Wanted: Bad*ss Women Who Can Do Anything

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By Ellen Mary Hickmann | Guest Contributor

A few months ago, I took some of our students from Turing School of Software and Design to visit a local high school. We stood in front of 200 students and asked, “How many of you know what a software developer does?” Fewer than 10 hands went up.   

But when I asked, “How many of you use apps on your phone?” every hand shot up. I explained that software developers are the people who make those apps. When I shared that our graduates make an average salary of $75,000 and the growth rate for developer jobs is 24% (compared to 7% for other fields), I really had their attention.  

It is not surprising that students today aren’t aware of what software developers do or how to become one themselves. It’s also unsurprising that many companies have less than 10% of women or people of color on their engineering teams. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, “women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.”  

What’s causing this gap? Let’s start with a bit more data from NGCP, “women earned 57.3% of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2013 and 50.3% of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. However, women’s participation in science and engineering at the undergraduate level significantly differs by specific field of study. While women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in the computer sciences (17.9%), engineering (19.3%), physical sciences (39%) and mathematics (43.1%).” These numbers are mirrored for people of color.

Does this mean only white men are good at math and science? That women aren’t smart enough for these careers? Many of us likely heard that message throughout our K-12 schooling experience. Young girls are pushed towards pink toys, dolls, and social games, whereas boys are encouraged to build things, break things, and follow any path they can imagine. Young girls rarely see any role models in math and science fields. Computer science is not required at any level of our K-12 school system.  

In essence, we’ve created all of the conditions to make math and science fields inaccessible or extremely uncomfortable for women and people of color.  

 
 

So, what’s the solution? We created this mess . . . and we can fix it. At Turing, we specifically recruit women and people of color for our 7 month intensive program. No prior experience in software development is required to be successful; our students come from all backgrounds. We are looking for people with grit who want to be part of an inclusive tech environment. We have developed a program with the highest standards for student achievement and professional development. Graduation is not our ultimate goal, it’s just a stepping stone to the career that will unlock your potential.  

Our student body is diverse and unique. They create applications that help non-English speaking parents translate messages to teachers, support victims of domestic abuse, track aid to natural disasters, and more. We are a community comprised of 37% women and 30% people of color. Our student body is a mix of career changers, college graduates and dropouts, veterans, parents--all dedicated, motivated, and highly capable people.

We want our graduates to go out into the field of technology and start to change the conversation around diversity and inclusion. We want our graduates to create the apps of the future.


Ellen Mary Hickmann is an educator, coach, advocate, and puzzle solver. She works at her dream job at Turing School of Software and Design and spends all of her free time with her wife and two mini goldendoodles. @emhickmann on Instagram and LinkedIn