There’s a glaring lack of women in tech. While women account for 59 percent of America’s workforce, they make up only 18 percent of the technical workforce at Google and 16 percent of the engineering team at Facebook. The lack of female representation is an industry-wide issue around the world.
I’ve coached, judged and participated in hackathons from San Francisco all the way to hackathons in South Africa, and I’ve personally seen the glaring underrepresentation of women in tech. This, in part, has created a lot of pressure for the few women in tech. “As a minority in the tech scene, I feel like I represent more than just myself, but my entire gender when I’m coding,” a hackathon participant once told me.
New organizations like Hack for Big Choices are ensuring women are well represented in their hackathon activities, and that’s a start. From mentors, partners and participants, women play active roles in shaping innovation en route to becoming entrepreneurs and supporting themselves. “When ‘eyes are on the prize,’ people start seeing a mutual value in building something innovative that will benefit everyone, that’s when the differences drop and innovation and collaboration sparkle,” the organization’s founder and CEO Aurora Chisté reflects. “We believe in the power of women and men working side by side to solve community issues through innovative technology.”
What’s surfacing now is data that shows it’s not just a gender issue or a diversity problem; it’s hurting companies’ bottom lines. Studies show that gender-balanced teams perform better than all-male or all-female teams and that companies with at least one woman on the executive team receive higher valuations than companies with entirely male leadership slates. It’s critical for the industry to recruit and retain more women and give aspiring female engineers the support they need starting at a young age.
These nine organizations are creating innovative solutions to address problems related to the gender gap in order to give women the technical platform they deserve:
1. Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code is a highly respected program that offers girls in grades 6-12 the opportunity to join Girls Who Code clubs in 23 states across the United States. These clubs offer 40 hours of engineering curriculum, as well as incredible access to female mentors in the tech industry. Girls Who Code also has a competitive Summer Immersion program, where girls spend seven weeks learning the fundamentals of coding and gain exposure to top female executives, entrepreneurs and engineers.
2. Girl Develop It
Girl Develop It is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “create a network of empowered women who feel confident in their abilities to code and build beautiful web and mobile applications.” Girl Develop It has chapters in 53 cities across the United States, and each chapter hosts various events and classes, which are open to all women and priced affordably. Don’t see your city listed? Don’t worry! The organization makes it incredibly easy for you to apply to start a new chapter in your location of choice.
3. Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women
Launched in October of 2015, the Toptal STEM Scholarships for Women awards 12 aspiring female engineers $5,000 and weekly one-on-one mentoring for a year with a senior developer in the Toptal network. The company’s engineers represent the top three percent of talent worldwide, so the scholarship program is a fantastic opportunity for women all around the world — and with any educational background — to gain hands-on training from a leading expert in the tech industry, as well as to help finance their studies or tech projects.
Samasource works to connect unemployed people, particularly those living in developing countries, with digital work. As of 2015, Samasource has trained and employed over 3,000 women living in Haiti, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and India. After training, Samasource matched these women with data projects at companies like Getty Images, DropBox, Microsoft and TripAdvisor.
5. Ada Developers Academy
Ada Developers Academy, located in Seattle, Washington, is a high-quality training academy specifically designed for women who are interested in software development. The first seven months are devoted to classroom learning while the last five months engage women in an internship with an engineering team in a Puget Sound tech company. Ada Developers Academy is the perfect combination of classroom learning and real-world experience. Did I mention that it’s free?
Codebar is an amazing non-profit organization focused on helping women, members of the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented groups dive into the tech industry. Codebar hosts weekly workshops throughout the UK that focus on teaching programming in a safe and supportive environment that allows students to work at their own pace and find professional mentors. For those who can’t make any of the current workshop locations, Codebar also offers online tutorials and a vibrant community chat on Slack.
7. Ladies Learning Code
Ladies Learning Code is a well-established non-profit founded in 2011 that hosts workshops and classes for women, girls and kids across Canada. The program boasts a 4:1 ratio of students to volunteer mentors and promotes coding efficiency and knowledge through a social and collaborative approach. This summer, Ladies Learning Code will be driving a coding truck — named the code:mobile! — across Canada to help teach kids across the country how to code.
Wireless Women for Entrepreneurship & Empowerment, abbreviated to W2E2, works with women in India to “promote internet-based social enterprises and entrepreneurship among women as social agents.” W2E2’s goal is to give women the skills to launch micro-level social enterprises using information and communication technology and to support entrepreneurial ventures. Each arm of the program trains 10 female applicants, but the goal is that each of these women will then return to her community with skills to share with others.
9. Global Fund for Women
The Global Fund for Women, one of the leading foundations promoting gender equality, has launched a Technology Initiative to reduce the gender gap by more actively promoting women’s involvement in the tech industry. The Technology Initiative hopes to promote the use of technology to address issues of safety, health care access and violence against women. The Initiative is also working to create and support safe online spaces for girls and women.