While we were talking about the barriers outside of Silicon Valley facing certain kinds of people when trying to make it in, Etsy was busy fixing the problem. Because of its strong female demographic — 67 percent, according to Quantcast — the craft e-market wanted to hire some female engineers to reflect the user base. But even when a concerted effort resulted in four women on a staff of 85, the cutesy retail site actually went and did something about it, as The Atlantic's Rebecca Rosen notes:
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.
Thanks to Etsy's grants for a three-month intensive program in New York that describes itself a "writers retreat for hackers," female attendance went from one to 23. Etsy hired five of those women.
The rest of Silicon Valley should listen up: Intentions aren't good enough. Even when a company abides by the so-called Silicon Valley meritocracy (which isn't backed up by the numbers), other factors can prohibit entry for certain groups. Good news bears from Etsy, though: Things can change.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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