Girls Code at Camp


By Michele Bacigalupo

Photo courtesy of Ray Smith.

The tech industry has had a notoriously small percentage of women in its workforce for years, and the numbers remain stagnate. In Silicon Valley, only 11 percent of executive positions are held by women, while a mere three percent of tech start-ups boast female founders. It’s evident that balancing the gender inequality in tech is a movement long overdue.

The problem may lie in the industry itself. A notable number of females have gone so far as to denounce tech culture, claiming that it fosters an oppressive work environment. Tech company employees complain that their jobs are unsympathetic toward basic needs, especially in regards to policies on maternity leave.

Other women maintain that their employers did not provide adequate salaries to afford childcare. Most of these females hesitate to speak up about their dissatisfaction until after leaving their jobs or changing careers.

The issue of gender inequality is extremely frustrating and even more difficult to confront. Many successful women who work in the industry consider the topic of gender inequality to be taboo. It’s become a reluctant conversation, off limits because women don’t want to be perceived as “whiny” or portraying themselves as victims in the situation. In such an overwhelmingly male-dominated field, it’s easy to see why women are afraid to speak their minds.

That’s why educational coding camps are becoming more ubiquitous throughout the nation. The current gap of inequality may be too large to modify anytime soon. In the meantime, to ensure the addition of more females to Silicon Valley’s ranks, the next generation needs to be provided with ample opportunities for education.

Geek Girl is an organization that hosts nation-wide tech conferences and meet ups for women interested in how to code. Women aren’t required to have any prior knowledge of coding before attending a session.

Beginners are welcome, as well as those with intermediate or advanced experience. Hands-on instruction is offered on a myriad of other topics as well, including Photoshop, marketing, podcasting, and social media.

Founder Leslie Fishlock created Geek Girl in 2006 in order to provide women with the computer science knowledge necessary to thrive in today’s digital world. Fishlock refers to Geek Girl gatherings as “social experiments,” where intelligent, innovative individuals can join together to share ideas and gain a sense of empowerment.

While numerous tech companies retain a reputation for cold indifference, Geek Girl is setting a brilliant example of a more ideal work environment–one that is supportive and conducive to collaboration.

Geek Girl’s coding camp is far from the only organization of its kind. In fact, coding intensives for young girls, often designed as camps or after school programs, are now more widespread than ever throughout the country. While each coding camp is unique, they are all united in working towards the same outcome: recruiting more females to join the tech industry.

Girls Who Code, for example, has an admirable goal of bringing computer science education to one million women by the year 2020. App Camp For Girls provides instruction for middle school-aged girls on how to design and pitch apps of their own invention. There’s also Hackbright Academy, which offers a fellowship in web development basics, while also introducing students to some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley.

On Jun 20 in San Diego, Geek Girl will host its annual TechCon. One of the main events will be the Sharkette Tank, where participants can pitch ideas to celebrity judges. Participants are encouraged to craft pitches to make their startups, apps, or products sound as appealing as possible. The prize is valuable feedback from the judges, as well as bragging rights.

To make the event accessible to as many people as possible, Geek Girl hosts several TechCons throughout the year in different major cities. There will be conferences in Charlotte and Las Vegas later in 2015.

Most coding camps are able to reach as many people as they do because of the altruistic efforts of others. Such opportunities exist due to generous donations, sponsors, and volunteers. Though coding may seem like a daunting and difficult task to understand, there are numerous ways to encourage the development of female coding culture and transform the tech industry.