Homegrown Efforts to Recruit Women in Silicon Valley

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Margit Wennmachers, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Language in job description to exclude women

When Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm, wanted to make sure its job postings were reaching the most diverse audience possible, its partners did what most people in Silicon Valley do when they spot a problem: they turned to software.

They used programs that analyze the language in job descriptions to catch phrases that might turn off certain types of applicants:

  • Looking for a candidate who is “off the charts”? Chances are, not that many women will apply.
  • “That’s just not how women talk,” said Margit Wennmachers, a partner at the firm: “They say, ‘Must be highly competent.’ ” .

It is an example of many homegrown efforts across the Valley to change the face of the tech industry. There have always been big organizations hosting conferences and networking events for women. But newer efforts are springing up from inside companies.

To coach women leaders in Silicon Valley

There are programs to teach girls to code, like Girls Who Code, for which companies like Twitter and Google lend office space and teachers. CodeChix, started by engineers at companies like VMware, hosts coding workshops that promise to be “non-alpha.”

The Club is an application-only group trying to provide an alternative to golf courses and men’s membership clubs by coaching women leaders in Silicon Valley. It was founded by Annie Rogaski, a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend, a Valley law firm.

Rachel Sklar, who started a group called Change the Ratio, is introducing an organization called The List where members who pay have access to other women for advice, financing and conference speaking gigs.

“It’s to achieve the function of the classic old boys’ club, which funnels very easy advice and access and opportunity,” Ms. Sklar said.

People to review all job descriptions

At Andreessen Horowitz, the firm asks real people, not just software, to review all job descriptions, too — so in addition to the hiring manager, people who are women, African American and from other minority groups in Silicon Valley have input.

The firm also has a partner in charge of diversity who helps acquire a broad set of candidates for the firm’s talent agency, which its 200 portfolio companies tap for engineering and leadership roles. Despite those efforts, all of the firm’s investing partners are men.

“There’s a huge talent war going on, so we are doing a lot of things to try to surface all kinds of diverse talent and bubble that up to our portfolio companies,” Ms. Wennmachers said.

See articles from Claire Cain Miller

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