Peter DaSilva for The New York Time
Margit Wennmachers, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, says the wording of job descriptions can discourage women from applying.

Margit Wennmachers, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, says the wording of job descriptions can discourage women from applying.

Silicon Valley is not exactly known for its diversity. So 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.

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.

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.

“What I’d like to see is Marla Zuckerberg and Mary Jobs and Joann Bezos.”

  • ahlberg
  • Chicago

Most companies, especially in the technology field, are not smart enough to do this I fear. They should, but they do not. The majority of the management team in my firm are women and that is a strategic strength of ours being in the technology support field. I find the challenge is not wanting to recruit women but rather finding women who are qualified and looking to do what we do. A perfect hire for a Help desk position for me is an office manager of a small to medium size company that is acting as the defacto IT person and really enjoys it. The passion for IT is what I look for along with the people skills. The challenge is that this person wants to look for an IT role, but often thinks no one would hire them since they have no official experience. I would hire them in a second. You can't teach a tech geek how to deal with people (trust me I've tried), but it does not take much effort to take a business person with a passion for technology and turn them in to a great IT support person!