More women in engineering: Something that ACTUALLY WORKED.


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  • \n
  • patient\nnot my normal talk: scalability, architecture, engineering culture. \ndifferent. something i don’t know much about. \nnot a solved problem. so i’m going to be talking about our experience of it.\n
  • 3 years ago set out to rebuild Etsy Engineering org. largely from scratch.\nGoals: kick-ass, flexible, full stack, integrated.\nAnd we wanted to make hiring for: culture fit, and a diversity, particularly gender diversity a priority.\n
  • 1 year in to the rebuild process.\n47 engineers: two senior, 1 junior\n
  • 2yrs in. we have a kickass team. we’re happy except.\nsame 2 senior engineers, 1 junior left, and we hired two more. \nafter a year of saying it was a priority.\n
  • a year later. we have a kickass team. we’re happy except.\nsame 2 senior engineers, 1 junior left, and we hired two more. \nafter a year of saying it was a priority.\n
  • So I went asking questions to try to figure out what it was.\n
  • but first though. why? why do we care? is there a problem. \ni’m going to assume you’re all on board.\nthat’s important to have diverse representation in profession\nnoticeable absence of women in software engineering is troubling.\n
  • how many folks have 50% or more of their engineering team are women?\na reminder 2yrs in on making a priority, etsy was at 4.5%\n20%, 10%, 5%, none?\nimportant to increase? actively working on it? frustrated? hard work, harder then it should be.\n
  • and that’s not unique to Etsy. a majority of purchasing decisions online are controlled by women.\nit’s not that somehow women engineers will magically understand our customers better\non a chromosomal level. but there are shared experiences and interests. \nand frankly it makes our team less off putting to our customers.\n
  • fully half of our staff are women. and we had an unfortunate boys vs girls dynamic.\n\n
  • i’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years, i love doing it. i think everyone should be able to do it if they want to.\n
  • there is solid research coming out right now that teams with a diverse sets of skills and backgrounds\nare better at solving hard problems. \n
  • one of the things we’ve learned is its easier to hire women if you have women on your team.\ncandidates: collaboration, group learning, situational awareness, communication.\nthe people you want for leaders in your org want to work at a company who wants women\n
  • so what wasn’t working about what we’d been trying.\n
  • walking into our org and not seeing many women wasn’t very convincing to candidates.\n
  • this is important. and was a message i heard very consistently.\nmany work environments are hostile to being a women in engineering. not all, but many.\nwhich means if they’ve got a good thing going, it’s a high risk for them to switch.\nhow convince your potential women technical leaders you don’t suck?\n
  • so if hiring great women engineers is so hard. the natural thing to do is lower your standards. supply&demand, right?\nunfortunately, re-inforces the conscious or subconscious that women aren’t good engineers.\nmakes the job of the women you already have working for you harder.\n
  • we all know that most technical interviewing sucks. it’s what we were trained on.\nwhiteboard coding is a terrible way to evaluate candidates. \nand as a left hander it especially sucks.\n
  • more technical interviews are a formulation of the question.\n
  • smart isn’t optional. turns out “quick” and “prove it to me” aren’t part of the core job.\ninterviews select against candidates: good at listening, good at learning from others, \nawareness, collaboration, admitting mistakes, humility.\nall useful skills.\n
  • so that’s why we saw the decline over 12 months of saying hiring for diversity was a priority.\n
  • over those 24 months we tried a lot of things. clearly none of them worked. \nlast Fall we hired Marc Hedlund to be our VP of Eng. He’s an amazing eng manager,\nand passionate about this topic. Most of the work I’m about to talk about he led.\nCouldn’t be here today.\n
  • we found a group in New York. they seemed awesome. 3 month free program. \nfocused on teaching people who know some programming to be great developers.\n
  • they spend the summer working in teams, hacking on open source\nreal skills. the kind of engineers you want to hire.\n
  • and they have these great rules which they describe as “human friendly”.\nbut we thought they were great for women engineers.\n\n
  • but they only had 1 women in their spring program.\nso we thought. let’s put together a program. to fix that.\n
  • some of the research that comes out of CMU is that women in STEM classes\nwhere 50% of participant are women, do great. less then 50% they do increasingly poorly.\nso we thought we could change the ratio by putting $$ on it.\n
  • and we asked our community to get the word out. Etsy is a women friendly community already\nand have the word get out over social channels was awesome.\n
  • We got a ton of media coverage, journalism, twitter, blogs, newspaper.\nAnonymous, the international hacking organization thought it was AWESOME that we wanted more women engineers\n
  • so what happened.\nwe got a ton of applicants!!\nlandslide.\n
  • so that worked.\n
  • it was an awesome summer. this was the first day.\nthis is the Etsy office. looks kind of like you’d expect\n\n
  • fascinating to watch these gender balanced groups hacking on:\nweb apps, event frameworks, ML projects, window managers, \nsubmitting patches to BPython, and CSS preprocessors.\nSerious hard core hacking.\n
  • Most of the attendees are at the beginning of their career. And they were like,\n“Oh, this is cool that there are women here”. But it was total normal, not a big deal.\nLess of a big deal then discovering Lisp. Which is how it should be.\n
  • \n
  • this quote from Martha is the other thing we heard a lot.\nbtw today is Martha’s first day on the job at Etsy.\n
  • also it turns out selecting for diversity, selects for diversity across a range.\nthis is a quote from David’s blog post. about hacker school.\ndavid is deaf.\n
  • so the summer was a blast. what were the outcomes? thats a 4x increase in diversity in 12 months.\n\n
  • and we started getting these kinds of emails. I love what you’re doing, I want to be a part of it.\nI’ve gotten 5 of these from people whose name you’d recognize. 3 women, 2 men.\nwe’ve hired two of them.\n
  • why?\n
  • one thing we heard a lot is the grants+our enthusiasm made people feel they were actually wanted.\n
  • putting money on it is important.\nbut also just making a really public declaration with *follow through* was novel.\n
  • this is important. we spent 3 months getting data about potential candidates\nwe had data on project based work, and real code to evaluate.\nand we knew them socially.\n
  • and more data meant we could actually take a risk on the hiring standards.\nif we’re excited about a candidate, but they “weren’t quite there”, normally we’d optimize for fail fast\nbut with hacker school candidates, it was less risky then a normal hire. we had data.\nand it’s an INVESTMENT. more diverse hires now, more great diverse hires later.\n
  • so again, what was broken\n
  • and what we found that seemed to work. again this is my experience. \nthis isn’t a solved problem. i can’t tell you how to operationalize it.\nnow i need more data. we need to know what’s working for you. get the cross sectional info.\n\n
  • \n
  • More women in engineering: Something that ACTUALLY WORKED.

