Eight out of ten Etsy customers are women. Half of the company’s staff is female. But out of a team of 47 engineers, only three were women in 2011. After concentrating on hiring more females for a year Etsy actually experienced a 35 percent decline in gender diversity.
After that the company created a package of grants to target women participants in its Hacker School, a program for young engineers. Though the program was free, living in New York is not, and a couple-thousand-dollar grant could really entice someone to take the opportunity. Perhaps even more importantly, by aggressively promoting the grants to young women, Etsy signaled: Please come. We want you! In the first year of the grant program, female applications to the Hacker School shot way up, and the result was an entering class that was half women.
In the spring program before grants were available, only three female applicants were accepted, and just one -- one! -- attended. Once the grants were in place, 24 women were accepted, 23 of whom attended. Of this pool, Etsy hired five women and three men (as of October at least, when the talk was given, though it was only recently posted) from its Hacker School Summer 2012 class. Additionally, the visibility of their effort attracted the attention of women engineers in more senior positions at other companies, which led to interest in working at Etsy. Their 110-person team had 20 women as of October 2012 -- still a small number, but 400 percent growth since 2011.
To read more about Etsy’s hiring practices from the Atlantic, please click here.