Hiring girls is difficult (because very few work in the space)

We have very few girls in our team and we want to hire more.

In order to hire people, we can do two things:

– Search for people (search on linkedin, twitter, angellist, etc.)
– Wait for people (put up job offers, and wait for candidates)

For the first one, we can search specifically for girls and just filter guys. We’ve done that lately.
For the second one, I feel it is wrong to write “Apply only if you are a girl”.

The thing is that we get much fewer female applicants, which is no wonder. I searched on my LinkedIn “Data Scientist”, and I got 10 girls on my first 100 search results, many of whom where totally inaccessible to us from a seniority or location point of view (all 10 of them were in SF, possibly Stanford grads, and we are not). The same happens at meetups. We go to startup meetups, we meet coders or data scientists looking for jobs, speak with them and invite them to an interview. And they are often guys, because more of them happen to go to those meetups.

The main challenge comes when we actually do get a female candidate. We don’t discard a single one on resume. We see all of them. We discard about 80% of guys on resume. But even so, we get to see 4 guys to 1 girl or so. In the interviews, we help the girls shine, because we actually want to hire them, but then, one of the other 4 guys shows just an amazing performance, for whatever reason, truly impressive, like he has done many more things than the girl (and than the other candidates), can show more amazing code, personal projects, etc. And we think: “If the girl was a guy, she would not be on the race with this guy, just like the other male candidates are totally discarded now”. Should we let this amazing coding guy go? It’s not easy to find amazing coders either, you know? And so far we have gone with the PERSON we thought was best suited to give more to the team, regardless of the sex. We believe in equality of opportunities, but equality of opportunities also means that the best interview, the most proof of past track record and best performance during our tests should be rewarded, regardless of the name of the applicants.

I would be surprised if this was not the case with many other startups. Thoughts? Best practices?


  • Not only is it wrong to specify that only females should apply, I believe it’s also illegal. I’m no attorney, so don’t quote me on that.

  • I think your going about it all wrong. Politics aside you need to hire the best people who be the best for the business. If a female comes along and has what your looking for hire her but don’t go searching for one like a trophy. Hire the guy and keep producing. And stop jumping on the novelty band wagon.

    • Problem in that line of thought is that the “best people” are in large majority given an unknowingly unfair advantage. The goal of this effort isn’t to acquire a trophy it is to strengthen a large portion of the population.

      • If she can do the job. Its like hiring a minority just to fire them. If you cannot do the work don’t hire them its that simple.

        • As a young woman. You’re doing it wrong!

          Have you heard of femgineer, or Skillcrush? cuz’ you should look into having a ‘femgineer’ event to attract talent.

          Having a woman on board will give you an upper hand. We’re more resilient And offer ‘details, details, details’ which can help your endeavor in ways you can’t see yet.

  • Reason #1 why you’re having difficulty… you’re calling them girls. If you’re looking for someone of this professional quality, you’re looking for women, not girls. You may not have used the word “girl” in your job description, but you’d be surprised how much women can pick up on dog whistles on how you view them. They are not females and they aren’t girls. They are women, real human beings with lifetimes of experience, most of which is discouraging them from going into STEM fields.

    It’s not really that you’re calling them girls… it’s that you think of them as girls. You’re desire to have a diverse workforce is commendable, but you’re not thinking of it in a full context. You’re looking for women and complaining that they are rare, but then go and hire the man because of the experience they possess. This ignores the fact that men have an easier time getting first chances, so they have more opportunities for gaining experiences.

    Instead of trying to find the perfect candidate in terms of what experience they have in filling the role, look at how they can benefit your company as a whole. Sometimes diversity of viewpoint/life experience can make up for a lack of professional experience.

    • Isn’t “girl” the female equivalent of “guy”? I’m not a native English speaker, but to me, “men” and “women” just sound so… cold, impersonal, even old (I’m in my mid20s). Is there another noun for “females” that doesn’t sound like it’s been taken from a biology or sociology study?

      • No, ‘girl’ is the opposite of ‘boy’

        ‘gal’ is like ‘guy’ (but no one calls anyone ‘gals’ anymore, it’s outdated)

        You are correct, “female” feels like more of a scientific term and could also be used to describe monkeys, dogs or birds. Use it as an adjective rather than as a noun. Female partner. Female wrestler. Female officer.

