Last week, I wrote about a tech event I attended that threw some lip service towards the lack of ladies in tech but didn’t bother to address the “how”*. Wouldn’t it be great if there were more female engineers? Why yes, that would be awesome! Look, we’ve done our part! Hoorah! Pats on the back for all!
Oh wait, no… you mean we’re not there yet? This is like telling your friends you’re going to run the marathon and congratulating yourself on your commitment to fitness without ever actually setting foot on the treadmill. When the race rolls around and you’re not pounding the pavement, you don’t get kudos for having preemptively promised to do something before you realized how hard it was going to be. If you want the points, you have to actually do the work.
So who is doing the work? This week, two excellent examples landed in my internet-lap of companies and organizations that are not just nodding along but are actually putting their money behind these initiatives. Dev Bootcamp is hosting a one-day workshop in Chicago next week for aspiring developers. 60% of the participants are female. However did they accomplish this? On their blog, they itemized a few of the small things they did to encourage this split. For example:
1) One of the instructors is female, they listed her name first on the invitation
2) The first 24 hours, they publicized exclusively through female dev networks.
3) Yoga is part of the day-long program.
The event is not specifically for women, but some of these easy changes made it explicitly clear that this environment will be the opposite of hostile to female students. By reaching out directly to female networks first, Dev Bootcamp is saying, “Yes, this is for you! Come! We want you here!” as opposed to, “I guess we won’t complain if a few of you find your way here by accident…”
You all know Etsy, right? The CTO of Etsy is a guy named Kellan Elliot-McCrea. The video below is kind of long (18 minutes), but I’d say it’s worth it. It’s his presentation on a) why a diverse technical team is important, and b) how Etsy went from 4 to 20% female engineers, and I found it super inspiring.
As for why it’s important, Elliot-McCrea cites research on how teams with cognitive diversity create stronger products. He also points to research that shows upcoming classes of computer scientists out of top universities have more and more women (40% out of Harvard in 2013). If you’re not actively recruiting female talent, you will miss out on the top tier. As for the “how”, you might be familiar with the Etsy Hacker Grants. By funding female candidates at Hacker School’s summer program, Etsy was able to groom engineers for their teams and strengthen potential candidates with targeted learning. The funding for their grants is an expense, certainly, but as Elliot-McCrea points out, it often costs $10K or $20K in recruiting efforts to land talented engineers anyway. If you’ve decided diversity is important, as Etsy did, then the question is how you target your funds to get the most bang for your buck.
Anyway, his talk is good. Watch it.
*To their credit, the Technori guys read my critique and have reached out to discuss further. I don’t think they’re pleased with the trolls either.
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Related Post: Lessons from the Women 2.0 Conference.