An Online Company Takes a Risk to Boost Female Engineer Hiring

Despite having earned illustrious labels like brainac, innovator, and sometimes even genius, the professionals in Silicon Valley and similar technology capitols have continued to come up short when it comes to hiring women. Etsy recently gambled on one solution to this gaping problem by way of unconventional thinking. As it turns out, the rewards were worth the risk; 500 times worth to be exact.

The typical hiring of talented engineers usually involves the scraping of Ivy League graduate pools, followed by poaching from competitors. When narrowed to to talented female engineers, the pool becomes miniscule and the process less successful. By forgoing seasoned, senior female engineers and opting to train junior women for potential hire, Etsy increased its dismal, yet common number of three female engineer employees in 2011 to 20 in 2013 (as of print.) Not only is this an impressive leap forward, but the online boutique company will undoubtedly benefit from having a staff that better reflects its customer base. The key was partnering with other companies to fund a training program that would attract candidates ready to learn, Etsy CTO Kellan Elliott-McCrea told Fast Company

Born from collaborative and funded efforts by Etsy, 37Signals, and Yammer, the training program allowed 23 women (out of 600 applicants) participated in a Hacker School session in summer 2012. The women received $7000 grants to cover their living expenses. At the end of the summer, Etsy ended up hiring 6 females from that particular session, and inadvertently drawing the attention of senior-level men and women candidates, a few of which were ultimately hired. If diverse workspace are likely to attract more senior-level women hires, as these women have sometimes claimed, then the return on Etsy's genius investment will prove invaluable. 

Are you or someone you know interested in applying for Etsy's 2013 Hacker School Grants for Women? Head here to apply by March 28 for the 2013 summer session. Hackbright Academy also provides a three-month program exclusively for women interested in learning modern web development and fostering career opportunities.  

Photo: Susan Fitzgerald/Etsy