women in tech

Women in web development is an often-discussed topic that sparks debate on how to get young women and girls into coding. The numbers speak for themselves: Google has announced that only 17% of its staff is female, and in 2013 women only made up 13% of all computer science graduates. So, while the debate remains on how to get women into coding, we should also be discussing how to get women to stay in the industry.

One of the difficulties of being a women in the web development field is the lack of a support system for women, and the difficulty of finding a mentor. It comes as no surprise that we prefer mentors who have shared our experience, which is difficult for women when there are simply not as many females in this field.

I spoke with Hackbright graduate and female programmer Shannon Burns, who has set up a scholarship program for women who want to code. As a way of raising awareness for her fundraising campaign to finance her own bootcamp, she committed in advance to donating 10% of her first year’s salary to the tuition for a coding-intensive program for another woman (who then must “pay it forward” by doing the same).

Where are the Women?

First up, we wanted to know – where are the women in this field? Why aren’t there that many?  Shannon noted that “many women are career-changers and junior developers, which tend to be a bigger risk for a company to hire than someone with years of experience”. But, this will change. Organizations like Girls Who Code are sprouting up pushing young girls to study computer science, which means in 10-15 years, the entire industry will see a shift. For now, many times there is only one female on a team, which can be a bit isolating.

What Resources or Advice is there for Women?

It’s important that women don’t feel the “imposter syndrome” or second guess if they can make it in the field or not. Yes, you may be the only woman on the team, but you can be successful; just look at powerhouse women such as Pamela Fox, Shannon noted.

Girl Develop It is a great non-profit organization that empowers women to learn to develop software. The organization has a growing community that offers meetups, resources, and classes. Women Who Code, an organization that wants to connect 1 million women in tech by 2019, is one of the biggest resources for females in web development. And, if there’s not a community in your city, you can start one.

How do Women Find Mentors?

As there are less women than men working in web development, it’s not as easy to find mentorship — or at least it seems that way. “The women that do work in the coding field now are more than open to mentoring”, noted Shannon, who has herself found mentors by simply emailing. Shannon recommends even going on Twitter and tweeting to women who you look up to, asking them for advice. Going to tech events or even watching the events as they’re live-streamed and interacting with people during and after can also help women get their coding career moving forward.

The ratio of men to women in tech-related jobs will change, as more and more girls are exposed to the word of computer science. For now, Shanon notes, women must remember that “failures are the fertilizer that blossom the successes in your life,” so if you feel overwhelmed by the gender discrepancy in the technology field, there are many women that can help pick you up and teach you more.

If you’re a woman already in the coding field, consider making yourself available to younger female developers who might be looking for some guidance. Tweet that women coders can ask you questions, start a fund of your own, or reach out to fellow women in your office. Ultimately, it’s only by getting more women involved, and by creating a support system for those already in the field, that this gender imbalance in the industry will change.