        Call me a woman. That’s what I call myself and my female friends. 🙂

  • I agree. Also, make a culture that women want to work in and stop calling them girls. Maybe the reason your not finding women at meetups is because your not attending meetups for women. Attend Women 2.0 events and check out Girls Who Code.

    • ” and stop calling them girls.”

      followed closely by

      “and check out Girls Who Code.”

      The political correctness policing is almost laughable if it weren’t so sad.

      • Nothing “politically correct” can’t dip it’s little acid toes into. The term is lazy and dismissive. The term is most often used when one person raises a question about the weight that a word or phrase carries and the next person in the exchange throws down the “politically correct” accusation to dismiss the point.

        In general, women in any professional capacity do not want to be called “girls”, contrary to the the overwhelming evidence of one site called “Girls Who Code”.

      • Actually ‘Girls who Code’ is a completely accurate reference – the organization is working to inspire high school girls to enter computer science. The mentors however are women and talented programmers themselves.

    • I think you’re actually thinking of Women Who Code, where you would go meet adult women who are programmers. Girls Who Code teaches young girls how to code.

    • Women also drop out of the field once they get into the workforce. I worked at a Fortune 500 where they actually brought in quite a number of female programmers. But pretty soon (within 3 years) most of them moved out of programming into program management jobs.

      I think the big elephant that nobody is willing to entertain is that generally women don’t like programming – they find it boring as shit. Its PC to say that its education/discrimination etc (which I’m sure plays a part), but at the crux most (not all) women don’t find it their cup of tea.

      • no it’s not that women don’t like programming. Being a woman doesn’t mean that you won’t “like” something. That’s like saying women don’t like sports or women don’t like beer. Making generalizations based on gender is SEXIST. Women might be dropping out of programming because the culture and the environment of the programming community is so horrifically skewed towards male comradery and this type of casual sexism is infuriating.

        You want to show up for your job every day and enjoy it. You want to exist as a woman in the work force without having to fight to be taken seriously or accepted. The programming community is rifled with sexism and thus female programmers face daily hurdles that their male counterparts will never understand.

        Read the comments through startups anonymous and just count how many instances of sexism there are. I would ignore this site entirely if I wanted to completely enjoy my day because these sexist comments sting. However, I know I have to participate in this discussion so that the female voice is heard. Like female programmers, I might be able to take it for a couple years but i don’t want to have to keep fighting for my right to sit at the table and be heard. It’s exhausting.

        Replace the word women with ‘black people’ next time you want to make a statement like “women don’t like programming”. If it sounds racist to you then it’s most definitely sexist.

        • But isn’t it ridiculous to ask me not to talk about star trek, 90s computer games, technology and sports with my fellow workmates just because a woman may feel she’s being left out?

          I mean, I’m glad to include anyone in the conversation, but most women I’ve met don’t enjoy these topics, which, believe me, is quite frustrating, as they are things I’d very much like to get a female point of view on (although, I should point out, most of the times what I get is a bad look, like we are stupid kids discussing things that don’t matter).

          • I’m one of the women considering leaving tech. I’m tired of being Wendy to the Lost Boys. We can have the conversations about star trek and Legos sometimes, then what?

        • “Replace the word women with ‘black people’ next time you want to make a statement like “women don’t like programming”. If it sounds racist to you then it’s most definitely sexist.”

          You can be as PC as you like, a fact is a fact. If I see black people choosing to accept promotions into non-engineering positions than sticking with it, I’ll call a spade a spade and I’ll say it.

          Just because something sounds sexist does not make it so.

          There are MANY women who thrive and enjoy coding, I am NOT refuting that. I’m just saying by and large they don’t like it.

          You may have a chip on your shoulder due to your past experience, but here’s MY past experience at a Fortune 500. There were four female programmers when I joined. NOBODY discriminated them, in fact they made up 40% of the team. Its just over three years three of them decided to take non-engineering jobs because they CHOSE to. The other one is still a programmer and enjoys it. Only one of the other guys decided to take a non-engineering promotion.

          • I’m a woman and I was raised in a seemingly progressive feminist household (with a mom who’s a surgeon, no less). Nevertheless, both society and my family expected me to be good at history, literature, languages, art, ballet, piano and other such “feminine” pursuits – and nothing else. I excelled at math and formal logic, but it was still expected that I major in the humanities or social sciences, which I did. In high school, when I brought home Cs in physics, everyone sighed, but if I dared bring home a C in literature, there’d be a serious conversation and no TV for a month. It’s very difficult for men, even those harboring the best intentions, to understand that we’re only now getting to the point where girls who are into STEM at school aren’t weird tomboy butch freaks. This may not be as pronounced of a problem at the best schools in the country, but generally, that’s how it goes.

