North Texas Daily

Women Who Code aims to close tech’s gender gap

Women Who Code aims to close tech’s gender gap

September 20
14:42 2017

Women in the tech industry shatter glass ceilings every year.

Forbes reported that women generate 12 percent more revenue than male-run startups do. Acclaimed companies like Cisco, Slideshare and Flickr were all founded by women while Google and Facebook have appointed their own female executives, according to Business Insider.

Despite these strides, the tech industry is still very much a “boy’s club.”

National nonprofit Women Who Code aims to change that by promoting females in a scene that is historically male-dominated, according to a 2016 report by the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Denton falls under its Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, where people of all backgrounds come to educate each other, socialize and talk code.

“In my first computer class, I was the only girl in the classroom,” WWC member Del Mar Moreno said. “Everyone there was a guy and way older than me. It was very intimidating, and it’s hard not only to be taken seriously, but also to earn respect from them. But now, I can go to these meetups, and [everyone is so welcoming]. ”

The DFW chapter opened in 2013 and has since garnered a varied group of tech nerds. There are seasoned programmers, college students and curious newbies.

Directors of WWC host several tech events in their areas to teach and mingle.

“It’s a way for women who are interested in tech and programming to have a support group,” WWC director Isis Tejeda said.

When scrolling through its meet-up page, users can find workshops, study groups, special projects and “Casual Coding” sessions. During the summer, it launched introductory workshops in Denton for college students on break.

“There are members of the community who are willing to teach others so people can learn more about something,” Tejeda said. “And you don’t have to pay to learn. You can learn from each other.”

The NCWIT study states that in 2016, only 26 percent of the computing workforce were held by women, although 74 percent of girls in middle school expressed an interest in STEM fields. WWC is trying to support that through their events and workshops.

“When I was in the computer science program, there weren’t a lot of females, so it’s nice to reach out and support others,” WWC member Lauren Ko said. “Depending on where you are, there’s not a lot of support.”

Over the years, Denton’s tech scene has been steadily growing, according to a 2013 editorial published by Launch DFW. Startup spaces like Stoke or Techmill have mobilized underground tech gurus into a connected community.

These, along with meetups like WWC, hope to promote a more tech-friendly city.

“Even though it’s called Women Who Code, it’s embracing everybody who wants to come and talk,” Moreno said. “That’s what will make it prosper for Denton. We’re really into helping each other, and it’s working because the town is booming.”

Moreno said she felt the same kind of unity in other initiatives like Women in Commerce. Like WWC, it has promoted women to be a part of starting new ventures in a male-dominant industry.

“Finally seeing a room full of women and knowing that every woman in here is a business owner or an entrepreneur was like, ‘Wow, we’re finally getting there. We’re improving,’” Moreno said.  “Denton is going [there]. It’s definitely heading that way.”

It is a mix of promoting women in the field while fostering a helpful community, which Moreno said should go hand-in-hand.

“It’s really important to keep fighting for that equality in the industry,” Moreno said. “ But it’s [also] important to mark that we shouldn’t be competing with each other.”

Diversity has been key to fostering a cohesive network of people.

“We, since the beginning, have created a very open [and] inclusive community,” Techmill president Kyle Taylor said. “We have a ‘give first’ mentality that we’ve built in where we want people to show up and not expect anything in return because that’s the sort of community we want to have.”

But there is still room for improvement to be done on the startup end.

Thanks to the nature of a college town, Tejeda said Denton meetups fluctuate according to the school year. During finals week, attendance dips. In the fall, attendance rises.

But when tech majors graduate, they move.

“I want to be able to provide links from companies to people who have those skills and are looking for that opportunity to work,” Tejeda said. “I really hope to see [those local startups]. That way students don’t have to go back home or go somewhere else, and they can stay here locally.”

Although it is small, there is a lot of room for growth in Denton’s tech scene with its tight-knit community and creative culture.

“You have two universities in town, but on top of that you have all these underground tech gurus that are here,” Moreno said. “There are also community groups where techies can meet up. I see that this town has a lot of resources and not just tech people, but a lot of shops here are into helping each other.”

But for things to happen, Tejada believes people need to be ready to collaborate and learn.

“You have to put in the work,” Tejeda said. “You have to pull your hair at some of the things you’re doing, but everybody is willing to help you learn if you’re showing interest.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to the main point of WWC: educating and supporting one another.

“If you know this stuff, come on board and let’s do this,” Tejeda said. “Or if you want to learn, let’s come out and teach.”

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Amy Roh

Amy Roh

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