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Code First: Girls Wants to Teach You How to Code for Free

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Over the past three years the Code First: Girls organisation has taught 5,000+ women how to code for free.
CEO, Amali de Alwis, who is speaking at the Dublin Tech Summit today, tells The Daily Slog why she is on the look-out for new centres to host free courses, and her plans to flood the UK and Ireland with female tech talent by 2020.

 

What is Code First: Girls?

Code First: Girls  is a social enterprise which aims to address the gender imbalance in tech by enabling more women to enter the sector. We do this by teaching women how to code on our free community courses around the UK and in Ireland. Since 2014 we’ve delivered £2.5 million worth of free education to more than 5,000 women across the UK and Ireland.  We have one purpose – to increase the number of women in tech.

 

Women represent about 17% of the total workforce – this means that not only do women miss out on well-paid jobs, but technology is often developed without the input of 50% of its customers

 

Numerous research studies have shown that there is a shortage of tech talent in the UK and Ireland, which in turn has a negative impact on the economy.  Added to this, there is a significant gender imbalance in the tech sector, with women representing about 17% of the total workforce, and only 4% of software engineers (down from 10% in 2007). This means that not only do women miss out on well-paid jobs, but technology is often developed without the input of 50% of its customers.

 

How does Code First: Girls work with companies – what programmes do you offer?

As a social enterprise, we have some amazing partners who help support our community activities. We have a variety of relationships with companies on different working levels. For example, for the last 3 years we have had free coding courses hosted by tech companies in London and elsewhere around the UK, including Twitter, the Guardian, Marks & Spencer’s, ThoughtWorks and Level39.

In December 2017 we launched our 2020 campaign, under which we aim to teach 20,000 women to code, for free, by the end of 2020.

 

We’d love to hear from both universities and companies who are interested in hosting a Code First: Girls course

 

Are you currently working with any companies in Ireland?

We have a very solid and long-standing relationship with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who have a growing office in Dublin. We run career events for our community with them, and are also exploring the possibility of hosting free courses with them.

One of our 8-week free coding courses has just finished at the Dublin Institute of Technology, which has been a great success. We are always on the look-out for new centres to host our courses, which will ultimately help more women in Ireland to enter the tech sector.

We have also hosted courses at universities in Northern Ireland, including at Queen’s University, Belfast, and we’re hoping to expand our course offering in both Northern Ireland and Dublin in the Autumn. We’d love to hear from both universities and companies who are interested in hosting a Code First: Girls course!

 

Our aim with the 2020 Campaign is to teach 20,000 women to code by the end of 2020. This will amplify the great work we’ve already done, and help flood the UK and Ireland with female tech talent.

 

What do you feel are the main barriers for young women pursuing careers in tech? 

As parents, we should try our best to be aware of the gender norms that get pushed on children from an early age. Those skills that we stereotypically assign to women, or think are “boy things” need a lot of revisiting.

We need to give young girls and women role models in tech, to show them just what can be achieved. This will allow us to change the narrative about women’s place in society and the impact they can have. Two great examples of these role models are Arlan Hamilton, founder of Backstage Capital, a fund that is dedicated to investing in high-potential founders from minority backgrounds, and Julia Salasky, a former lawyer, who set up CrowdJustice, a pioneering crowdfunding platform for legal action for those who want to take legal cases forward but can’t afford to, or can’t get public funding.

Every year at Code First: Girls we create our own female tech role models by means of our “Ones to Watch” programme. This is a group of 25 women who are aged 30 or under, and who have all achieved amazing things in their tech careers to date. You can find out more about the 2018 Ones to Watch on our website. Many of these women are not only forging stand-out careers in tech, but are also passing on their knowledge to other women, and strengthening female tech communities around the country in the meantime.

 

Tell us about the 20:20 campaign and what people / companies can do to help?

Over the past 3 years we’ve taught 5,000+ women how to code for free. We’ve delivered £2.5 million worth of free coding education. Our aim with the 2020 Campaign is to teach 20,000 women to code by the end of 2020. This will amplify the great work we’ve already done, and help flood the UK and Ireland with female tech talent.

Individuals and companies can help us in the following ways:

  • Spread the word about the work we do
  • Ask your organisation if they would be interested in hosting a course or partnering with us
  • Challenge the narrative within your own networks or social groups to get people talking about more women in tech

 

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