General Assembly Brings Women to the Developer Table

General Assembly Brings Women to the Developer Table

By Phoebe Knight

If you were asked to picture a web developer, what would come to mind?

General Assembly (GA) wants women in Atlanta and around the world to picture themselves.

GA, a global organization providing career training and education, is encouraging women to say #ilooklikeadeveloper and pursue careers in web development.

With a goal to teach 500 women in Atlanta how to write their first line of code before the end of 2016, GA works with organizations such as Women Who Code, Women in Technology and ChickTech to open doors for women in an industry severely lacking in gender diversity.

Diversity is a critical component of success for businesses operating in a global market. Studies conducted by Gallup indicate that gender-diverse businesses have higher revenue and overall profit than their alternatives. A varied workforce drives innovation and creative problem solving.

Despite these findings, there remains a significant gap between men and women in technology-related fields. The National Center for Women in Technology reports that women account for only 25 percent of workers in computer-related jobs.

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For programming-specific jobs, the difference is more pronounced. A 2015 survey conducted by the developer resource site Stack Overflow indicated that only five percent of polled software developers were women.

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Even major companies that recruit with the goal of promoting gender diversity are not immune to disparities in their ratio of male to female staff. In a 2014 report, Facebook disclosed that only 15 percent of employees in their technology divisions were women. Plus, Google‘s most recent report reveals that women holding tech-related positions dropped from 21 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2016.

In part, this imbalance can be attributed to a lack of women seeking education in computer science and related fields. In 2014, only 19 percent of Georgia graduates with a computer science degree were women. Exhaustive research conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) explained that stereotypes and unconscious bias regarding traditionally male professions inhibited female interest in these fields.

The research went on to state that overcoming gender roadblocks in tech education can be achieved by cultivating interest, supporting learners and providing exposure to female role models, which is exactly what General Assembly is working to accomplish with their #ilooklikeadeveloper seminar.

The creative force behind the movement, Amelia Davis, shared her first coding experience in a recent interview. She related how it seemed intimidating, even scary. When she was forced to try coding for the first time, she realized it wasn’t as hard as she’d thought. Inspired, she pulled the local tech community together to introduce potential developers to web development.

Attendees of the seminar will meet women who work in programming jobs and learn more about pursuing a career in web development. Peter Franconi, a GA representative, said, “In a male dominated industry, being the only [woman] in the room can be intimidating, so we are trying to build a support network that can grow and build upon itself.”

While networking with other developers, event-goers will have the opportunity to write their first line of code. Prior experience isn’t necessary, according to Franconi. “Most of the women who come have never coded before, and say that they feel more empowered after the event.”

Web development offers attractive benefits for women seeking to enter the technology market. Unlike many computer-related fields, certifications and/or experience can often eliminate the need for a bachelor’s degree. It also has the potential for a significant income boost over the median income for women in Georgia of $35,000. According to PayScale, the median salary for an entry-level junior web developer in Atlanta is more than $56,000.

 

Additionally, while many industries are shrinking, web development continues to grow. Employment projections from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest an estimated 40,000 web development positions will be added in the next eight years, with a 58 percent increase in job openings due to growth and replacement. Market expansion and companies increasingly driven to eliminate the technology gender gap could mean that women will begin to face less competition and greater opportunities for advancement in web development.

#ilooklikeadeveloper has grown from a single idea into a global movement. When corporate leaders at General Assembly heard about Davis’ idea, they expanded its reach worldwide, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

More #ilooklikeadeveloper seminars are coming to Atlanta in November and December of 2016, so follow the event page for notifications on future events or try out the free online tutorialFor those interested in pursuing web development as a career, General Assembly provides web development boot camps and other computer-related training.

Lead image provided by Johana Foster. 

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