Why Computer Programming Is for Women, Too

Posted by on Fri, Jan 10, 2014

Professional woman computer programmer

Women with curious minds and passionate hearts can make their mark in one of the fastest growing careers—computer programming. Learning to program offers women opportunities to apply their unique perspectives to solve modern-day problems through the power of technology. A new web-development boot camp launched by industry leaders gives women an opportunity to quickly develop market-ready skills in computer programming and start or change their careers.

[Find information on technology degrees from Kaplan University]

Thoughtbot, a Boston-based leader in Ruby on Rails and software development, has partnered with Kaplan Test Prep, experts in effective learning strategies, to create a new boot camp training program focused on the popular web application framework, Ruby on Rails.  The 12-week immersion program, called Metis after the Greek goddess of wisdom, teaches students marketable skills that will prepare them start a career in web development. Interested candidates can submit an application online, and the course kicks off on February 24 in downtown Boston. Metis is expected to continue with additional boot camp sessions throughout the year.

The Metis boot camp also includes job placement services to help students find the best fit in the marketplace after completing the course.  According to Dan Croak, the Chief Marketing Officer at thoughtbot, “Ruby on Rails has become one of the more popular web application frameworks in the world.” It is the framework that powers massive websites such as Twitter and Hulu. “So folks who are graduating boot camp with these skills will have interest from around the world,” said Croak. The boot camp will culminate in a career day, focused on connecting students to job positions in web development.

[Watch Croak’s complete video interview on the Metis Ruby on Rails boot camp.]

Computer programming is a particularly attractive career for women. Programming has developed a reputation for being somewhat nerdy, when in fact, computer programmers are the opposite. In a recent Today Show spotlight, Vanessa Hearst, founder of Girl Develop It, explains that there is a “misperception” that “if you like working with computers you couldn’t possibly like people.” She finds that the best computer programmers are people who think about other people first and who want to solve human problems. “One of the biggest questions in software development,” thoughtbot’s Croak says, “is what are the human problems that software can solve?” Programmers tackle real, modern-day problems and develop innovative ways to harness the possibilities in technology for the benefit of society. Designing solutions that matter to the world’s population, half of which are women, must include the perspective of women to be truly effective. “Being able to have that perspective of the end result of our software—the real purpose it’s trying to solve,” said Croak, “requires perspectives from both genders.”

Yet, women are grossly underrepresented in the computer programming industry. There is currently a shortage of qualified programmers in the field, and less than half of them are women. The industry is expected to continue to grow by 30% per year through 2020, and the software community is pushing to equalize the gender imbalance. The Ruby on Rails sector is especially supportive of gaining more women programmers to strengthen innovation and creativity in its products. Women with programming skills will be more and more in demand in the job market as time goes on.

Along with the market demand for female programmers, learning to program offers both a flexible and financially secure career, which fits well for women raising a family and for women with grown children looking for a new career. Maria Shriver challenges Hearst in the Today Show interview and asks how relevant programming is to women in midlife. “I’m a 45-year-old woman,” Shriver says, “and my kids are going out of the house…Why should I think coding?” Hearst explains that programming is well suited to recareering women because of “the financial flexibility you get by having programming skills” and “you can really do it from anywhere.” Programming allows women to earn a “good living,” as Shriver puts it, while still being able to work from home and maintain other responsibilities or hobbies.

[Read: Looking for a Career Change? 5 Tips for Your Résumé and Job Search.]

The Today Show piece ends with several young girls describing the importance of learning to program. “I believe it’s really important to fight the stereotypes,” says one girl. “It makes you feel more confident,” says another. And that rings true for women of all ages.

Do you think gender equality in computer programming is important?

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