How Women Who Code is closing the gender gap among developers

The tech industry as a whole has a gender issue, and the developer role is no exception: According to last year FRG Technology Consulting Java and PHP Salary Surveyonly one in 10 developers is a woman.

Another grim statistic is the number of women who have entered the IT field: this number has actually decreased from 32% of the total workforce in 1990 to 25% in 2021. Here is another depressing statistic: a 2017 study found that the approval rate for code written by women was actually higher (78.6% vs. 74.6%) than for code written by men. But women’s code acceptance rate was only higher when they were not identifiable as women.

An organization that tries to turn negative statistics into more positive statistics is Women who code. The nonprofit is working to get more women involved in software development, as well as providing a safe space for those currently working there.

“Tech jobs represent some of the highest paying and most stable careers, yet women only make up about 26% of technologists,” Joey Rosenberg, president of products and communications at Women Who Code, told ZDNet. “By equipping our community with the tools and support they need to succeed in tech, we hope to elevate the diverse perspectives of leaders who in turn will elevate other women, helping to create a pipeline of change for good.”

Women Who Code’s mission is to provide a range of services to female coding professionals and to help women develop their careers as developers. The organization offers coding resources such as tutorials and educational materials, a job site, scholarships, and leadership opportunities to 290,000 members in 134 different countries.

Naomi Freeman, Senior Leadership Fellow at Women Who Code, got involved for the first time by attending a meeting in Ireland. She says it was refreshing to be with a community of women and share the things they were working on, their skills and how they could help each other.

“[With women], there’s usually this glass-half-empty mentality, like “I don’t know how to do this JavaScript” or “Someone told me I don’t have enough formal experience”. And I think Women Who Code helps turn that lens around to look at things half full, and really identify what women bring to the conversation and to the industry by saying, “Great, you’ve already had some experience in another industry, how do you bring that?” Freeman told ZDNet.

These encounters are a stark contrast to what Freeman has seen otherwise in his developer career. One memory that comes back to her is when she spoke at a conference with hundreds of men in attendance versus about four women.

“When you’re in a room full of guys – and it doesn’t matter which continent or country – they do the same thing: they all seem to talk to you like you’re a baby,” she added. said. “And there are plenty of women with PhDs who have worked in technical fields for more than 10 years, and men will approach them with the same tone.”

Freeman says one of the main reasons she’s so passionate about speaking out and working with Women Who Code is that she’s had some terrible experiences as the only woman in a room.

“I prefer to focus my energy on finding ways to move forward so that other women don’t have to face the obstacles I’ve faced,” she says. “One of the hardest things is when you’re completely alone in a room, representing a group. You can start to feel a little crazy and doubt yourself.”

A new vision of coding

Freeman believes the industry can make women feel like they belong and their skills matter by reshaping the way people think about creating code and what developers do.

“I think we really need to talk about how code is a tool that allows us to connect people. It allows us to be creative, to express things in new ways, and to learn more things about the world,” she said. “The way it’s being marketed right now is a bit hyper-aggressive and you have to have all these IT standards, but you don’t necessarily need a lot of IT or math these days, not for all areas .”

Instead, Freeman argues that reframing the development industry as a creative industry would make more women believe they can come in and use their skills without thinking it’s so much a boys’ club.

“[The developer industry] is a connecting industry where we work collaboratively and look at other people’s codes and twin on things together,” she says.

That’s why Women Who Code’s networking events are essential to its mission: to bring women developers together to work together. And Women Who Code isn’t the only organization doing this; there are many other communities for female developers, such as Rail Girls, Write/Speak/Code, black girls code, Girl develop itand more.

Rosenberg says the organization also seeks to focus on the leadership aspect of its mission to ensure women rise through the ranks in the development industry.

“We offer a global leadership development program that currently empowers over 500 women to be and become industry leaders by providing support, training and opportunities to demonstrate their leadership qualities and knowledge. -do technical,” she said. “Women Who Code will continue to work for a tech industry where women are better represented at all levels.”

It’s clear that the developer industry has a lot to do when it comes to gender inclusion, but Freeman adds that diversity on a broader level would improve innovation across the industry.

“Diversity creates creativity and innovation because different ideas collide with each other,” she says. “When you’re in a room where you have an imbalance [of diversity]it’s going to be really hard to innovate and create new things because a lot of people have the same background and the same thoughts, and they’re going to come to the same conclusions — I think that’s a disadvantage for the whole industry .”

Margie D. Carlisle