developing. On the other hand, much more active on Github.

        Curious to how much people are overlooked by lack of activity on social networks.

        • Hey Darryl, I’m so sorry for the really poor experience we provided you here; very keen to work on this and make it better in the future! Thank you so much for sharing your experience so we can learn from it and get better.

      • Having been in a hiring position a fair few times myself, I’ve learned that resumes are rarely very useful for developer jobs, so this bears that out.

        I read somewhere once that you only really get a feel for whether someone’s a culture fit after working with them for a few months. My own experience tends to agree with that sentiment. However, an ornery Twitter/Facebook feed could be a good early indicator of poor culture fit, heh.

  • Thank you for sharing this. It’s refreshing to read. I’ve often wondered about the diversity of Buffer, and not necessarily from a gender perspective, so I happy this is something that’s on the radar. When I’ve applied for roles and have been turned down, I’ve often looked at the Buffer team and don’t see anyone who represents me, so I’m excited to see what changes will be made and I’m excited to see someone who does look like me join the team one day, hopefully sooner than later.

    • Hey there, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and perspective so openly here. It is so very appreciated! I’m excited to get going in this direction also; I’d love for you to keep an eye on us if you get the opportunity and let us know how we’re doing.

  • Guys, whenever I see a job description from you, I instantly fall in love with it. Sorry, I have not comments on how to improve it at this time :)

  • How is diversity measured? Would a company with 80% women be said to be 30% more diverse than a company with a workforce lf 50% women? Or 30% less diverse?

    • Great question; right now we’d love to work towards seeing our pool of applicants at a 50-50 gender split, as opposed to the 99-1 split we have right now. Does that help clarify at all?

      • If it was such a great question, why didn’t you explain how you diversity is measured at Buffer?

        Let me ask another way that can be answered with a yes or no:

        Suppose you put up a job listing and 99 males and 1 female apply for the position. If you were to reword the job description so it became unattractive to 98 out of 99 male applicants, would you consider your goal of achieving a even 50/50 split successful if only 1 male and 1 female applied?

        • Hey Tom, so sorry I didn’t connect with your question the right way! No, I don’t think we’re looking to lower our number of applicants overall. I’d say we’d like to see our overall applicant numbers stay the same or grow higher while we work to achieve more gender parity. We seem to be already pretty well connected in communities where men share discussions and job opportunities (like Hacker News, for example) and now we’ll be working toward being equally well known in communities where women and other underrepresented groups gather.

          • Lisa Bari

            Wow – you are basically the nicest person ever for responding to this antagonistic question this way – extra kudos to you :)

          • I’m not trying to be antagonistic, the word ‘diversity’ is being used here in an unusual sense, and so I’m simply asking the company using the word what they mean by the term they are using.

            In the same blog post, they have also reimagined the definition of the word ‘hacker’ from the already well-known definition of the word that has been shared openly within hacker culture for the past forty years, to mean something slightly different as well:

            But no kudos to the guy *trying* to understand the blog post Buffer wrote about diversity? Instead, we’ll label him an ‘antagonist’? That’s not very inclusive language Lisa.

          • Lisa Bari

            Your understanding of what “diversity” means is off. You seem very threatened that Buffer is seeking to attract more female and non-standard applicants for technical roles. The tone you used with the author was unduly antagonistic. I thought she did a great job acknowledging you in a very polite and thoughtful way, while sticking to her point. I was giving her a compliment.

            Since we clearly disagree about the facts as well as the tone, there’s nothing to be gained from battling this out here.

          • I come from a graphic design background, where the industry is an even 50/50 split between men and women. Design classes are also an even 50/50 split. My background is an industry that *has* gender parity in all aspects.

            I’m also hardly threatened by Buffer’s hiring processes, I hire people to work for me. I just want to understand how Buffer thinks paying attention to gender is going to improve the quality of the work they produce. They’re the ones writing the blog post, I’m just trying to understand what their thinking is behind it. Suppose they achieve their goal, what does that look like? What does that mean?

            In my experience, what matters most is the quality of work an employee does. I have personally never been able to look at finished work of an employee and guess if the person was male or female based on their work (and if I could, there’s probably a quality issue in there somewhere). I also don’t pay attention to education, race, gender, age, or geographical location *at all* when working with somebody and have never looked at a resume or CV – literally the *only* thing I measure and care about is getting stuff done well. Because of this, the more people I consider to work for me, the more likely I am to find the right person for the job.

