Etsy and Friends Raise $126K for Lady Hackers

A measly 20% of computer programmers today are women. Walk into any start-up, and you’re likely to be greeted with a room full of dudes, and maybe, maybe one or two women trying desperately to blend in to the back drop of faces and glasses. Marc Hedlund, VP of engineering at Etsy, is looking to change all that. In an effort to make the world of coders and engineers a little more representative of the actual world, he and Etsy partnered up with Hacker School.

They hoped to find 20 women for the inaugural class last spring. Seven women applied. One made it in. Instead of resting on the presumption that women just don’t want to learn how to hack, Hedlund looked for the root of the problem. Etsy announced the Hacker Grants, whereby Etsy would help subsidize the classes for a select group of lucky ladies. (Hacker School is free, so the grants are in place to help students with, you know, living in New York for a season.)

The result was that 661 women applied for spots in the class. Let that soak in: in the spring there were seven applicants, and in the summer there were 661. In his blog, Hedlund points out “they received more applications this time from women named Sarah, than all applications from women for all previous sessions combined.” Hacker School admitted three more female students than Etsy’s original goal, and thanks to last-minute funding help by Yammer and 37Signals, all female applicants who asked for financial aid received it. Eighteen women received a total of $126,000.00. That’s $7,000.00 per lady. I think we can safely assume we’ll be seeing more women coders and engineers in the not-too-distant future.

Writes Hedlund, “Walking into the Hacker School rooms and seeing a gender-balanced group of students, hacking on open source and learning to be better developers, is nothing short of incredible to me, given how unbalanced our industry has been as long as I’ve been managing. It almost feels like time travel, more futuristic than any technology project I’ve seen: a trip to the future of what our industry should and will look like. I’m so glad to see it becoming real today.” The future is here! And it’s female!