July 10th, 2012 | Ruth Brown Features | Posted In: Willamette Geek

Willamette Geek: Turns Out, Portland Women Do Want to Code

lede_shegeek_3829ILLUSTRATION: swap-and-meet.com

Our May 23 cover story, "Where The Tech is She?" explored the lack of women in Portland's tech industry and, perhaps more importantly, what some companies and folks here are doing to help fix the imbalance.

Although the responses to this article were refreshingly positive for a story about women in technology, many readers expressed the opinion that perhaps there were few women in the tech industry because ladies just don't want to learn all that tiresome code.

Here's some evidence to the contrary:

One effort highlighted in the piece was that of the Portland Python User Group, which was planning to run a women-only workshop to introduce beginners to the Python language and hopefully bring them into the community. 

The response to the workshop, held on the weekend on June 22, was so strong that a second has been added for this month. That workshop has also booked out, with another 12 people on the waiting list. The group is hoping to run a third workshop in August to accommodate those people.

"The response was much greater than what we expected," organiser Michelle Rowley told WW via email. "I thought the most difficult part of the workshop would be finding attendees. Instead, the response was so huge just from the one sentence in [the] article that mentioned the workshop that we purposefully did almost no promotion... We'll promote them more heavily once the current cohort of interested women has gotten to go through the workshop at least once and the workshops aren't filling up the day we announce them."

Rowley says that over half the women who attended wanted to learn to code for a possible career change opportunity, while a third said it would make them more effective in their current roles.

Thirty percent of the graduates from the first workshop have signed up to attend the next Python hack night (where Python coders of all stripes get together to work on projects and skills), bringing the number of RSVPs for the event to more than half female

"It is definitely not the case that women don't want to learn to code," says Rowley. "What appears to be the case is that women are human beings, and human beings are generally averse to stepping alone and uninvited into communities in which they feel like they don't belong (or aren't welcome). In our follow-up survey, over half of the female respondents mentioned that one of the main things that got them to come out to the event was that it was women-oriented."

 
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