            Now imagine your family, friends, teachers, etc pushing you, explicitly and implicitly, out of STEM and towards what is “normal” and “natural” for girls to be good at. For twenty plus years. I’m a self-taught front-end dev (who heard nothing but “why don’t you go read a book or something instead of being on the computer all day” growing up), and I’m now getting into back-end. Every time I hit a snag with Ruby, which I work on in my spare time, my subconscious reverts back to “why am I doing this”, because succeeding in something like this was never presented to me as a priority growing up, and it takes tremendous mental effort to get over that. None of my (highly educated and accomplished) female friends work with anything even remotely related to technology; most of them think I’m just “on the computer a lot”. I have no accessible female role models or mentors in this field – I can read all the leaning in articles ever written, but I don’t have anyone 35+ I can look to and say “I want to be her in 10 years”. But I have a job in politics, which will be there whether I do well or poorly at Ruby, and that’s a cushion that’s very tempting to fall back on when it’s 3 in the morning and I have non-Ruby work in five hours and I can’t get something to work.

            This is why “by and large they don’t like it” is a ridiculous sweeping generalization – you have no idea whether they took non-engineering jobs because they “didn’t like it” or because they went down the path that society has been telling them is the one of least resistance for their gender since they were born. Unless you’ve been a woman in this industry (and even I’m still an outside observer), you have no idea what it’s like.

            • ” I’m a self-taught front-end dev (who heard nothing but “why don’t you go read a book or something instead of being on the computer all day” growing up), and I’m now getting into back-end.”

              I’m a guy and my parents would tell me this all the time. Maybe you thought you were getting this treatment because you were a girl when it’s actually quite a common thing for parents to say?

              • It is quite common at age 13-15; by 18-20, however, the boys this was said about typically become the subjects of gleaming parent-to-parent dinner party conversations (“Bobby’s really great with computers and is building _______!”). The few girls who tough it out in this field in the face of rampant sexism throughout high school and college typically become the subjects of “Sally does something with technology”-style conversations. With very rare exceptions, Sally ends up being compared to someone else’s daughter who became a lawyer or went to build wells in Africa.

                Another thing that people seem to forget – for all of us, our initial formative period was largely guided by our parents. Our parents are the products of a society where higher education only became accessible to women 100 years ago, and using that education for anything beyond maybe teaching grade school until you got married only became acceptable in the past what, 40 years? Parents buy their children toys and accoutrements based on what that society has been telling them is appropriate for each gender (see: any baby shower for a girl anywhere) – four-year-olds don’t drive themselves to Toys R Us. Stop by any toy section of any big store anywhere and consider how we expect girls to grow into women with an interest in STEM when 95% of the “girl” section consists of pink dollhouses and Easy-Bake Ovens. We’re FINALLY getting to the point where parents (one set in a hundred) are buying their daughters Goldiblox and robots, but even then, their daughters – wanting to fit in at school – are seeing their friends playing with dollhouses and Easy-Bake Ovens purchased for them by parents who aren’t reading profound studies on obstacles to gender empowerment in The Atlantic. Not because they’re bad parents; they’re just the products of the society in which they were raised.

                My colleague wants his 3-year-old daughter to major in biochemistry at Stanford. She’s already coming home from a fancy-ass progressive preschool in an upscale neighborhood of DC telling her (highly educated, progressive, feminist) parents there are “girl toys” and “boy toys”. Now imagine what’s happening in the rest of the country.

  • Who gives a shit what color someone is, what’s between their legs, or whom they like to sleep with?

    I can’t stand this diversity bullshit. You hire the best possible employee. Period!

    This is the reason why everywhere you go, you get a bunch of idiots. Because people are not hired for skill but for their skin color, sex or sexual orientation!

    • A diverse work environment is greater than the sake of diversity. Having a balance of race and sex can increase employee morale and improve company performance.

      Totally just made that up, but it sounds accurate.

    • You know what’s HILARIOUS. A woman has never been elected president because she is a WOMAN. And you know since, forever, women haven’t been given jobs even though they are the best possible candidate for the job because they are women.