            The way I see candidacy is that you should always be open to more candidates than usual. If you decide ‘we will hire the most capable person for the job’ and you consider everybody, you will still come away from that search with the right person for the job. But if your scope is to narrow the right person for the job may not even be a candidate, and so you can only pick from the less-qualified people.

            I have been vocal in the past in encouraging organizations that don’t consider women for certain positions that there’s no harm in considering everybody for the roles. But I don’t see the value in having a certain ratio of men to women, and if there was a value in having a specific ratio, I’m even less sure that I would know what that ratio is. I’m not convinced that things work that way.

            So from my perspective, I’m curious how a focus on improving a gender ratio will result in better results in the work getting done. They could measure diversity through hair colour of employees as well, but I’m not sure having diverse hair colours would improve the quality of the work done at the end of the day.

            Does that make sense? If buffer happened to be 100% women and only wanted to hire women—all power to them! They are as free to hire who they want as I am to pick anybody (men and women) to work for me.

            I’m an egalitarian—I could have just as easily been born a woman just like all women could just as easily have been born men (and it wouldn’t make a difference to their work). At the end of the day tangible results are the measure of excellence, so results are all I measure to make decisions about how to move forward.

            (I also have two older sisters who have worked in my industry a well as one point, so I followed female role models in my own life to end up where I am today. I think your opposition to what you think I was saying above is misplaced)

          • Lisa Bari

            Ok! Now we’re getting somewhere. Thank you for explaining your perspective this way.

            I appreciate what you wrote here and I understand why you would feel that way.

            However, your perspective on diversity is missing something, I think, and I think it’s because you are a man. (I assume, who knows what profile pics are). From your perspective in a world that has been designed for you (most of the economic/political power is in the hands of men), the world seems equal. It seems that skills and talent are all that anyone should need to rise in the world – that’s the “best man/woman for the job” concept. This is how I usually feel, it’s how I want to feel. Our logical natures say – doesn’t matter who you are, what color, gender, orientation – whoever is the best should get the job, right?

            The problem with this is that the structure that underlies our society is fundamentally skewed – it rewards the dominant groups from day one. This goes as deep as subtle cues to girls that being smart isn’t something to strive for, but being pretty is. It extends to the structure of modern jobs that only work for a certain type of person – someone who is aggressive and willing/able to work 12+ hour days (if you have kids, that’s basically impossible). Because of this, women (I’m just saying women here because that’s my experience, but I understand that a diverse workforce isn’t just 50-50 women and men) drop out of certain careers or don’t even think to pursue them in the first place.

            So – yes, egalitarian is the right attitude, but we need to understand what seeded the playing field in the first place. The playing field isn’t even. There’s work that needs to be done by everyone to get more people in that candidate pool. One of the ways Buffer (I think) is trying to do this is to take a careful look at the message they are sending with their job titles. This is a real thing. I commend them for it.

            I’m not an expert in this. There are far more eloquent writers on this topic. But I’ve seen it my entire career.

          • Great discussion here, Tom and Lisa! Just wanted to hop in and say how much I appreciate both your perspectives and the awesome respectful discourse happening here. :) Lovely to see empathy and good faith communication in action!

          • I do feel very strongly about the ‘right person for the job’ and all people are equal, not equivalent but actually equal. I hear what you’re saying about ‘the ground is seeded already’ but it certainly hasn’t been my experience. I haven’t been assisted because I’m male, I’ve had to fight for every dollar I’ve earned.

            I was employed at a company (4 women and 3 men for those counting) at the time I made the leap to freelance. I was ‘unemployed’ with no safety net underneath me, and completely on my own for survival. Nobody gave me money simply because I was a man. When clients (also male) stiffed me as a naive young freelancer (and it happened 3x in the first 2 years) nobody at the electric company agreed to keep my lights on because I was a guy. Nobody at the grocery store would give me food for free because I was a man. I have to pull my own weight like everybody else.

            This world we live in is hostile to *all* of us ‘highly adorned apes’, and as adults who have chosen not to live off the land and self-sustain, we must trade something of value to other apes who have the goods and services we need to survive. This is *reality*, and gender matters so little in this struggle of life I haven’t noticed it at all in the past four years. Honest question: So what if half of the people I work with are women, how does that do a better job putting food on my table?

