The tech industry's rather extreme gender disparity comes up every once in a while. Most recently, an even-handed Wall Street Journal story prompted TechCrunch's Michael Arrington to write that women are actually given preferential treatment and have only themselves to blame, which triggered a storm of commentary from all sides.
Much of that commentary was inane, but one point emerged repeatedly: the problem starts early, with math and science in grade school and computer science in college. "The problem lies at the base of the tree," one TechCrunch commenter wrote simply.
"We think it is important to create a place where ladies would be comfortable learning concepts, and tools, and mainly 'how to code,'" Chipps says. "I think the first step in closing this gender gap is to get women shipping software."
Mattel's Computer Engineer Barbie.
Chipps was influenced by her first computer science teacher in high school, a woman, but she's careful not to lay blame on anyone for the lack of women in tech. She acknowledged in a recent podcast that yes, parts of the industry seem hostile to women and yes, some women's tech groups seem to do more talking than doing, but she doesn't dwell on obstacles.
Demand has been overwhelming since the first class in July. The classes are $20 each, books provided, low-stress environment promised, and total beginners welcome. The 30-person classes filled up immediately and are booked through September. There is already a Girl Develop IT chapter in Sydney, sponsored by Google, and Chipps hopes the concept will spread to other cities. She also wants to expand the program to include more languages.
Girl Develop IT is seeking books and teachers assistants in the New York City area and had to raise costs from $10 a class to $20 to cover costs. But the program has a lot of momentum. We won't be surprised if it takes off in other cities across the globe.