In a less than two-year period, Etsy quintupled the number of women on its engineering staff, and made other gains in the process.
Etsy has a pretty female vibe. About 80 percent of its customers are women. So is about 50 percent of its staff. But until very recently, there was one part of the company that looked quite different: the engineering team, which had three women on a team of 47 in early 2011.
This created what Etsy CTO Kellan Elliott-McCrea calls a "really unfortunate boys vs. girls dynamic." The boys sat over here, the girls over there, and the two sides were split right down the middle by gender. Etsy's senior staff decided to try to hire more women engineers, a process Elliott-McCrea described in a recent talk at a the First Round Capital CTO Summit.
Easier said than done. By the end of the year, the engineering team had ballooned to 85 people, just four of whom were women -- a 35 percent decline in gender diversity "over a year when," as Elliott-McCrea put it, "we were saying: It's *really* important. We're really working hard on this."
Saying diversity was a value wasn't enough. Etsy decided to put some real muscle behind its priority, developing a package of grants that would be targeted at 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.