Etsy Wants to Give Female Programmers $5,000 to Attend Hacker School

Etsy, the popular marketplace for all things handmade, just announced that it will not just be hosting the 2012 session of Hacker School at its headquarters in New York, but that it will also offer ten $5,000 grants to women who would like to attend this year’s session but don’t have the financial means to do so. As Etsy’s VP of engineering Marc Hedlund notes, the idea here is to ensure that about 50% of the next Hacker School class of about 40 participants will be female.

Hacker School is one of the many recently launched programs that aim to teach budding programmers to become better hackers. It’s a three-month, full-time program based in New York. The application deadline for this year’s summer session is May 7 and the program will run from June 4 to August 25. Hacker School itself is a free program and those who get the Etsy grants “can spend the money on whatever expenses necessary to free you up for Hacker School, no questions asked.”

Hacker School co-founder Nick Bergson-Shilcock also notes that the female applicants will be judged on the same scale as men. “It frustrates us a little that we feel the need to say that,” writes Bergson-Shilcock, “and we think it underlines the sexism (intentional and not) that so pervades the programming world.”

Etsy’s Marc Hedlund acknowledges that “20 is a small number,” but that he himself has only hired about 20 female engineers in the past 17 years. He also notes that he would be more than happy to hire any of the female engineers from this next batch of participants, “but more importantly, we just want to see these women go on to get fun, creative, lucrative jobs in technology — and hopefully tell other women about the great experiences they’ve had.” At Etsy, a site that has given many female entrepreneurs a chance to start their own businesses, eleven women currently work in Engineering and Operations. That’s up from just three last September. Etsy has about 100 employees in Engineering and Operations.