Originally published: April 12, 2017
Google has struggled. Facebook hasn’t cracked the code. And Uber, which released its first diversity report last month, certainly hasn’t figured it out. So how is it that Zymergen, a 272-person start-up in Emeryville, California, has built a technical team that is one-third female at a time when much of Silicon Valley is grappling with questions of gender discrimination and bias? We’ll explain in a moment exactly how this utterly unsexy tech company—clients include agriculture companies and chemical makers—has been able to outperform Google (19 percent of technical staff are women), Facebook (17 percent), and Uber (15 percent) when it comes to hiring women software engineers.
There’s nothing altruistic about Zymergen’s aggressive recruitment of women technologists. When C.E.O. and co-founder Joshua Hoffman started Zymergen (pronounced ZY-mergen) in 2013, he understood that the company, which uses information technology to engineer microbes, would have a hard time competing for talent with bigger and flashier tech companies. So he and his team set out to find first-rate engineers that Silicon Valley and San Francisco companies might have overlooked. “You don’t need to read a blog post to know that it includes women and people over 40,” Hoffman says. “So we said, ‘Let’s make an effort to make it welcoming to (those) folks.’ ”