Software Startup Partners with Nonprofit to Narrow Tech Gender Gap

Don Tennant
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Tech Employment Picture Bright for Start of 2014

An extraordinary initiative to narrow the tech gender gap is being launched today by Entelo, a San Francisco-based software startup, and CodeEd, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides training in computer science and programming skills for underprivileged middle-school girls.

Entelo has developed a software platform that leverages social media to optimize searches for high-tech talent. I spoke with Entelo CEO Jon Bischke last week, and he explained that under the collaboration agreement, each time one of its clients makes a hire using the company’s platform, Entelo will fund one year of technology training for a girl in the CodeEd program.

“We for a while have been trying to figure out our strategy around social impact,” Bischke said. “There’s a big issue that affects a lot of our customers, which is the skills gap between the number of people out there who are qualified to take these engineering and technical positions, and the demand to fill those positions. That’s something we hear about every single day.”

So Entelo wanted to do something that would help close that skills gap. And then the idea surfaced to try to help close the tech gender gap at the same time.

“[Working with CodeEd] ties in, obviously, to the big imbalance in the STEM world between boys and girls pursuing STEM educations,” Bischke said. “We did a little bit of a bake-off between a number of nonprofits that were focused on this problem, and we really were impressed with what CodeEd was doing. We had some conversations with the executive director, Angie Schiavoni, and we knew it would be a fantastic organization to partner with.”

Bischke declined to specify how much it would cost Entelo to provide the year-long funding for a girl in the CodeEd program, saying only that it’s a “low three-figure amount.” As for how many hires he expects his clients to make in 2014, and in turn, how many girls in the CodeEd program Entelo will be able to fund for a year, Bischke said the company has over 100 corporate customers, and the average customer makes its first hire within 90 days, so it’s a matter of extrapolating from there. But he said it’s hard to tell.

“The roles that people are using Entelo to fill are very high-end roles—software engineers, designers, data scientists—so it’s not like they’re staffing up for a call center or something like that where there will be a new hire every day,” Bischke said. “It happens enough on our platform that we think this will be a big and meaningful donation that we’ll be making to CodeEd this year. … If 100 girls learn how to code this year because of Entelo, I would be thrilled.”

CodeEd’s Schiavoni said 100 percent of Entelo’s donations will go toward providing the curriculum and instruction for girls in the program.

“Given the demographic we serve, our programs change these girls’ perception about what coding is, about what it means to be an engineer, and how they can use this experience to explore a whole new career they may have never considered before,” Schiavoni said in a statement. “This partnership with Entelo is the first of its kind for CodeEd, and we’re grateful for their foresight in making this type of investment.”

For Entelo, the partnership is kicking off a broader initiative, called “Hire for Good,” to expand its social impact. The company already does one-for-one matching of the charitable donations of its employees, up to $1,000 per employee per year. Bischke said Entelo aims to get involved in donating not just money, but time, through mentoring and other programs. Another idea that’s being kicked around is helping nonprofits with their recruitment efforts.

“We haven’t announced anything official, and I don’t want to promise anything,” Bischke said. “But something around reduced prices or free licenses to nonprofits is something we’ve thought about.”

Getting back to the partnership with CodeEd, Bischke said it’s an open-ended relationship that he aims to foster for years to come.

“We’re hoping to inspire others in the software world to think about how they can tie use of their product to social impact initiatives,” Bischke said. “If we could inspire a few other companies to do that, that would be icing on the cake for us.”

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