Girls: Get your geek on!

| September 17, 2010

Fact: Women are underrepresented in tech.

The problem starts early but it’s never too late to offer a solution. Sara Chipps, a freelance coder in NYC, might have developed an answer: Girl Develop IT. Chipps’ theory is that in order to close the gender gap we need to get women “to ship software.” The GDI program is open to women of all skill levels and consists of 16 courses that cover HTML/CSS, Javascript, object oriented concepts and data structures, and Ruby on Rails.

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Chipps* is candidly honest in her blog that chronicles the progress of her program. On facilitating the course she says, “I found that getting a good tempo was difficult as some content was processed faster than others.” Improving the quality of classes is an ongoing project; Chipps and her team constantly evaluate the program to get a sense of where improvements can be made.

The comments section on RWW exploded over this topic, with both supporters and opponents throwing their explosive opinions at each other like Molotov cocktails. One commenter called the classes discriminatory: “If I started a blacks only IT training group I would most likely be on the losing end of a discrimination law suit….How is this any different?”

“Who cares if there’s a women’s only tech class if that’s what makes them more comfortable to learn then go for it” said another.

Such controversy! I think Chipps’ solution to a long running problem is a great one. I have heard the argument that because the problem starts at a young age, we need to begin to address it while girls are young. But where does that leave everyone else–the older crowd? Had I not missed the first batch of classes, I would be all over this. Instead, I’ll have to wait for the next cycle of the program to begin.

Kudos to Chipps and all other pioneers of similar programs. In my opinion, they aren’t perpetuating discrimination; they are presenting opportunity.

*On rereading the GDI blog, I’m not sure of the author of the posts and so I don’t know who to give credit to…