The Gusto engineering team has been growing quickly and we've been excited with all the amazing software engineers that recently made a decision to join us. But there was also a simple observation that someone made: None of these recent hires were female.

This started a number of discussions about the importance of diversity in the engineering team, some of which I'll outline in this post. But first, I'm going to jump right to the punch line by sharing the outcome of these discussions: We've completely refocused Gusto's engineering recruiting efforts to build a more diverse engineering team. Focus is important to any endeavor, so while there are many dimensions to diversity, we've decided as a very first step to aim to have 18% female engineers on our team by the end of this year.

It seems like an easy thing to say we value diversity, but do we truly understand and believe this? One of the first discussions we had was figuring out why diversity is important to us.

Why diversity is important to us

We value diversity in our engineering team for three main reasons

  1. Diversity in our team will help us build better products for our diverse set of users -- small business owners of all kinds and their employees. Whenever thinking about what to build and how to build it, a more diverse team will enable us to have more ideas and perspectives, leading to better and more elegant solutions.

  2. The product implications are huge, but diversity is also important for our culture and work happiness. Most everyone here at Gusto enjoys getting to know people from different backgrounds and experiences. A diverse team creates more opportunities to learn all sorts of interesting and unique things from each other. Simply put, increased diversity equals increased happiness in a team.

  3. Diversity is important to us because it falls inline with our company value to "do what's right". It's well known that African American, Latino, and women are under-represented in STEM fields. By creating more demand for diversity in software engineering, we hope to do our small part in helping to incentivize under-represented groups to consider choosing a career in STEM. We see ourselves as part of a greater community with a shared responsibility to make the world a better place.

Our current diversity numbers

Another company value we have at Gusto is transparency, and we really liked Pinterest's transparency on their diversity numbers, and their publicly stated goals for the future. Frustratingly, we've found that though other companies are following their lead and starting to publish their diversity numbers, they only publish numbers for a vague "tech" category, without defining what that means. Publishing "tech" diversity numbers is a great first step, but we hope that companies will be more transparent by explaining what that means, as well as publishing more specific numbers for "engineering".

Here's our current gender numbers at Gusto:

As of September 1, 2015, our engineering team comprises of 11% full-time female engineers. Our technical team -- which we'll explicitly define as our engineers, technical product managers, and designers -- is comprised of 22% female full-time employees.

Gender in engineering at Gusto

Gender in the "tech" team at Gusto

Gender overall at Gusto

Our diversity goal through January 31, 2016

Our first goal is to have 18% of our full-time engineers be female. While this is an ambitious goal given the relatively short period of time, we believe it's achievable with lots of dedication and focus.

How did we come up with 18%? This is today's national average of female Computer Science majors. At the same time, we understand that this is just the first milestone for us. The percentage of female Computer Science graduates once peaked at 37% in 1984, and we have a long-term goal to reflect similar numbers in our software engineering team.

How will we do it?

Hitting our first diversity recruiting goals won't come easy, so it's important to put a strategy in place. Some people incorrectly equate having diversity goals to lowering the hiring bar for certain groups. We firmly believe that there are equally strong female engineers out there and our goals can be hit by tweaking our recruiting process to optimize for diversity.

Here are some of things we're doing to hit our goals:

  • We're outbound sourcing 100% female candidates. We have a lot of male candidates who apply through our jobs page or are referred to us, so we feel comfortable doing this.
  • Many of us know great female engineers, but just don't think to reach out to them for various reasons. We're having a number of "referral sourcing parties" focusing on combing our personal networks to reach out to them.
  • We're going all-in at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. We're a Gold sponsor and hope to see you there! Grace Hopper is not just a way for us to recruit female engineers, but is also an opportunity for both men and women at Gusto to learn from others in the community and be more involved in the conversation. Our diversity initiatives are much more than just hitting numbers.
  • We've rewritten our job postings to try to remove gender bias in the descriptions.
  • We're going to have each engineer and recruiter participate in unconscious bias training. Google Capital, who led our Series B investment, is helping us out here.
  • We're going to find ways to more outwardly share our amazing and inclusive engineering culture that values difference of opinions, is positive and constructive, and deeply cares about the problems that we're solving for small business owners and their employees.

A diverse engineering team is not something that happens on its own. A lot of planning and work needs to go into creating a diverse work environment. We believe that diversity is in itself a core strength that will enable us to write better software and build better products. But we also feel that it is right for us to do our part to improve diversity in engineering careers.

We'll write an update on January 31, 2016 to share our results! We hope you'll help keep us accountable.