Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

You Have the Power to Write the Future

Now get the skills, make some friends, and create the world you want to live in.

A couple weeks ago, I came across a Meetup for an organization launching its 2018 kickoff in Orlando for Girl Develop It (GDI). I had not heard of GDI, so I looked it up and kind of fell in love with the org’s mission:

“Girl Develop It is a nonprofit organization that exists to provide affordable and judgment-free opportunities for women interested in learning web and software development. Through in-person classes and community support, Girl Develop It helps women of diverse backgrounds achieve their technology goals and build confidence in their careers and their every day lives.” — GDI web site.

The Meetup kickoff was last night. It was a strong turnout. Orlando generally has an active tech community, but there was something different about this crowd, and it wasn’t just the obvious fact that there were dozens of women who showed up for the event.

Girl Program It Orlando Meetup kickoff 2018 | Photo: Will Matias

It didn’t dawn on me at first, but then it seemed to be everywhere, with everyone I spoke to, and definitely reflected in the chapter founder’s opening remarks. It was a palpable sense of agency, of empowerment.

Learning to code, in many ways, unleashes magical powers for women. It enables women to create applications to solve problems, to become financially independent, and taken to the extreme, with enough women working together, women can write the algorithms and designs that shape our culture and the world we live in. Think about it. This is why we need more women in tech.

I sat down with Cassie Wilcox, the chapter founder, who volunteered to take on the task of getting GDI started here in Orlando. Wilcox is no stranger to code. She co-founded CodeHanger with a couple partners, helped bring Florida PyCon to Orlando, and teaches JavaScript part-time.

Girl Develop It Orlando founding organizers: L-R, Morgan Gonzalez, chapter organizer; Cassandra Wilcox, founding chapter leader; Casey Faist, chapter leader | Photo: Will Matias

Feeling the so-called gender deprivation that sets in over time when you’ve been working in tech surrounded by bros, Wilcox started getting involved with nonprofits like Girls Who Code. It had a profound impact on her. “I’d never been around that many women in tech in my life, even though these were young high school and middle school kids,” she said. It later inspired her to start Orlando Lady Devs a female developer Meetup that has been going strong since the summer of 2016.

Our conversation turned to one of the slides she had in her kickoff deck, where she made the point that women hold only 26% of the 4 million computing occupations. She went even further and touched on the theme I had sensed in talking to the attendees. “When I first learned to code, it boosted my confidence. I saw problems as puzzles we can solve,” she explained. She talked about how technology today shapes our culture and today’s technology is being written by white, heterosexual men. More women writing the technology that shape our lives can change this.

“The less you have in common with the people who create a culture, the less power you have in that culture.”

— Cassandra Wilcox

In the first few minutes of a talk she did last year she frames this brilliantly:

Wilcox said she’s probably going to merge Orlando LadyDevs with Orlando GDI to create one community, but she’s flexible. She mostly wants to create a safe space for women to feel comfortable.

Right now, the new organization has a need for companies willing to donate class locations, preferably not downtown where parking is sometimes a challenge, and for anyone interested in sponsoring upcoming events. The organization is also interested in anyone interested in teaching or teacher assistant positions. Wilcox emphasizes the philosophy behind GDI is to pay teachers for their time, so these are not volunteer gigs. < Also awesome.

The first class will be held 1/27 at PowerDMS. It’s an all day intro class on HTML and CSS.

To get in touch with GDI Orlando, join the Meetup group or follow them on Twitter @gdiORL. This party is just getting started.