Original Content

Women Learning to Code


I am a user of technology much more than a creator.   After I completed a masters in educational technology I knew to better use the skills I had learned it would benefit me to gain a better understanding of computer coding. My HTML skills were adequate but rusty, and I didn’t have any experience with other languages. To increase these skills I really did not want to have to take another for-credit course, but I also knew that I would have a better learning experience if I had someone of whom I could ask questions. Around this time, I was made aware of Girl Develop It. I have attended a few meetings and truly appreciate the instruction and the opportunity to learn new skills. As a way to introduce the readers of the LITA blog who might be interested in adding to their skill-set I interviewed Michelle Brush and Denisse Osorio de Large, the leaders of my local Girl Develop It group.

What is Girl Develop It?

MB: Girl Develop It is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing more women into technology by offering educational and network-building opportunities.

DL: Girl Develop It is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn web and software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction.

What sparked your interest in leading a Girl Develop It group?

MB: I attended Strange Loop where Jen Myers spoke and mentioned her involvement in Girl Develop It.   Then several friends reached out to me about wanting to do more for women in tech in Kansas City, so we decided to propose a chapter in Kansas City.

DL: Growing up my mom told me my inheritance was my education, and that my education was something no one would ever be able to take away from me.  My education has allowed me to have a plentiful life, I wanted to pay it forward and this organization allowed to do just that. I’m also the proud mom of two little girls and I want to be a good example for them.

What is your favorite thing about working in the technology industry?

MB: Software can be like magic.  You can build very useful and sometimes beautiful things from a pile of keywords and numbers.  It’s also very challenging, so you get the same joy when your code works that you do when solving a really hard math problem.

DL: I love the idea of helping to create things that don’t exist and solving problems that no one else has solved. The thought of making things better, drives me.

Why do you believe more women should be working in information technology?

MB: If we can get women involved at the same percentages as we have men, we would solve our skills gap.  It also helps that women bring a different perspective to the work.

DL: The industry as a whole will benefit from the perspective of a more diverse workforce. Also, this industry has the ability to provide a safe and stable environment where females can thrive and make a good living.

Are there other ways communities can be supportive of women entering the information technology industry?

MB: We need more visibility to the women already in the industry as that will make other women recognize they can be successful in the community as well.  Partly it’s on women like me to seek out opportunities to be more visible, but it’s also on the community to remember to look outside of the usual suspects when looking for speakers, mentors, etc.  It’s too easy to keep returning to the names you already know. Conferences like Strange Loop and Midwest.io are making strides in this area.

DL: I believe it starts with young girls and encouraging and nurturing their interest in STEM. It is very important that members of the community provide opportunities for girls to find their passion in the field of their choice.

Are any of you reading the LITA blog involved with Girl Develop It? I’d love to hear your stories!