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