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Update on the Hacker Grants Program

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Two months ago, we announced a partnership with Hacker School to provide ten, $5,000 grants for women interested in joining the summer class of Hacker School, taking place here at Etsy HQ. The class has been filled and has started, and I wanted to give you an update on the results, as well as announcing more Hacker Grants from our friends at 37Signals and Yammer.

When we announced the program, we were aiming to find 20 women to join the summer class. The previous class, in the spring, had only around 7 female applicants and wound up with 1 female student, so we knew it would take a big effort to get to our goal. Since Hacker School runs admissions and structures the classes, Etsy’s primary role was to get the word out about the grants — and we asked for help from our community in reaching as many great candidates as we could.

To say that worked would be a serious understatement. With help from all of you, Hacker School received applications from 661 women, nearly a 100-times increase from the previous session. (As they put it, they received more applications this time from women named Sarah, than all applications from women for all previous sessions combined.) Hacker School has admitted 23 of those women for the summer program — exceeding our original goal by 3. It’s been incredibly exciting to see.

The response to the Hacker Grants program was much larger than we expected. 597 (90%) of the 661 female applicants requested financial assistance. We believe that the existence of the grants did play a major role in causing the increase in applications from women. Of the 23 female students admitted, 18 of them requested grants — 8 more than we’d planned to provide.

I asked for help from friends at a number of other companies that I knew were interested in increasing the number of women in engineering roles. Two companies, Yammer and 37Signals, both stepped up in just a few hours, and each of them agreed to provide four additional Hacker Grants, bringing the total up to 18. All of the female students who requested a grant were given one. We also increased the Hacker Grant amount to $7,000, which means that the total amount given out was $126,000 — $28,000 from each 37Signals and Yammer, and $70,000 from Etsy.

Jeremy Perez-Cruz

I wanted to give my huge thanks to both Yammer and 37Signals, and to everyone who supported this program by forwarding news about it to their friends and coworkers. Also, of course, an enormous thanks to Hacker School, for agreeing to work with us on this idea and for going far beyond our expectations for what could happen. I’m so impressed with the work they’re doing, and the results they’re getting. Finally, thanks to all of the students of Hacker School, for applying, for showing up, and for creating such an enriching classroom for each other.

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.

Marc Hedlund is VP of Engineering at Etsy. He has managed engineers in Internet companies from coast to coast, and is currently writing a book for O’Reilly Media on engineering management.