Women-only coding boot camp seeks to narrow gender gap

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 12 at 10:38 PM

In one of the most tech-savvy cities in the country, it's an alarming and lopsided statistic: 85 percent of computer programmers are male.  Now a Seattle-based company is trying to close the gender gap in the software industry.

CodeFellows was created because co-founder Will Little and his partner were constantly hearing about how hard it was for companies to fill software engineering jobs in Seattle.

"We are passionate about helping people change their lives for the better," said Little.  "So how do we go about doing that?  Well, we all come from tech backgrounds, and so coding and technical training and career counseling and connecting them to a community is really the core of who we are and why we exist."

In March, the company started holding 8-week coding boot camps, in addition to evening and weekend workshops.

The 8-week course is intense, and costs $9,000, but it comes with the guarantee that graduates will get a job paying $60,000 or more.  If not, their $9,000 in tuition will be returned in full.

Little says their network of contacts in the software industry allows them to make that guarantee.

In fact, they were having so much success placing people in tech jobs, some recruiters started making more specific requests.

"We had a conversation with a recruiter at WhitePages, and she was explaining how difficult it was for her to find female engineers," Little said.  "And so she gave us the idea to throw an all-women boot camp."

The first all-female class began this week, and runs thru August 23rd.

"It's just been go, go, go, and I love it," said participant Meredith Underell.  "And I wouldn't change a thing."

Many of the woman have heard the statistics and stereotypes about gender in the software industry.  Some say that's just more motivation.

"I don't like being told what I can't do," said Diana Pham.  As soon as you tell me I can't do something, I'm going to try my best to prove you wrong."

The staff at CodeFellows hopes the women do just that.

"Right now only 12 percent of computer science graduates are women," said Little.  "The University of Washington did a study recently that the stereotype of the nerd programmer that stays up late drinking Red Bull and Mountain Dew is not attractive for females, and discourages them from going into tech jobs."

Little says this first-ever all-female boot camp is a step in the right direction.

The next boot camp for women is set for January, but similar co-ed classes are offered year-round.  To learn more or apply to CodeFellows, click here

Since the company started offering its $60,000 job guarantee, it has never had to refund a student's tuition.  Every graduate has been successfully placed at a job in the software industry.

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