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CodeOp - NEO visits the tech bootcamp only for women+

November 23, 2021

With our interest (and support for) Diversity Equity and Inclusion in education, and STEAM subjects as an agent of positive change for the future, it is not surprising that Codeop was a powerful draw for the NEO Team.

CodeOp, based in Barcelona, is a "tech school that offers courses for women+ (inclusive of trans and non-binary)... dedicated to changing the culture of tech and focus on providing our community with the support and training they need to become leaders in their field".

Now you may already be as intrigued as we were because, quite frankly, this is not common. In fact, that is kind of the point, as we would later learn. We dropped by their (very cool) learning space in Gracia, Barcelona, to meet the team and find out more.

Here is what we found out.

Women+ creates a fuss

It does, right? There are coding schools and bootcamps out there, and some of them are even actively trying to address the chronic gender imbalance in tech, but few are addressing it so directly. The community of women-only coding schools and bootcamps is vanishingly small, and for women+, the field narrows further.

In the US, there are already a number of legal challenges to institutions offering women only scholarships in STEAM, and thought it is clear that women+ are critically underrepresented in the tech space, there are many out there who say that offering certain opportunities only to women is unfair and discriminatory.

Standing out and standing up

So right from the start, CodeOp stands out. More importantly, however, it stands up. Katrina Walker, CEO and Founder of CodeOp, told us that if we want the gender gap to close, and we want the tech culture to change, we need to take much bolder action.

Let's look at the facts. Are you ready for some numbers? 

  • 3% of women say a career in technology is their first choice
  • 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women
  • Women hold only 19% of all tech roles, but when we look at women of colour, that figure falls to 5% for Asian women, and 3% for Black and Hispanic women
  • There is a "leaky pipeline" after graduation where, of those who graduate from computer science degrees in the US for example, only 34% of women go on to work in the field, compared to 50% of men.
  • Gender imbalance is equal across all sizes of tech organisations, so it's not just a "corporate" issue
  • 74% of women working in tech say they have experienced gender discrimination
  • Statistics for trans women and non-binary in the tech space are almost non-existent.

We could go on. Pay, burnout, promotion...in every indicator you care to choose, women come out at a disadvantage, and the intersection of race, disability, or gender nonconformity only compounds that inequality.

It's not getting much better. Tech jobs are increasing far quicker than average rates for employment, and it is very clear that this industry is to become the dominant force of our times. Excluding anyone in our society from the opportunities this presents, is simply not on. We need to do something different, and we cannot just wait for long, drawn-out initiatives to take root.

CodeOp has something different in mind.

Meeting people where they are

Tech is far too male dominated, and we have to imagine how that feels. Women+ are looking at the industry and seeing few leaders that look like them, or cultures that support who they are and what they have to give. Anyone who thinks the gender imbalance in tech is because women are simply "less interested" or that tech "appeals less" to them, is guilty of a word which CodeOp introduced us too in their recent job advert: dickheadery.

We had a long discussion about this with Ejiro Oviri, Head of Growth and Brand Content at CodeOp. Ejiro talks about "reaching out" to actively find and meet women+ in the community who may need some encouragement to come forward and feel supported in their transition into tech.

The partnership with the women-first dating app Bumble, to create the Bumble Tech Academy was a perfect fit. This programme aims to address the unique obstacles faced by women+ (with no previous coding experience) who want to break into tech, with a goal to remove as many of these obstacles as possible.

These first steps into the tech space are make or break, and with Bumble offering a job opportunity as a junior software developer to each person who completes the bootcamp, the programme ensures that all angles are covered.

Transition into tech does not mean supporting women+ to build their passion and talent, and then failing to support them in finding that first job. In fact, trainees receive an annual salary of €25,000 over the training period, so the financial barrier is also removed. The support at CodeOp is full stack.

Something important is happening here

Tech needs to get over its gender issues, and it needs to reflect the community it is supposed to serve. Whatever we have been doing up to now to make tech more diverse, inclusive and equitable in access is clearly not working. CodeOp are trying something direct, and judging by their growth, employability stats and learner feedback, it is clearly working.

When education serves a social purpose, and addresses a social need, we're all in. When incremental change fails to close a widening gap, bold change is needed. Women+ belong in all spaces, and with their online, blended and on-site bootcamps, CodeOp are not trying to fit in, but in their words, to "change the culture of tech worldwide".

Codeop is yet another example of the partnerships we seek out through NEO. By investing our energies in helping certain organisations to thrive, we understand our responsibilities in amplifying only the voices which speak of a better future. We believe in Codeop, and their vision for a more inclusive future where women+ can feed that foiled, creative fire.

Thank you to the CodeOp team for making us feel welcome, and for sharing your story with us. To find out more about them, go check their website and say hello.

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