            If I need to hire an animator (and I do), I won’t pick a man because I’m a guy and he’s a guy. I wouldn’t pick a woman because she’s a woman either – if I need a video created I need it done well and my measure is quality. Currently I’m debating between a Canadian male videographer and an Israeli female animator, and I’m leaning toward the animator because I like her work and can see her doing a good job on this project. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a different need and be able to work with the guy later at some point as well. Do I know if this israeli girl even went to school? Nope. I don’t know if the male videographer is educated either. Any barriers males in canada or females in israel faced seeking higher education didn’t come into play when it comes to them finding work, I’ll hire the best person for the job. All of the ways you mentioned in which the ‘field is seeded’ are also things that don’t seem to matter very much at the end of the day.

            Have you ever had an ethnic friend who was quick to insert racism into situations where it wasn’t even applicable? “Oh he just said that because I’m Greek!” or phrases like that? It’s usually not true, and simply reveals the imaginary barriers perceived within the speakers own mind that holds them back. I often hear male colleagues face challenges and say things like “It’s really hard to do this” where female colleagues facing the same challenge attribute it to a glass ceiling effect, or other gender-related causes for the same problem. Why can’t our experience as men and women be similar? Why does an issue have to be a gender-related issue if it happens to occur to the half of the worlds population with internal genitalia, but the same issue occurring to the half of the worlds population with external genitalia it’s not gender related?

            When you look at the top of society you see more successful men than successful women, but when you look at the bottom of society you also see more men than women there too. Why is that? Are men privileged, cursed, or both!? Could it just be that men are more likely than women to take high-risk/high-reward opportunities. I have never once heard a person suggest that women are underrepresented in the numbers of dead soldiers on the battlefield, or that we shouldn’t rest until the incarceration rate of females matches that of males. Why is gender parity only crucial at the top of society? Shouldn’t the same people advocating gender-based ratios in the workforce also be pushing for more penniless female gamblers with shattered lives, higher rates of women successfully committing suicide (men are statistically much more successful at suicide when attempting it). It would be ludicrous and ‘sexist’ to suggest that women should be equally represented at the bottom of society, but that’s the same argument I’m seeing above for women in edifying endeavours.

            If you want to see what gender disparity looks like from a male perspective, this will be very eye opening:

            We don’t need more women in STEM, we don’t need more women in tech. They have already BEEN there, from the start, and much of what our generation is labelling ‘mens work’ was just as incorrectly labelled ‘womens work’ in the past. If women want these jobs they’ll apply for them, if they don’t they won’t. Women are already free to make up their minds and they are, trying to shift things around for the intent of manipulating women to apply in higher numbers seems like it’s artificially limiting something. It feels like somebody saying: “We need more women in dresses. Women should be free to wear dresses whenever they want, but they aren’t, so we need to encourage them to express their free choice by making them choose to wear a dress” It feels contrived to me.

            Here’s a little history of what the tech industry looked like our grandparents generation:

  • Claudiu Murariu

    Dedicating time and resources for this issue is great. Kudos to you Buffer!

    However, I believe time/resources should be reserved (by everyone, not just you) for the other side of the coin as well: why do women see the hacker term uninviting? “Hacker” tells a lot about someone skills, just in one word. The simple fact that someone identifies himself as a hacker tells a lot about his self confidence.

    I would love to see more women hackers as indeed, it’s a male dominated world. It would be crazy/stupid to think that women can’t hack.

    • Hey there Claudiu! Such an interesting question to ask, and I think you hit the nail on the head with the word “confidence.” Women tend to have less of it than men, for reasons that I think are mostly societal (at least in the U.S.) That means there is room to work on this challenge in lots of ways, including getting girls interested in and confident about technology from an early age! (I found this article interesting on this topic:

  • It’s nice to see Buffer is looking at making copy more open to diversity. I never really thought about how much words changed my perception of things but I’d definitely be reluctant to answer a “hacker” job.

    In marketing for example, I’m watching the growth hacking community closely but I sometimes feel like overall language used there is mostly masculine. I can’t really explain it and it’s a very subjective point of view but I have a hard time feeling like a real part of this community.

    To be honest I’ve always loved Buffer because I think your values are universal (positivity, transparency, self-improvement…) and really uplifting. When I read about your company, I feel inspired to improve my own work as a marketer. You are doing an amazing job and I don’t feel the word hacker fitted these values. While its meaning has changed in the past years, it still has a “dark” connotation that clashes with what you try to put out there.

