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At Glowforge, We Pay For Diversity

Starting today, Glowforge will pay $5,000 for introductions that result in us hiring a woman, underrepresented minority, or person with a disability.

A little background: It turns out that only about 12% of the people who apply to work at Glowforge are female (it’s harder for us to estimate the number of people in other categories). Of our ten fulltime employees, three are women (in marketing, operations, and our shop supervisor). While they’re in critical positions, none are directly designing or building our products.There are no employees who are people of color.

Update: as of 3/1/2016, nine months after this post was written, our company is 36% women and our software engineering team is 50% women. 

We’re building a desktop laser that can make beautiful things quickly. We think that’s going to completely reinvent what it means for things to be ‘homemade’, and we want to make that available to everyone. For that reason, we believe it’s critical to our business that the team at Glowforge reflect the diversity of people we are working to to serve. We believe that with a diverse team, we’re going to better understand the needs of our customers and produce better products. What’s more, after reading current research (like this McKinsey study), we’ve come to believe that we can make better decisions in all areas of our business if our company is diverse.

We have a particular challenge in that our founding execs are all white men. That narrows our perspectives and our recruiting networks. While we’re fortunate to have a steady stream of amazing resumes from people who want to help us, far too few of them represent the full diversity of the customers we want to delight with our products. We’re especially lacking in diverse engineering applicants, which puts blinders on the team building the product that is our livelihood.

We’ve already tackled problems of job offer negotiations and opaque insurance, but we wanted to go farther.  So I sat down with some of the smartest people I know – our advisory board, some of our investors, and some of our employees – and brainstormed solutions. The answer, when it hit us, was pretty simple: we’re a company. If we want something, we should pay for it.

Which leads us to our new program. Here’s how it works.

  1. We will ask new employees who, if anyone, referred them to us.
  2. We will also ask them if they consider themselves a member of an underrepresented minority group, and point them to the National Science Foundation research on the subject.
  3. If a new employee names someone as a referrer and identifies as a member of an underrepresented group, we’ll pay the referrer $5,000.

An important aspect of this program to us is that we’re putting the new employee in full control of the reward. They may opt not to identify a referrer. They may choose not to disclose any minority group status. They’re in charge, not us (or the referrer). We’ll defer to their wishes.

We have no idea if this is going to work. We’ve talked to lawyers, brainstormed problems, and looked for examples of other people doing the same thing. We couldn’t find any. If it doesn’t work or backfires somehow, we’ll have to do our best to fix it. But the goal of a diverse team is so important to us – both philosophically, and as a business necessity – that we’re going to give it a try.

We expect this will generate some questions, so we’ll collect answers here. If you have any other questions or suggestions, we’re all ears – you can reach us at [email protected] or @glowforge on Twitter.

Who are you hiring?

You can see our open positions at www.glowforge.com/jobs. We are particularly excited to hear from experienced, senior engineers (leadership role or individual contributor) in software, electrical, and mechanical engineering!

I know great people. How can I send you resumes?

Please dont! We want candidates to be in control, so we only consider candidates who contact us themselves. We want people to tell candidates about us, not take matters into their own hands and introduce them directly (lest that happen without their consent).

If you know someone who you think would be awesome at Glowforge, suggest that the candidate contact us themselves at [email protected].

What do I need to do to be a referrer?

Anyone who is not a Glowforge employee or shareholder can qualify as a referrer. The new employee just needs to identify you as their referrer after they’re hired.  The best way to make that happen is by talking, tweeting, blogging, or otherwise spreading the word about us. When we hire a new employee, we’ll ask them something along the lines of, “Is there anyone who deserves credit for telling you about us?”

How do I qualify for the referral?

If the candidate identifies you as the person who referred them and tells us that they identify as a member of an underrepresented group, you qualify.

What if a candidate that I send you doesn’t tell you about my referral, or doesn’t self-identify as a member of an underrepresented group?

We’re going to err on the side of putting the person we’re hiring in control. Payment of the referral fee is entirely determined by them.

What if I’m a recruiter?

We don’t accept resumes from recruiters. However, you’re welcome to tell potential candidates that we’re hiring, and if they apply themselves and list you as their referrer (and tell us they identify as a member under-represented group), then you will qualify for the referral.

Which employees are considered members of underrepresented groups?

The new employee themself decides. We’ll ask them something like this:

“Glowforge has a referral program for women and minorities that are under-represented in our industry. Do you identify as an underrepresented minority? If so, is there someone who told you about us who should receive a $5,000 referral payment?”

Are LGBTQ candidates eligible? Seniors? Religious minorities? Other minorities?

Our new employee tells us if they identify as an underrepresented minority. We trust everyone on our team so naturally we will trust their decision.

What about people who have complicated ancestry?

Every person is different and thinks about themselves differently. For example, someone who has one minority grandparent may or may not identify with that minority group. A transgender person may or may not identify as a member of an underrepresented group. We leave it up to our new employee.

What jobs qualify?

Any full time, permanent, salaried employee role qualifies.

Are resumes from diverse candidates treated differently?

No. Candidates for a job at Glowforge are evaluated equally and without regard to race, gender, or other factors.

Does the employee get anything special, or just the referrer?

All employees are treated the same; we do not pay more or less to employees based on their gender or minority status.

Are you only hiring women and minorities?

No! We are hiring people of all kinds and welcome resumes from anyone.  We just have a larger number of resumes from non-diverse candidates, so we’re instituting this program to bring our applicant pool into balance.

Why are you willing to pay for women and minority referrals, but not other candidates?

Our three founders are white men. Unfortunately, our networks of great candidates are also largely white men. We want to build a company with the most amazing people from all backgrounds, not just people who look like us, so we need a little help to widen the diversity of our candidate pool. We’re a company and this is a business problem, so we decided that we should pay the people who help us solve it.

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