At Entrepreneur First we pride ourselves with having a team that consists of a majority of women, which is why it was a real pleasure to host the launch of our summer coding programme for girls, Code First:Girls, last Tuesday. The Code First: Girls launch was the most girl-heavy event we've ever hosted, and possibly ever been to on the London startup circuit. Ben Rooneyfrom the Wall Street Journal stated in his press coverage ‘the launch, held in the impressive surroundings of the City of London’s Guildhall, was, as a man, a rather unusual event. Typically any tech event is dominated by men, with just a smattering of women. This event was like a photographic negative. I was one of very few men, and the panel was comprised entirely of women’. I’d lie if I was to say that this didn’t feel satisfying.
For thirty minutes, we watched a large range of women of all ages and industries walk through the doors of the Guildhall, ready to be converted. They were welcomed by Entrepreneur First, Kathryn Parsons, Co-founder Decoded, Avid Larizadeh, Founder Boticca.com,Sarah Wood and Vikki Read from Unruly Media, and Panni Morshedi, Director of Product Development at Wonga, all of which hold significant roles within the tech space and are advocates for women to have a functional understanding of programming. As they repeatedly emphasised during the panel discussion, it will help you communicate with your tech team and give you a better understanding of how your product works. It will also strengthen your position within any team, help you feel more confident in your role and be an advocator for other women in tech. We captured their main messages on Twitter:
What does it take to be an expert coder? @Kathrynparsons 'It's not signposted, it helps to have someone show the way & fast track' #codefirst
@boticca founder Avid: ‘coding is about how to build something from nothing’ & understanding the tech team is crucial for ppl on biz side
@sarahfwood ‘be conversant so you can build the best team’.. plus having your own company means you get to make awesome vids #codefirst #codeclub
@kathrynparsons of @decoded ‘digital affects everything we do, we need to be literate’ #codefirst
Although we are fortunate enough to have so many females on board, unfortunately, within our cohort of founders, women are outnumbered by ten to one. This is why we are launching Code First, a free summer coding course for girls that attempts to redress the tech gender imbalance. But we’re only part of a larger move encouraging women to take the leap into tech and be at the forefront of those building something big, bad and bold. As Sarah Wood put it during the event, "you're at the forefront of a massive sweeping cultural change". That’s exactly what we’d like to hear. The tweets that night suggested that the event got the ball rolling and we’re looking forward to welcome the next generation of inspiring girl coders to our CodeFirst: Girls programme. Apply here.
Elaine: Went to @EntreFirst’s #codefirst: girls meet up. Got me inspired to fire up codeacademy.com finally... w/ a glass of white wine
EmmaWalker: Never seen so many women at a tech/business event. At the @EntreFirst Code First:Girls event
Magdalena Krön: "Having a basic grasp of code is incredible empowering" thanks for the inspiration from the female role models @entrefirst #codefirst
Caitlin McDonald: Exciting presentations by Decoded, Boticca, Unruly, & Wonga at Entrepreneur First. One theme: being code conversant helps in many areas.
CityPartnershipsTeam: Inspirational panel at @EntreFirst #CodeFirst launch tonight to get young women into tech #entrepreneurship. Pleased to be supporting it!
I don’t have a technical background.
My friends at university weren’t technical.
Two years ago I would have screeched at Python and bought a day return for Ruby on Rails.
But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t be technical.
For many young women, a lack of basic programming expertise or knowledge can be a major barrier to joining the world of tech entrepreneurship. EF has seen this first hand with only 25% of applicants and 10% of the final cohort being female. Women make up only 19% of those on computer science degree courses and although there are fantastic initiatives to teach young girls to code, it will be some years before they bring gender parity to the workplace.
Many young women do not feel a natural affinity to technology. They appreciate its applications and uses, but lack the understanding of how it works. This lack of knowledge can act as a major barrier to entering tech entrepreneurship as they cannot speak the language of their technical peers and can feel out of their depth.
Last summer Tim, EF Cohort 2012, gave me and Emily, EF Cohort 2012, a crash course in coding. After four hours a day, for four weeks, doing a bit of hacking in Python, Django and SQL suddenly didn’t seem so alien. It was a challenge, but it was stretching, interesting and satisfying.
Emily hit the nail on the head when she said "learning the basics of coding not only taught me a skill so highly valued (and increasingly so) in the tech world, but it also allowed me to appreciate and understand this world far better: To get a handle on the language spoken there opened a window of understanding and opportunity. It was also incredibly fun! I got a real kick and sense of satisfaction from the problem solving elements."
EF has an opportunity to address this gender imbalance by equipping high potential female graduates with a basic knowledge of different coding languages, an understanding of the logic behind programming and the ability to build basic websites/apps.
You may never have seen yourself as a coder and you may never be the back-end developer for your startup, but the world is going digital and being part of this revolution, rather than a passive bystander, is vital.
Code First: Girls