Bits, bytes and girl power: Ladies learning code

ladies learning


Cause-related work is so often about building things: movements, momentum, capacity, awareness, dollars, ideas, even communities who hack in order to make our world a better place, bit by bit and byte by byte.


Women who hack are beautiful to watch in action and, relatively speaking, it’s a rare sight. According to Engineers Canada, female enrolment in undergraduate engineering programs has fluctuated between 17 and 18 percent over the last ten years. In 2010, women accounted for only 10.5 percent of Canada’s total population of registered professional engineers – this number includes computer engineers, as well.


That’s why a handful of non-profit organizations are working to introduce women and girls to the world of coding and digital development, including a group right here in Canada.


The Ladies Learning Code mission statement says it all: “We’re a women-run not-for-profit group working to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-friendly technical skills in a social, collaborative way.” Ladies Learning Code (LLC) is a young community of women based in Toronto, Canada. Members host monthly events and, as of 2012, they’ve started reaching out across the country and organizing training sessions for folks on the West Coast in Vancouver, British Columbia. Just how technical the training gets depends on the workshop theme. Ladies Learning Code not only offers introductory courses into HTML and CSS, they put together custom workshops that teach you how to incorporate design elements into all of your digital channels including social media. Ladies Learning Code even offers mother-daughter workshops. “Families who code together, stay together” has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?


Meanwhile, in the United States, the online marketplace community, Etsy, has teamed up with the non-profit organization, Hacker School, and is providing a fellowship of sorts for women interested in learning how to code. Etsy recently put up $50,000 to support 10 women interested in joining the summer Hacker School class of 2012. After the scholarships were announced, orgs like 37signals and Yammer added their financial support. When all was said and done, these three groups raised $127,000 for women looking to advance their skills and learn how to code.


With the additional support from three well-respected orgs and the introduction of gender-specific grants, the number of women applicants for the summer Hacker School session increased from seven in 2011 to 661 in 2012. This is a stellar example of a partnership between seemingly different organizations providing a solution to a systemic problem among the coding community: too few females in core technology jobs and engineering.


There’s no denying the beautiful bits and bytes these women are building, now that they’ve decided to take a leap, learn something new, and jump into the field of computer coding and digital development. Ladies? You’re working to build a better world! I commend you for it!


Do you know about a program or non-profit organization that helps women or young people advance in the field of technology? Leave a comment, below. We’d love to hear from you!


Huge thanks to Ethan Winn at EchoDitto for bringing these orgs to my attention and serving as the source of inspiration for this post.

Photo courtesy flickr user Jennifer Morrow.

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