CodeFirst: Girls, writing away the gap between women and technology

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Illustration: Dillon Yeh

Despite the fact that women make up nearly 50 per cent of internet users, just 17 per cent of workers in the technology industry are women, which is commonly thought to be due to a lack of skills in the required areas, and a lack of confidence to enter the male-dominated industry. Recognising this challenge, Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford created Code First: Girls, a social enterprise specifically targeted towards young women in order to equip them with the skills necessary to enter the industry. Code First: Girls offers free and paid courses for both university students and businesses aiming to educate their employees and boost their skills.

Alice and Matt are on the team of Entrepreneur First (EF), an investment program for technical founders from Europe. They were prompted to set up Code First after they noticed that a lack of experience in technology discouraged female graduates from applying to EF. With the creation of Code First, Alice and Matt aimed to do three things: to develop women’s technical and personal skills, to connect like-minded women, and to help corporations educate their female employees about technology.

The classes range from beginners courses (introduction to front end web development) to advanced (backend web development). Besides the technological education, Code First provides access to conferences, hackathons, competitions and job offers through their newsletter. Code First alumni from varying pre-existing knowledge bases have gone on to start businesses, create websites, and build apps once they have left the course. Participants’ reviews of the course are glowing; a course participant, Emily, said that she “would not have been able to create [her] website without doing the Code First: Girls course,” whilst Caroline, another participant, appreciated how the course “allowed [her] to connect with other women in the startup world and motivated [her] to have a go at starting [her] own business when [she] graduated.” During the course itself students are challenged to build projects with real world applications such as a landing page, so that  participants can build a portfolio, whilst learning and practicing their skills.

The courses are currently offered at 22 UK institutions and there are plans to expand; Code First has recently launched a new course that targets women who are already in the workforce. The current courses have taught more than 1500 students within the last 18 months, and the number continues to rise rapidly as the number of courses and the number of institutions at which they are taught increase. Code First has partnered with companies such as Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Apple, Just Eat and Asos.

This semester will be the second time that students at St Andrew’s have been offered the opportunity to enter the world of coding. Over the span of 6 weeks, Shyam Reyal, Vinodh Sampath, Adeola Fabola and Sophie Ijlstra will teach approximately 50 girls the basics. For the participants, taking part is more than learning about coding, it pushes participants out of their comfort zone, opens doors to more careers, and connects educated women with interested companies.

For the participants, taking part is more than learning about coding, it pushes participants out of their comfort zone, opens doors to more careers, and connects educated women with interested companies. This semester’s course application deadline has passed but for more information on upcoming courses visit codefirstgirls.org.uk

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