      Modern corporations have never hired the best possible candidate for the job, they’ve hired the best MALE candidate for the job. Now things are changing, slightly, and us ladies have a real shot at positions that have been held by men forever.

      I’m sorry that being born a man no longer gives you the same privileges it did twenty years ago in the work force but guess what, you can legally drive in Saudi Arabia and if you marry a woman in Pakistan that your parents hate you won’t get stoned to death. I think the cards are pretty much in your favor so chill out on the ‘hire the best possible candidate’ BS.

      Discrimination is frustrating isn’t it?

      • I live in a country where we have a woman president (she sucks in the job and is corrupted as hell, but we had many men presidents who were the same, so I don’t blame that on the fact that she is a woman, in fact, it proves women are no different than men), and where we had another woman president in the 70s. In fact, our former Central Bank chairman was a woman, we have many women CEOs in companies, and even women Union Leaders. So I wouldn’t say women inequality is a big problem.

        However, I work in a tech Startup over here, and I have the same problem as the OP. 95%+ of developers are male. And the little amount of women who have either studied computer engineering or learnt to code on their own usually move to management positions quite far (my co-founder among them). Soon ago, however, we gave a woman a chance even though she was far from being the best candidate. The result: she cried about 2/3 times a day, and ended up leaving. I’m not saying this is always the case, but maybe women just don’t like to code. If you like it, and we ever open up in the US, I’ll be glad to hire you, but believe me, it’s not the rule.

      • “Discrimination is frustrating isn’t it?”

        It’s not just frustrating, it’s morally wrong – regardless of whether you’re discriminating against men or women.

      • “You know what’s HILARIOUS. A woman has never been elected president because she is a WOMAN.”

        Are you serious? A woman has never been elected president because she’s a woman? Maybe she’s never been elected, cause she NEVER RAN? Ever thought of that?

        You know, an African American has never been elected president either, UNTIL HE RAN! Then guess what happened? He got elected and then re-elected, even though he sucked!

        What are you looking for? For them to hand the presidency to a woman? You want a woman president? Put your big girl panties on and run!

  • “For the first one, we can search specifically for girls and just filter guys. We’ve done that lately.”

    Am I reading that correctly? Are you saying that you wanted to hire programmers, and explicitly rejected potential candidates on the basis of their sex?

    • I have to say whether it’s wrong or right, this happens all the time. People just don’t confess it. Ever go to Hooters and be met by a male in short shorts and tiny tops? Personally, I love the idea of an all-female tech enterprise. Not saying that’s what this person is trying to create but it would be nice to see. It’s not even unusual to see major companies with few women or no women at all on top. So I’m all for it.

  • You know what, good for being honest with your thoughts. This is the forum for it, as much as some of these a-holes feel the need to cut you down.

    First off “women” and never “girls.” NEVER.

    I commend you for trying to bring in diversity at your company. It’s good for all companies to have a varied workforce. IMO if the discrepancy is so skewed then you just need to go with the best person.

    You might want to explore women’s tech groups in your area and see if they can help you recruit or provide recommendations. I know a slew of great women in the space but they have jobs and aren’t looking – they need to be recruited.

    Are you in LA?

  • I have to say- from experience- that there are women who leave programming because they hate the “Brogrammers” not the work.


  • In Israel there are Women Who Code weekly events that get a huge turn out, plus Google Campus Tel Aviv has a maternity leave program for women to bring their babies and build companies while on PAID MATERNITY LEAVE. Listen up, USA- if you want women to have careers in tech you need to support families, not just women.

  • OP, to find more women applying for your positions:

    Attend/sponsor more women tech meetups and events where you can announce that your company is hiring.
    Have your female tech employees be a visible part of recruiting; potential applicants will be encouraged to see themselves represented on your staff.
    Female employees can also help suggest women tech groups/events to target and they can answer questions from female applicants at related events.
    Contact organizers of female-focused online tech groups and mailing lists to have your job ads posted to their members.

  • It’s great that you want to create a more balanced work environment guys. So Kudos to you. You’re miles ahead of many other startup founders.

    I think you are falling into the trap that many men in the tech/startup scene do, which is they look around at their networks and then say “There aren’t any women in tech/entrepreneurship/whatever.”

    The fact is not that the women aren’t there, it’s that they are not in this person’s specific network.

