How ModCloth Created a Female-Friendly Engineering Culture

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Most of ModCloth’s customers are women, so the company knew it wanted a diverse engineering team. Here’s how they accomplished it. 

By Justin Reyes (Editor-in-chief, Femgineer)

On the outside it may look like any other traditional e-commerce fashion website, but on the inside lays an especially complex backend development and technical feature set that handles all the customization and style personalizations. ModCloth.com, an online retailer specializing in unique apparel, accessories, and decor, goes further than most in fashion e-commerce. From customers voting on potential items to sell, to designers submitting pieces to produce, ModCloth.com is an online catalog of fashion items as well as a social platform.

To create all of this takes superb and diverse engineering talent. With their customers being primarily women, ModCloth has recognized the importance of diversity in its development team. By organizing meetups with Women Who Code as well as hosting Railsbridge sessions, ModCloth has made a substantial effort to attract and recruit more female software developers, in addition to building awareness around the issue. This month, ModCloth and Femgineer are collaborating together to host a forum to educate other Femgineers on how to determine if a company has a culture that meets their needs, and why it’s important that they apply for positions even though they might feel under-qualified. Although there are many great company tech cultures like Google or Facebook to compete with, ModCloth instills an accommodating environment that empowers.

Guided Individualized Mentorship

To grow more leading ladies in tech, ModCloth provides guided individualized mentorship internally. As a requirement to attaining a senior position, employees are required to have provided mentorship. Thus, team leads make every effort to work in tandem with junior developers to set up an individual development plan that guides them in completing their personal and professional goals.

The Importance of Fun

Besides the excellent mentoring, support, and guidance, ModCloth employees enjoy coming to work in a fun, laid-back culture that challenges and inspires. This can be seen in the internal Hackathons that they put on for their “Experience Teams” to creatively think and build out products within the website or on their mobile app, which accounts for many of the innovations within the company’s e-commerce platform. Further, employees enjoy the great work-life balance that comes with working at ModCloth. It is even rare to see more than ten people working after 6 pm, breaking the conventional model of being required to work ten hours or more on any given day. But what makes ModCloth stand out amongst the rest is the added bonus that employees who have stayed with the company for more than two years get a piece of clothing named after them which gets sold online.

When asked if they do anything special to accommodate female software engineers, they responded “not necessarily.” With over half of the company composed of women, it isn’t an issue that they are much concerned with, and don’t feel the need to give females special treatment. If more companies focus on talent instead of gender, more women wouldn’t feel isolated or have to deal with inflexible workplace policies, which is commonplace in most tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley. While the tide is changing, it is great to see these values in companies such as ModCloth.

You can visit ModCloth at the next Femgineer Forum on January 29th, 2014 at 6pm.

This post originally appeared on Femgineer

About the blogger: Justin Reyes is the editor-in-chief of Femgineer, which provides female software engineers and high tech professionals with skill to better themselves at work. Follow him on Twitter @itsjustreyes