Etsy reports on the Hacker School grants for women

Earlier in the month, Etsy reported on the success of the grants for women to attend Hacker School in New York City:

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, Etsys 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. Its been incredibly exciting to see.

This reminds us of the initial GNOME Women’s Outreach Program, in 2006 (which continues to run in recent years):

[In 2006] GNOME received 181 submissions for Googles Summer of Code” – not one was from a woman.

This imbalance is hardly surprising though. In 2002, it was reported that a staggeringly low 1.5% of libre software contributors were women, compared to roughly 28% in the proprietary software world. This disparity has numerous causes. For example, the 2006 FLOSSPOLS report found that the age at which men and women are able to start tinkering and installing free software on their own computer can differ significantly. Girls, on average, typically receive their first computer at age 19, as opposed to boys at age 15.

Working closely with the GNOME Foundation, developers Hanna Wallach and Chris Ball put together the Womens Summer Outreach Program. The program aims to promote the participation of women in GNOME-related development…

An impressive 100 applications were received from femme devels spread across the globe in just under a fortnight. We had far more applications with excellent technical merit than slots to fill; all of the applications on our shortlist were extremely high in quality,” Chris told GNOME Journal. In fact, the applications were of such high quality that Google stepped forward to provide the funds for three additional projects, bringing the program up to six participants.

Outreach specifically to women in programming communities repeatedly reveals that there are many interested women, who do not apply to grants when they are targeted at the general population, whether because they do not hear about them or they do not think themselves qualified. Specific grants for women is one effective way to reach interested women. Congratulations to Hacker School, Etsy and additional grant funders 37Signals and Yammer for successful outreach to women.

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