    If you want to hire the best in any field, you don’t do that by putting out job ads – you do that by using your network. And if the people you want are not in your network then you need to expand your network so they are.

    There are now plenty of organisations that support women in tech and entrepreneurship. Expand your network to include them, and you will find the women you need who are great at what they do.

  • I think it’s great that these guys want to get a chance to female employees, so respect to them!!!

    Very often sexism takes place in startups and despite having female force on board, they hardly get a chance to speak up, lead or so.

    Sadly these things never come up publicly, but trust me sexism is very very present in startup scene…well maybe another topic that could be?


  • Why do you even ask the question? Just hire the most skilled person, regardless of gender or color or race.

    For me it does not matter if a grandma (or grandpa) comes and applies, if she is skilled and can do the job I’ll gratefully hire her or him.

  • A company I know put this at the end of their job listing, and I think it’s effective at motivating the right women candidates who were incorrectly filtering themselves out before the application process.

    Research shows that women only apply for jobs when they feel they meet 100% of the listed qualifications. Men apply for jobs when they meet 60% or more of the qualifications. This lacks balance. Don’t let this stand in the way of us finding the most awesome person. We want to empower great people to apply. We understand qualifications are fluid. The “right fit” can also involve learning and growth.

    We strongly encourage applications that contribute to the diversity of our community and the field of wilderness skills education. This includes women, all ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and more. If you believed you’d love this job and do it well, go for it. Fill out the application and help us make Trackers a better place. Read more about this research here.

  • Ok, just my 5 cents here but I do not like being called a female, a girl or a chick. I am a woman. Anything can be a female – an animal, even a cable component. We’re women. It’s that simple. If “woman” sounds cold or impersonal, too bad. It’s what I am.

  • I’m a woman coder. I just fell in love with it. But my Dad also handed me a programming book when I was 9 and said, “It’s not hard, people just make it hard.” I started coding professionally when I was 18.

    It’s gotten a lot better for women in the last five years. It used to be that people thought they were ‘giving me a chance’ when I was on a team, and then I’ just end up leading the team. Or they would just look for any excuse (look at scratch pseudo code and say ‘oh that’s sloppy’) for me to not really know how to code.

    When I was a kid, my older sister thought I had Asperger’s. I really struggled with EQ. But when I entered the working world, I was constantly expected to be client facing and found it much easier to get offers for jobs that had to do with people skills and being a nurturer. I took a people skills job to round my skill set out as an entrepreneur. I faked enough social skill to ace the interview, but I almost got fired my first month on the job because I couldn’t give a basic product demo (for software that I could have coded).

    I’m focusing on my start-up now. But it makes me feel hopeful for the future that people want me to interview for very senior technical positions, even before I am ready.

    I would say the moments I felt like leaving tech were the times when I was being treated in a dismissive manner. Like the time a male teammate (one half of our two person project) stood in the hallway talking about cars while there was severity 1 issue I was taking care of, plus laughing at me stressing out. Or the time I built a new automation tool for the (manual) work I was doing, and my boss got upset because I was coding, and my title was not coder (they would have had to pay me more). Or, ha, the time all the guys were drinking beer and playing foos and talking about sex, and then I said something about sex and Monday the whole office was laughing about it behind my back.

    The hurtful things didn’t happen very often, but they had a big impact. I’ve learned to identify the difference between a miscommunication and someone intentionally being a jerk. And tactful ways at proving to people they have misconceptions about me.

    I would say perhaps not be so focused on hiring a woman, but when you finally do, put effort into making her feel included.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for caring about hiring more women. I really appreciate you taking the time to think about women’s rights – If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be posting this here in the first place. I acknowledge you for your efforts for bringing in more women to tech. And by the way, I am female.

    On your question, I’d probably hire according to one’s ability. So if, out of the people you’ve interviewed, you believe that the men’s performance (and be honest – judging merely on performance without gender bias) are better than that of the women you’ve interviewed, then I’d go with the one you think would add most value to your company. Of course, if that person is female, great!

    On more female candidates, perhaps you can reach out to organisations like Women in Tech etc and some of the best women execs in tech and ask if they have any recommendations if you haven’t already done so?

    And if you think a female candidate would be a great fit in your company, but not necessarily for the role she’s interviewing for, perhaps you can work with that person and create a role for her that may add more value to your company? This way, both sides win.

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