    1. 1. More women inengineeringSomething that ACTUALLY WORKED.Kellan Elliott-McCrea@kellanEtsy, CTO
    2. 2. ?
    3. 3. A quick history
    4. 4. Jan 201147 engineers: 44 men, 3 women.
    5. 5. Dec 201185 engineers: 81 men, 4 women.a 35% decline in gender diversity
    6. 6. Something wasn’tworking.a 35% decline in gender diversity
    7. 7. ?
    8. 8. Why?
    9. 9.
    10. 10. Why?80% of our customers arewomen.
    11. 11. Why?50% of our staff arewomen.
    12. 12. Why?I love beingan engineer.
    13. 13. Why?Cognitive diversity * Nosh at Kellogg. * Malone at Sloane.
    14. 14. Why?Better recruitingopportunities.41% of Harvard’s CompSci class of 2013 arewomen.
    15. 15. ?
    16. 16. Just sayinginternally wasn’tThere was no reason for an outside observerto believe us.
    17. 17. Switching costs arehigh.Great engineers aren’t looking for a job.Great women engineers aren’t looking for ajob, and there is a decent chance your
    18. 18. Lowering standardsis counter-Leads to a long term downward spiral.
    19. 19. Most technicalinterviews suck.Biased against a diverse range of folksincluding: introverts, and left handed people.
    20. 20. “Quick, prove to me how smart you
    21. 21. “Quick, prove to me how smart you
    22. 22. What we learned.* just saying it internally isn’t credible* switching cost make hiring great womenengineers especially hard* lowering your standards is actively harmful* most technical interviews suck, andundermine your diversity goals
    23. 23. The thing that ACTUALLYWORKED.
    24. 24. Etsy offeredWhat we Hacker Grants • Etsy sponsored the summer session of Hacker School • Expected 40 students, aimed for 20+ women • Offered 10, $5,000 needs- based scholarships for women to attend • Class is free, but NYC isn’t
    25. 25. “We’re asking everyone in the Etsycommunity, and everyone who readsthis post, to help us spread the wordto women they know who lovehacking. If you know a woman whohas made an awesome personalwebsite, a great iPhone app, oranything of the sort, pleaseencourage her to apply.” - MarcHedlund, Etsy VP of Engineering
    26. 26. Hacker School 661 women 7 women 140 men 182 men Spring 2012 (before grants) Summer 2012 (with grants)
    27. 27. The batchWho showed up? • Spring (before grants) • 7 women applied, 3 accepted, only 1 attended • Summer (with grants) • 661 women applied, 24 accepted, 23 attended
    28. 28. "The people here are phenomenal. I neverrealized the impact of being the only femalein the room until I wasn’t. Every person hereis smart, interesting, funny, supportive,capable, and very different from oneanother. The skill sets vary from designer,web developer, pastry chef, functionalprogrammer, physics postdoc,astrophysicist, financial analyst, CS student,hardware engineer, etc, etc. I’m inspired byall of them."- Martha Kelly , Etsy Engineer. Start date Oct3,
    29. 29. “This is how it should be.batch[3]‘s balanced genderratio didn’t seem like a hugedeal at the time. It just feltnormal, really.” - DavidPeterCompSci major @ RIT
    30. 30. After the Summer* we hired 8 hacker school candidates. 5women, and 3 men.* weve renewed the grant for the Fall* we have 20 women on our 110 personengineering team
    31. 31. Very seniorcandidates.“I saw Etsys work on HackerSchool, I saw what youre doingwith the B-Corp certification, and Iwant to be a part of that.”
    32. 32. So that worked.
    33. 33. The grants felt likea "real invitation".
    34. 34. We’re seen to beactually working at
    35. 35. More data, betterhiring.
    36. 36. More data, betterrisks.The one thing we changed aboutour hiring standard.
    37. 37. What we learned.* just saying it internally isn’t credible* switching cost make hiring great womenengineers especially hard* lowering your standards is actively harmful* most technical interviews suck, andundermine your diversity goals
    38. 38. Design parametersfor a solution* serious, but inviting* balanced* optimize for “let’s build together”* optimize for data gathering* normalized within your own organization* very public.
    39. 39. Thank you!