How Etsy is Decreasing the Programmer Gender Gap

Some studies suggest that cognitively diverse work teams are more successful than teams where members are highly similar. Whether or not this is true, creating diverse teams isn’t necessarily easy, especially in certain industries.

For Etsy, which has an 80% female client base, having a tech team with a gender discrepancy of 3 to 47 was a problem. In 2011, the company decided to make recruiting female engineers a top priority; however,  by the end of the year, they had added one woman, along with 40 men, which in fact drove the gender balance down and additional 35%.

Since senior, female programmers are extremely sought after, instead of trying to lure them in, Etsy took a different approach. They invested in training junior techs by providing $50,000 in scholarships to Hacker School’s summer 2012 term.

Hacker School runs three, 12 week sessions in New York City each year aimed at helping students become better programmers. It’s free to attend but you have to live in the city for three months, which obviously isn’t free.  That’s where the Etsy money helps out.

Through the use of social media, Etsy promoted their grant program, which generated 661 female applications, up from 7 over the previous session. More than 50% of the class ended up being female and five were hired by Etsy upon completion. Clearly, this strategy was a huge success! Another great spin-off…the buzz created by this innovative recruiting strategy prompted some very high-level candidates to approach Etsy regarding job opportunities.

Currently, Etsy has 20 women on their 110-person engineering team and they have continued with the Hacker School grant program.

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