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Mentor girls to fill technology jobs, panelists say

photo of women in tech panel

To encourage girls to enter the technology field, both men and women need to mentor them, said panelists at an event sponsored by Coding Dojo on Dec. 6. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Women currently working in the technology field said that both men and women should mentor girls to encourage them to get into the industry because Idaho will need them to fill jobs.

That’s according to a panel of seven women working for a variety of Boise-based startups and nonprofits intended to encourage technology education. The group spoke on Dec. 6 at Trailhead, the downtown co-working space, during an event sponsored by Coding Dojo, a coding boot camp organization with 10 locations – now including Boise – that teaches people about programming.

Panelists said that, in general, they had not experienced overt sexism in their jobs, but a number related incidents of “tone policing,” where they were criticized in performance reviews for being “too aggressive” or considered “unapproachable” because they answered questions too quickly.

To recruit women into the tech industry, mentors should demonstrate that technology isn’t necessarily programming, doesn’t necessarily require a math background, and requires much more collaboration than is often taught in computer science classes today, the panelists said.

One panelist noted that she was disappointed when she wasn’t allowed to discuss programming assignments with classmates while in college, and about the competitive atmosphere in general. Katy Kahla, engineering team lead at TSheets, asked, “How are those skills of competitiveness going to help you with a job?”

Kahla is the only woman on her seven-member team. Six of the organization’s 72 developers are women, she said. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, only 19 percent of computer and information sciences bachelor’s degree recipients were women in 2016. Women held 26 percent of the nation’s computer industry jobs in 2017.

Coding Dojo expands to Boise 

The Women in Technology panel was part of a series of events held the first week of December as part of Computer Science Education Week, which commemorates the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was known for coining the term “bug.”

In addition to the Women in Tech panel, Coding Dojo also sponsored a lunch on Boise’s technology landscape and opportunities, an all-day Intro to Programming course, three Intro to Code workshops, and an information session on the Coding Dojo itself.

photo of tiam rastegar

Tiam Rastegar

“Coding Dojo is moving into Trailhead North and will teach classes starting in January,” said Tiam Rastegar, executive director of Trailhead. “They are taking over the Learning Center, which is the large conferencing and meeting space at Trailhead North where my personal office currently is located. They will help fill a much-needed gap in our workforce development and work directly with employers locally to tailor their curriculums to their talent needs.”

The organization also has a registered apprenticeship program through a partnership with the Department of Labor and local business, Rastegar said. “I am a big fan of their ‘earn and learn’ approach,” he said. “I have seen this work in Germany where I grew up.”

The January program is a 14-week class that covers three programming stacks: Python, Mean and .Net. The class costs $10,495, but may be at least partially covered for students in the registered apprenticeship program. According to the organization, there are 8,108 developer jobs in the Boise metropolitan area and 156 startups.

Coding Dojo also sponsored two events during Boise Startup Week where it announced the permanent Boise location. It is also making the rounds of a number of educational institutions, including high schools, to encourage signups, according to Christopher Chung, director of new center development for the organization.

Idaho is considered to be only the second state, after Arkansas, that implements nine policies to help promote computer science in K-12 education, as defined by Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides computer science curriculum and organizes the annual Hour of Code campaign.

About Sharon Fisher