Help­ing women to break so­cial pro­gram­ming

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By XU WEI

The tech sec­tor’s strong gen­der im­bal­ance has led to a rise in non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cated to clos­ing the gap in the field of soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing.

A re­port con­ducted by Code­forge, a source-code shar­ing web­site, shows that in 2014 only 20 per­cent of pro­gram­mers in China were fe­male.

Rails Girls, a cam­paign started in Fin­land by two pro­gram­mers, one male and one fe­male, aims to pro­vide women with the tools and a com­mu­nity to un­der­stand tech­nol­ogy and de­velop their own ideas.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion hosted its first Chi­nese work­shop in Bei- jing on Dec 15, 2012, be­fore ar­rang­ing a fur­ther 17 in six other cities. Wen Yang, who helped to host the Bei­jing event and later be­came a part-time vol­un­teer with the or­ga­ni­za­tion, said Rails Girls has now pro­vided free pro­gram­ming work­shops to more than 1,000 women in China.

“Some of the women were in­spired by our events and took up po­si­tions as pro­gram­mers,” he said, adding that some have even started their own in­ter­net com­pa­nies and their own web­sites.

In June, Wen quit his job at a State-owned en­ter­prise and es­tab­lished the Cod­ing Girls Club, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that of­fers women free pro­gram­ming work­shops and sem­i­nars. So far, the club has or­ga­nized two train­ing ses­sions, at­tended by 32 women, but the or­ga­niz­ers aim to help 1,000 women to be­come pro­gram­mers in the next three years.

How­ever, Wen con­ceded that it re­mains dif­fi­cult for women to take up pro­gram­ming through work­shops, adding that only two of the women who at­tended the Rails Girls work­shops over the years have made the grade.

Although most Rails Girls cour­ses are spon­sored by in­ter­net com­pa­nies and pro­gram­mers vol­un­teer to give the lessons, the time frame can make things dif­fi­cult, ac­cord­ing to Wen.

“The fact that Rails Girls can only pro­vide free one-day work­shops makes it dif­fi­cult for in­ter­net com­pa­nies and pro­fes­sional pro­gram­mers to de­vote them­selves to the course,” he said, adding that the club is now look­ing to pro­mote pro­gram­ming among women in China’s third- and fourth-tier cities.

“We hope women will be able to achieve a rise in their so­cial and eco­nomic status by mas­ter­ing pro­gram­ming skills,” he said. “We are aim­ing to pro­vide more long-term sup­port via pro­gram­ming cour­ses, so women will gain a high de­gree of pro­fi­ciency.”

WEN YANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

A vol­un­teer teaches women at a free soft­ware pro­gram­ming work­shop or­ga­nized by Rails Girls in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince.

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