Silicon Valley says it can't find enough female talent. This entrepreneur proves that's not true.
Caterina Fake often finds herself in a position that, at least anecdotally, other Silicon Valley execs don’t experience. Findery, the social discovery app she launched in 2011, attracts lots of prospective female employees.
“You’d be amazed at how many women engineer applicants that we’ve had that we haven’t hired,” says Fake, 46, a serial entrepreneur who previously co-founded Flickr, a photo sharing site now owned by Yahoo YHOO , and Hunch, online recommendation technology now owned by eBay EBAY . Her latest company enables users to tag their favorite destinations worldwide with notes and photos.
Findery now has close to $10 million in funding and 13 full-time staffers, seven of whom—including Fake—are women. On the software engineering side of the operation, men outnumber women on the team by one (there are eight full-time engineers in total and one contractor—who’s a woman).
The number of women employed by tech companies has been a hot topic since the end of May when Google released the demographic makeup of its workforce. Yahoo and Facebook FB followed suite—then Twitter TWTR and several others also got transparent, revealing that women made up no more than 17% of each company’s workforce.
So the fact that Fake has no problem finding qualified female applicants seems important. How does she do it? “It’s all about women knowing women, and deliberately recruiting women,” Fake says.
From the start of Findery, Fake says she made sure her early hiring included women.
“Any women that you can bring on at the get-go almost guarantees that you’ll have more women at your company,” she says. “At Findery, we have the good fortune of starting with a lot of women, having a woman founder, having a very women-friendly culture—and a general natural outcome of those things is that you have an inordinate number of women applying for jobs both in engineering and other areas.”
Fake believes this network effect is central when it comes to hiring. As she told Fortune.com earlier this summer: “It’s very clear to me that the social networks are really what determine the people you end up working with, the people that venture capitalists end up funding.”
Fake is, no doubt, in a privileged position. Having been a co-founder of two successful companies, Hitch and Flickr, she already has an extensive social network. “Most of the people that we know … come through references, recommendations, and referrals from other people on the team,” says Fake. And she notes that increasing workplace diversity isn’t something for which there’s a template to follow.
Still, if one were to sum up Fake’s practices in maintaining a gender balance at a tech company, it comes down to two principles: Prioritize workforce diversity and meet more people—or at least give prospective, minority employees the opportunity to meet leaders at tech companies they have not met before.
“We didn’t search out women engineers,” Fake says. “We would put out [regular employment] ads. We would talk to our friends. We would get referrals.”
And, of course, hiring with gender diversity in mind doesn’t mean shunning the best candidates. “Make no mistake,” Fake says. “We love men too.”