Much of what I’ve heard about recruiting women in engineering to startups echoes the sentiment above: that it’s too difficult in early stages. While recruiting is often the top priority of a startup founder, recruiting women in engineering is rarely on the priority list. It’s especially hard to prioritize if you’re resource constrained. In speaking to those I know at early-stage startups, I’ve often witnessed many of the excuses for why doing so is difficult or not worth the effort one has to put into it.
Speaking as someone who joined two early-stage startups, I understand how valuable it can be to work at a company that gives you the opportunity to make a huge impact and connect you with driven and talented teammates. I want more women to have the opportunity to join an early-stage company, especially in engineering roles that are necessary at the founding of a company. In that vein, over time I’ve made lists of women in engineering that I’ve shared with startups to help them recruit, and today I’d like to make that list available to everyone (more on that down below).
If you don’t know women in engineering personally, it’s unlikely you’ll hire one until later in your company’s lifecycle. Early-stage startups often recruit from a pool of friends, exacerbating the problem even if you deeply care about hiring women in engineering. Often, all-male startup cultures that you’d like to prevent stem from taking the easiest path. Unfortunately, diversity doesn’t wait. It’s unlikely you’ll devote any dedicated resources to hiring diverse candidates until you’re a company with hundreds of employees, which means you’ll be playing catch-up for years. To scale diversity, you need to start with it.
Many women want to join as early engineers at startups, but often, large companies will put more resources into recruiting them. This reduces the chance that women have at being an early engineer at a game-changing company, which can give them the chance to reach financial independence and have the resources to later build their own startups.
“I want to hire more women in engineering, but I’ve exhausted my network and I don’t know where to find them outside of yearly events like Grace Hopper.” — Recruiter at 50-person startup
It’s unfortunate how many people speak to sourcing women in engineering as if they’re trying to find Big Foot. Women in engineering exist—you’re just not looking hard enough, or looking in the right places.
As a starting point, I recently put together a website including over 300 women in both individual contributor engineering roles and engineering management roles. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a list of women I could find in the course of a few hours with public LinkedIn, Twitter or GitHub profiles. I hope that it will be useful for startups who are aiming to hire women in engineering.
To help it grow, I’m accepting new additions to the list, so please contribute women in engineering, or add yourself (note: I’ll review submissions and add them shortly thereafter). If you find yourself on the list, and would rather not be included, feel free to email me and I’ll remove you.
Admittedly, binders full of women alone won’t solve the dearth of women in engineering roles at startups, but if we can make it easier for startups to source women in engineering, we can limit the excuses we often make for ourselves for why we haven’t done enough.