“Society holds this false, fabricated narrative that coding is something that only men are good at or ‘should do,’ and women don't feel welcome in that space,” said Katy Martin, Career Developer at Dev Bootcamp, a company working to change that narrative.
The company, designed to combat that very issue, was founded to provide an affordable program for people interested in attaining a job in coding without holding a computer science degree. The 18-week bootcamp immerses the participant in an intense, hands-on learning experience, which helps each students build products and attain the skills needed to become an entry or junior level web developer.
But more importantly, the company is working on creating an inclusive culture to disrupt the tech environment and to prove that no matter what your background is, where you’re from, or who you are, you can become a successful web developer.
One such example is a scholarship program with Adobe. To ensure a diversified group is able to attend the program, Dev Bootcamp partnered with Adobe to bring course access to people who wouldn’t regularly be able to go through the program. Adobe provided eight scholarships offering a full-ride to people who were identified as women or non-binary gender.
“We have partnered with companies like Facebook on the diversity initiative, as well,” said Martin. “And on top of that, we have an ongoing supportive environment within our culture. We promote engineering empathy, where you learn to detect sexist tones in the industry and learn how to have emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills for women who might not feel included on an engineering team.”
Monica Nicolau, the CTO of Sylvan Learning – another company promoting young girls’ exposure to STEM from an early age – knows that feeling all too well.
“As a girl in STEM, I don’t think of STEM as being easy or hard, but I think it can be intimidating for girls to get into STEM,” said Nicolau. “For six to seven years of schooling in the U.S., for a class of 25 to 30 people, there were typically one to two women, and that’s just sad for me personally. The same carried through throughout my career. I hope for future generations that it won’t be as intimidating, and to be honest, I think that’s changing somewhat and I think that classical gender roles are changing.”
But even in light of that paradigm shift, young girls often do not find access to classes. Nicolau believes that part of the solutions is to ensure that children are engaged with STEM early on for it to stick in their lives and set them up for a successful career in the future. That’s why, in 2015, Sylvan Learning launched Sylvan EDGE, including courses that focus on Math, Coding and Robotics. In 2016, the company added Engineering to the course offerings.
But what’s most exciting about this is that Sylvan EDGE exposes young girls to the subjects early, ideally enhancing the STEM education’s staying power.
When asked why more girls aren’t involved in STEM, Nicolau elaborates that she thinks it’s a larger societal educational problem. “I think that our school systems have to support students to get into STEM – which is happening more and more, so I’m optimistic. I think positive role models always help.”
And although there is a lot of work to do, progress is being made. According to the National Center for Women and IT Fact Sheet, tech companies with more women in management positions have a 34 percent higher return of investment. And in 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that women hold 26 percent of the approximately four million computing related occupations in the U.S., which isn’t a perfect stat for the present, but shows room for substantial growth in the future.
And with more and more women leaders in tech making waves and supporting the entry of additional females into the field, it’s clear that the gender gap within this booming industry is slowly shrinking.