In 2009, when Sarah Mei and I started teaching free coding workshops for women, we didn’t expect to fix the industry, just our little corner of it.
We’re programmers. We solve problems by focusing on something concrete that can be built with the tools at hand. We focused on increasing diversity in the SF Ruby meetup. By teaching workshops, engaging the local tech companies and all of the people who wanted to help, we moved the needle. Later we expanded to include outreach to other demographics who are underrepresented in tech (which turns out to be most people).
Last week I spoke at a Bridge Foundry event where we announced a new industry partner program. In preparing for this announcement, I spoke to Amanda Cooper (@MandaCoop) on our advisory board. She framed what we do as “you make the road by walking it.”
There was no clear path, but we had ideas that we thought could work. We did the work to implement our ideas. We took a data-driven approach to measuring impact. We open-sourced our process and materials. In doing the work, we created a path that others could follow. Or more accurately, inspired others to help create the path by walking it with us.
Over the years, I’ve watched students become senior software developers. I’ve seen how volunteering at the workshops has caused some ex-programmers to decide to become software engineers again. It’s not all about more diverse software developers — we want everyone to be able to learn these tech skills, if they want to. Coding skills are applicable across many disciplines and can be useful to simply understand the technology that people use every day.
Most students and volunteers are working software developers, and we’re seeing some particular problems in the tech industry where we think we can help.
Lack of good tech jobs
The tech industry has a diversity problem that goes well beyond the “pipeline” problem that can be address with skill training. There seem to be few workplaces where there is real opportunity to succeed based on individual skill and potential.
I believe that most companies genuinely want to create workplaces where people with the right skills and capabilities can deliver business impact. This should be very aligned with business goals. Unfortunately systemic bias gets in the way. There are patterns that need to and can be changed. There are bugs in the system that need to be fixed in order to attract and retain diverse talent.
I see some companies where the environment seems to be different. I hear about companies who want to do better. Help create the path by walking it with some folks who have a lot of experience solving these kinds of challenges: join the Bridge Foundry Industry Partner Program.
Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.
Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.
― Antonio Machado, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems