A few weeks back we celebrated Renee’s one year anniversary at OATV.
Our first generic blog post generated one or two applications from women. Our second, with an explicit invitation for women to apply, generated 30-40 more.
We took some heat for our specific request from more women applicants but we believe, and anyone who’s met Renee over the last year will attest, we hired the very best candidate regardless of gender.
Shortly after Renee joined we were chatting in my office when she casually mentioned that she’d, in fact, seen the first blog post but didn’t apply because she assumed the job would go to a guy. When she saw the second post she applied, and we’re very fortunate she did.
I was reminded of this conversation after watching my friend Marc Hedlund deliver a moving Ignite talk this weekend about a program he ran at Etsy, with a specific invitation and grant program targeted at women developers.
Liz Gannes of All Things D wrote a bit about the program and described it as follows:
In April, Hedlund advertised $5,000 in grants for women to attend a three-month program to turn people with a passion for programming into professional engineers. It’s called Hacker School, and it takes place in New York this summer. He also volunteered to host the session at Etsy’s Brooklyn office.
Here’s where my conversation with Renee comes into play:
After having one female student in all of it’s past three classes, the current batch at Hacker School now has 23 women out of 53 students, said co-founder Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock. That’s still under half of enrollment, but some 661 women applied for the summer program, with an enormous bump following Hedlund’s announcement.
From one woman across three Hacker School classes to 23 women in one class. From a historical average of single digets of female applicants per class to 661.
Certainly the grant money was an incentive for many, but I’m equally certain the explicit invitation to participate, to be welcomed as peers, was an overriding factor as well. The article ends with an observation from Marc:
After dropping in on the gender-balanced Hacker School classes, Hedlund said, “It almost feels like time travel, more futuristic than any technology project I’ve seen: A trip to the future of what our industry should and will look like.”
As a father of 4 girls, Marc’s closing comments captured what I hope the future looks like for my daughters.
But, in the present, I hope we’ll see more invitations and more outreach to the women within and on the perimeter of our technology and startup communities.
I applaud the efforts of Marc and Etsy and hope we’ll see others follow their lead.