3 Things You Can Do To Increase Your Female Engineering Hires

I run a small technical recruiting company.  We hire mostly engineers and IT professionals.  It’s a good group to go after – they’re educated and higher level wage earners which typically cascades itself into other traits that are nice to work with – career focused, courteous, responsible, etc.  Because the technical demographic we go after – to be fair – it’s mostly men we have to deal with.  As any company who is trying to hire technical professionals can attest it is really difficult to hire minorities and/or females in the technical disciplines. Tough, but not impossible!

The one thing we hear all the time from almost every company we work with is, “Hey, if you ever come across any female or minority engineers let us know – we would be interested.”  Which begs the question – “Do you want me to find you a female or minority engineer?”  Of course they do!  But these good respecting HR Pros we work with will never say that because they think it’s against the law to say that.  Which it isn’t. But they assume it is, because saying the opposite would be!  (I.E., “Please don’t give us any female or minority engineers!”)  I won’t say the name of our client, but one Fortune 500 manufacturer we work with does actually use us for minority hiring and will say very specifically what they want.  Like they’re ordering a pizza!  It doesn’t bother me, because I know what they are trying to do is ‘right’ – they are attempting to have a positive impact on their diversity – I can support that!

I saw this from Etsy recently on how they increased their female engineering hires by 500%! Don’t go crazy – it was 20 hires – but still impressive.  Again, they’re a female dominated company, so as you can imagine that having female engineers was important to them, and you could probably also imagine females would be attracted to a female oriented company. From the article:

“Most technical interviews suck – fundamentally interviewers ask the question, “Quick, prove to me how smart you are!” “Smart” is not optional. “Quick” and “prove to me” are very rarely actually part of the job and you’re interviewing for the wrong thing – which generally sets up women for failure in the process…after two years, female engineers at Etsy are nearly 20% of the team, four and a half times what they numbered at the start of the initiative. When reached for comment, Etsy’s corporate communications would not comment on the current number of female engineering staffers, but told FORBES that the coming months would see the company making women a even bigger priority, particularly in the wake of the media coverage sparked by Elliott-McCrae’s presentation. After all, roughly 80% of the over 800,000 shops on the site are owned and operated by women. At a certain point, they should be represented from within the company’s ranks.”

So, how did Esty do it?  How did they increase their female engineering hires?  I’ll give you 3 things they did:

Step 1   Make it known publicly you want to hire women!  Too many companies decide behind closed doors this is something they want to do in their organization, but then never go the next step and let their staff know, let their industry know, etc.!  And not only that, but let your staff know why this is important!

Step 2  Don’t lower the hiring standard.  The first thing most companies do when an initiative like this becomes hot, is lower the standard. “Oh, you want more women. Ok, you need to allow us to hire entry levels and from ‘B’ level schools!” Don’t do that, you’ll marginalize the entire program and your people and your candidates will know it!

Step 3  Put women in charge of hiring women.  It’s Ok to have different hiring processes if they are both getting you, in the end, what you want as an organization.  You can make two interview decks, one for woman and one for men, that are both still valid and reliable.  It’s just hard, so 99.9% of you won’t do it. Have your female leaders interview your female candidates – they will do a better job at selecting female talent, especially if this is a huge organizational weakness you’re trying to correct!

The more you hire of any kind of person, they more your organization will start to take on those traits.  The more women you hire, the easier it will be to hire more.  It doesn’t happen overnight – but you can do it!

4 thoughts on “3 Things You Can Do To Increase Your Female Engineering Hires

  1. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an
    e-mail. I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

  2. Great piece Tim. At Kira Talent over 40% of our development team is female and your advice is sound. We’ve had some fantastic success hiring from the University of Waterloo – first rate co-op students with a tonne of relevant experience.

    Our CTO Konrad has shared some tips that parallel your comments on our blog. Here is a quick link for any of your readers who want to dive a little deeper into this topic.


  3. Thanks for sharing, Tim.

    I never actually considered the “have women interview women” concept in any meaningful way. It always seemed as if it was biasing the process in some way, and I am also of the mindset that any candidate will have to interact with men and women in their day to day role. If a woman can only build rapport with a woman/a minority can only build rapport with someone of the same race/ethnicity/religion etc. then I am setting them up for failure by designing my interview process that way.

    With that said, it’s an interesting strategy…

    Keep writing (and enjoy your weekend).



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.