Silicon Valley: Huh, Maybe We Should Hire Women?

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

This weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported something unexpected: Could it be that the tech industry is finally starting to hire more women? The newspaper found that several startups and startup offshoots have begun initiating training programs, internships, and retention structures designed to reintroduce women to work after they took time off to start families. Is it true that Silicon Valley’s sexism is finally on its deathbed?

Well, no, not exactly. Silicon Valley has just caught on to the fact that women can contribute to the workplace, too.

Valerie Frederickson, CEO of executive search firm Frederickson Pribula Li, told the WSJ that the reason firms are finally recruiting women is simple: “The war for talent is so extreme that we’re seeing CEOs sitting around, saying, ‘Who have we not gone after? Maybe we need to find women who are at home with kids?’”

This ever-growing need for skilled workers in Silicon Valley means companies are always looking for an edge in hiring. And women make easy targets, because many firms still do nothing to recruit them. After taking time off for their children, nearly 90 percent of women attempt to resume their careers, but less than half of them find full-time jobs, according to research by the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation. “About 25% of women who attempt to resume their careers take part-time jobs, and roughly 10% become self-employed,” the study found.

So, finally, some companies are beginning to help themselves by training and hiring women. At the Reboot Career Accelerator for Women at GSVLabs, “an eight-week program teaches skills such as design thinking, shared calendars and personal branding.” 

It’s great that more women are getting hired into the tech world’s boys’ club, no matter what the motivation. But just as improved parental-leave policies benefit male employees and the companies themselves more than female staffers (because it makes for good PR and men are less likely to use all of their leave), let’s not pretend training women only when there are no more men to recruit represents the death of sexism. Tapping unused female talent will only have a measurable impact if those women are promoted and paid more, too.