    One last thing about equality in the work place, and especially women in tech. I recently joined this group on I like the fact that tech doesn’t mean developers only. I actually am looking forward to speaking with other content writers and marketers in the tech industry.

    • Ooh, that looks like a great group, Aurelie! I’ve requested an invite; thanks for the heads up on that one! Thanks so much for sharing your insights on the word hacker, particularly around growth hacking it seems like there’s a great conversation to be had! Your kind words about Buffer mean the world to us!

      • Glad to help with the group. I joined few days ago and I am really curious to see how others feel about the tech industry. I saw few men joined too so it will be interesting to have both parties opinions. I hope I’ll see you around there :).
        I’m thinking more and more about growth hacking, maybe I’ll start a discussion about it on Inbound or write an article. There’s definitely something there.

  • No feedback [yet]. Just smiles. And thumbs up. :)

    • Thanks, Thea! Always feels great to have your support! :)

  • C.Kinney

    This is a great article, and connects with something that I experienced just the other day.

    Working in higher education, I had the privilege of working with a student who was hoping to pursue a degree in computer science/computer engineering, but after looking into the “suggested careers” she began doubting her choice due to the high percentage of males in the field. Although this article doesn’t directly discuss this topic, it shows that you (and hopefully others) are looking for diversity in your applicants, and that includes gender. This article has now forwarded to her, and bookmarked as a future resource to encourage women to pursue these types of careers.

    I really appreciate Buffer for being intentional with their language as a whole, but this just goes to show you that you want to live your companies values to the fullest.

    • Oh wow, thanks so much for passing this piece along and for the encouragement here. It means the world to us!

  • Lisa Bari

    This is really great. Long story short, but the term “hacker” is now used in the marketing community as part of “growth hacker”, and as far as I can tell, it’s a gendered term that more often than not is a subtle cue for “we want to hire a man”. It’s frustrating for those of us who have done data-driven acquisition marketing for years. As a manager of people and someone who has done a lot of hiring in the recent past, it’s great to think critically about how job descriptions are written to attract or repel a more diverse group of employees. Good stuff – thanks for writing about this!

    • Thanks so much for reading, and for sharing your thoughts here, Lisa! Feels like someone from the growth hacking community might have an interesting conversation or blog post digging into that terminology!

    • Hi Lisa,
      So it’s not just me! I have the exact same feeling about growth hacker and was wondering if it’s me being crazy or if other women feel the same.
      Courtney, I think there’s definitely an article there and I’d love to see some research on the subject.

  • You’re totally right. The world ‘hacker’ actually terrifies me, and I don’t think I would ever apply for a job with that name. Once you read the description though, it starts to make sense. We recently wrote a blog post about temporary staffing account managers, and realized that we’ve only had women apply and only have women in our office. Oops!

    • Oh wow, that’s so interesting! The way we interpret language is really fascinating. :)

  • MichaĹ‚ Matyas

    You forgot to mention if those changes you made actually had any impact on the low pool of female candidates for the jobs :)

    • Very true, Michal! At the time of this writing, we weren’t quite able to measure the impact on the candidate pool. Focusing on the demographics of each individual candidate felt like it could potentially produce MORE bias instead of LESS so we took a while to come up with a solution that gives us demographic data in the aggregate without attaching it to a specific candidate. We’ve had this system running for a few weeks now and we’re excited to share as soon as we have a good data set!

      • MichaĹ‚ Matyas

        Hey, it’s been almost half a year now, can you share your results? :)

  • It’s wonderful to see how thoughtful you are about the implications of something most don’t really consider. I’m curious how it’s going – do you find that you are getting a more diverse set of applicants?

    • Great question! It took us a while to figure out how to track demographic data of our candidate pool in a way that felt transparent, clear and ethical (and didn’t accidentally produce bias instead of prevent it). We began collecting data on May 13 so we’ll have a full month really soon and can begin to analyze and share!

      • Nice, I look forward to reading about it when you have data to share. Thanks Courtney!

  • I think it may also be important to note that diversity may not always be visible. Look at my face and my name. Would you think I’m Hispanic? Probably not. But I am. :-)

    • Hey Michelle! Yup, this is such a great point; super important to remember!

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