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Google heads to Hacker School

People sit around laptop computers at a cafe.

There's an urban legend in the tech community that goes like this: The School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University used to keep track of how many of their undergraduates were men named Dave versus how many were women. And it was considered an accomplishment when they got the ratio down to one Dave for every woman. Here is the latest installment in our series about the tech industry's diversity challenges called “I am not a Dave”.

Hacker School is not as dangerous as it sounds. In fact, it is a 12 week program based in New York which takes 60 participants who want to learn how to be better programmers. Students work on everything from developing their own operating system, to designing apps, to understanding the tools that make complex integrated circuits. Rose Ames is one such student.

Ames is from a small, rural town in Ontario, Canada with a population of only about 700 people. She found a love of math and programming through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), and eventually learned enough to apply and be accepted to Hacker School. Participants attend the program for free, but New York is not an inexpensive place to live. Ames, a mother of four, says she would not have been able to attend were it not for the $5,000 grants given to qualified female programmers by Google. It's part of an effort to address the notorious imbalance of men and women in the tech industry.

For her part, Ames does not think that getting the tech industry to hire more women would drastically change how things are done. To her, it just makes sense that if companies want to have the best programmers, they have to open the field to as many candidates as possible:

"I think you have to judge each person on their own merits. I don’t think you’re going to see a huge difference in tech by getting it to be 50 percent female, except of course overall you’re choosing from a bigger pool so you’re going to have more talent available to you."

About the author

Tobin Low is part of the digital team for Marketplace.

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