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To Shrink the Gender Gap In Its Engineering Department, Etsy Teams Up With Hacker School

While the vast majority of Etsy visitors are women (according to a 2010 company survey), its vice president of engineering, Marc Hedlund has acknowledged that the company’s own tech department is not as diverse as it should be. In fact, in a department of about 100, there are only 11 female engineers, none of whom are in management positions. But Hedlund isn’t going to let this slide, and in order to remedy the gender disparity, a new scholarship and sponsorship program through Hacker School has been announced to encourage more women to pursue engineering postions, not only at Etsy, but across the country. And that’s what we like to call “initiative”!

This June, at its Brooklyn headquarters, Etsy will host the summer 2012 session of Hacker School. For potential attendees, the company is offering 10 Etsy Hacker Grants, each of them $5,000. Hacker School, also based in New York City, offers three-month programs focused on computer programming throughout the year. Etsy is shooting for a goal of 20 women to be a part of the program, some of whom might even end up with an engineering job at the company!

Hedlund is well aware that a company like Etsy should be way better at finding smart, technically-inclined women to work for them. After all: women make up a huge portion of Etsy’s business — according to that survey we mentioned above, a whopping 97 percent of of the approximately 5,600 people who took the survey said they were women. For a little more insight into the number, 23 percent said they were sellers, 22 percent said they were shoppers, and 54 percent said they were both. Now, compare the numbers of women working as engineers, provided by Hedlund:

Last September, three out of 96 employees in Engineering and Operations at Etsy were women, and none of them were managers. Talking this over with others here, we thought that Etsy — which supports the businesses of hundreds of thousands of female entrepreneurs through our marketplace, which sells a majority of all items to women, and which already has many talented and amazing women working for the company — should be one of the single easiest Internet companies at which to correct this problem.

Now, just over six months later, there are 11 women in non-management positions, and Hedlund knows that’s not even close to enough. Hence, the Hacker School partnership, which is a great idea. It will take the form of a sort of unofficial “open house” at Etsy, where all 40 students will be treated to an inside look at the inner workings of Etsy (as well as lunch, known as Eatsy) and meet with current engineers.

Hedlund is hoping to find some help in spreading the word about this new partnership and the 10 available scholarships/sponsorships. Here’s where we’ll do our part:

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about careers in computer engineering and might even like to work at Etsy, visit the Hacker Grants page for more information on how to apply.

(“Smart Girls Rock” pendant available from Etsy seller Shimmer Creek Studio.)

(Etsy via Forbes)

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  • Bear Philippe

    This is great! And now Shimmer Creek’s pendant is sold! I’ll be declaring my love of smart women around my neck soon!

  • Katherine

    What I like is that it’s not just promoting women into positions or hiring more women, but actually giving them the time and opportunity to develop the skills they need to go further.

  • Andy Frogman

    The question that nobody is asking, is how many women WANT to get into engineering. How about doing some research and balancing those who want to take engineering through to a degree, those who actually succeed, and then those who get a job in it.

    My friends are currently doing an engineering course in uni, there is only a few girls in the class, I’m not sure for absolute certain, but I’m lead to believe there are only three or four. This isn’t sexual discrimination, the class isn’t even full. It’s just that few girls who want to do it.

  • Liz Wright

    Fewer women want to do it because it’s incredibly difficult for women to be introduced to and succeed in the sciences, because of that sexual discrimination you so casually dismiss. Would you want to enter a field where you might be the only girl in the room, have to continually defend everything you say twice as hard because you have to prove that you deserve to be there? With encouragement and incentive like this, girls who want to be engineers would come out of the woodwork.

    and may I just say that more women from my high school graduating class have gone into engineering than any humanities field.

  • Anonymous

    Why are there two links with bikini-clad ladeez with teyr boobz out in the ‘you might also like’ section ? NO, WOULD NOT LIKE thankyou. Get with the context of this site will ya?

  • Laura

     I have a hard time understanding why some men have a hard time understanding this. Nobody likes to feel like an outsider, nobody likes to face social pressure, nobody likes being “different”.

    It was once suggested to me (by a man) that men are less empathetic than women and therefore less likely to put themselves in a woman’s shoes (or a person from a minority’s shoes). But I said “baloney!” I’ve meet several empathic men.

    This guy, Andy, he’s not a sexist or even a dummy for not realizing what seems so obvious to us. He’s commented and you answered awesomely. Now he knows. Now he’ll understand. Now he will forage on with his newfound knowlege and spread it to other men! Boldly challenging sexism and misinformation with his empathy! (I hope!)