News / Vancouver

Ladies Learning Code developing the female talent pool

A new movement to teach women how to code is highlighting a noticeable gender gap in Vancouver’s tech industry.

Ladies Learning Code (LLC), a non-profit that teaches women basic coding skills, is hosting its first workshops outside of Toronto at the Launch Academy this weekend.

The two sold-out LLC workshops will introduce 90 women and men to HTML and CSS, two of the world’s most popular computer languages.

Angelina Fabbro, a software engineer, said she volunteered to mentor students of this weekend’s workshops for personal reasons.

“I didn’t grow up with a lot of, I guess, support when it came to my interests in computing and science,” she said.

And as she got older, discouragement came in other forms, such as subtle sexism in the workplace.

But she pushed on and soon realized that anyone can be a developer.

“I wanted to be the person that is there at these events (LLC workshops) to pass that message along to people,” she said.

Peter Walton is associate director in continuing studies at Simon Fraser University, which helped fund the workshops.

He said he sees parallels between the tech industry today and the fields of medicine and law 20 years ago.

“It’s changing, but it’s one of the last, sort of, bastions that’s predominately male,” he said.

Jesse Heaslip, co-founder of Launch Academy and volunteer mentor, agrees.

After nearly a decade in the industry, he’s noticed a serious lack of female developers in the talent pool.

“For technology to grow as a whole, we really need to engage the female population base,” he said.

The female developers are still unicorns, said Ambrosia Humphrey, director of human resources for HootSuite.

“For as long as I’ve been in tech, it continues to be a challenge at the forefront of HR practitioners minds, on businesses minds, and on developers minds,” she said. “They really value the skills that women bring to a team.”

Humphrey said, as the sector grows to include more jobs in social media, marketing and graphic design, more women are getting involved. But it will be a bit of a wait until there's any kind of equality gender equality in tech, she said.

It’s hard to tell whether LLC is helping even out the gender balance in the industry. It held its first workshop only a year ago this August.

But founder Heather Payne said LLC has taught more than a thousand ladies (and men) to code, and she’s even heard from some women who left quit jobs to pursue tech.

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