Update: There’s now a sequel on Seattle dating, “Peepless in Seattle: Dating, Friendship, and the Seattle Freeze.“ Also, summary of the media coverage from the original post.
The gender imbalance in San Francisco is so bad that a startup recently proposed flying women in from New York City for dates. But, if you’re a straight male thinking of moving to Seattle to work in technology, think again. Seattle’s gender ratio is more imbalanced than San Francisco’s and it’s about to get much worse for men.
Amazon gets blamed for a lot of things: overworking employees, not paying taxes, killing bookstores, cannibalizing the publishing industry and here in Seattle, increasing construction, traffic and rents; and, it turns out that the company’s rapid growth here is also having a big impact on the straight Seattle dating scene in Seattle.
Over the past two years, I’ve personally found dating in Seattle has become increasingly difficult. It’s less common to meet single women in person and online dating is more difficult. It’s not that I can’t get dates but it’s harder to find women that are a good match for me. Online, it’s been harder to catch women’s attention, harder to get them to schedule a date and they cancel dates more frequently. When we do meet in person, it’s been harder to capture their interest and nearly impossible to find one interested in a relationship. The women here seem more distracted than ever before and at times, I’ve felt like a number to them. Turns out, the statistics back up my qualitative experience.
The presence of Microsoft and Boeing have always made dating challenging in Seattle but lately, I’ve wondered whether my experiences were a side-effect of Amazon’s rapid growth in Seattle. I decided to look into census data and what we know about Amazon’s hiring spree and its gender mix.
Using U.S. Census data for the ages 25 to 44 for Seattle and other cities, I calculated counts of single males and females using reporting by sex and marital status within each age category (no adjustments were made for the prevalence and impact of homosexuality – which likely affects both sexes relatively equally nor Seattle’s bisexual and polyamorous communities).
Based on the 2010 census data, Seattle has 119 single men for every 100 single women, slightly better than San Francisco at 121 – but equal if you add in the impact from nearby Bellevue, which is an awful 144.
You can’t miss Amazon’s growth if you’ve been in Seattle the past few years. The city’s Lake Union neighborhood is a giant construction zone. In 2013, the company reported adding 420,000 square feet of new headquarters space and “broke ground on what will become four city blocks and several million square feet of new construction.” The company reported adding 28,900 employees worldwide in 2013 for a total of 117,300. While it doesn’t break out its Seattle headcount – I estimated using numbers from an August 2013 New York Times report. According to the report, Amazon had about 15,000 employees in Seattle and is building capacity for 30,000, approximately five percent of the city population!
Using this report and the rough assumption that its overall percentage of Seattle employees to worldwide headcount has been constant the past few years, I came up with the following numbers:
Amazon is on a hiring tear. I estimate the company has hired 15,026 employees in Seattle since the April 2010 census was taken. Halfway through 2014, its website shows 4,055 open positions in Seattle. The company may hire as many as 6,000 new employees in Seattle this year.
But, according to Payscale.com, Amazon’s gender distribution is 75% male – so the impact of this hiring on the gender ratio is significant. Microsoft’s self-reported USA gender ratio is about the same. However, both could have higher ratios in their local Puget Sound technology headquarters, where male engineers tend to be more prevalent.
Using all of this data, I estimated the current gender ratio in Seattle and ahead to the end of 2014. Again, these are my own estimates – and the hardest part was figuring Amazon’s hiring rates by age group (Payscale reports Amazon’s median age is 31) then reducing this by the appropriate census marriage rates for Seattle. Unfortunately for guys, Seattle’s gender ratio seems to have passed a tipping point and Amazon’s rapid hiring is making it quickly worse.
Correction: I’ve updated the EOY 2014 estimate to 130 single males per 100 single females, and the resulting gap below the chart.
Note: Seattle’s gender imbalance was worse in 2000 than in 2010, likely because the census count coincided with the peak of the Internet technology bubble.
By December, I estimate there will be 86,098 single males in this age range but only 66,273 females – a gap of 19,825; a lot for a relatively small city. I think it’s also safe to assume that the overabundance of men in Bellevue add pressure on the Seattle scene.
Last month, the Guardian reported that only 18 of Amazon’s 120 most senior managers are women (15%). My estimates used PayScales gender ratio, but it’s possible that Amazon’s local hiring is worse. If for example Amazon’s hiring 80% men in the city, then Seattle currently has 126 single males per hundred single women, will have 129 by December and 133 by the end of 2015.
Culturally, men tend to be more aggressive pursuers, which can magnify the impact of a gender imbalance. For example, women who use OKCupid tell me they typically receive between 15 and 50 emails weekly here in Seattle. Many say they regularly get exhausted just trying to keep up with the inflow. But it’s not all positive for women, some I’ve met say things like “sure there’s a lot of guys, but they’re all tech guys – they’re all kind of the same.” Overall though, if you’re a straight single woman in Seattle, these are pretty good times.
If you’re a straight single woman outside of Seattle, this might be a great time to move here. Seriously, please move here. Amazon’s hiring.