The Toronto-based organization provides women (and men) the opportunity to learn beginner-friendly computer programming and other technical skills through hands-on workshops.
Operations and expansion director Melissa Crnic said the “blood, sweat and tears project” of over 800 volunteers aims to increase diversity in the workplace through coding education.
“Women are definitely underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology engineering and math),” Crnic told Techvibes. “And for us our goal is to work towards an equal number of men and women in the workforce.”
Heather Payne, an early investor in Shoplocket, founded Ladies Learning Code in August 2011. Today the organization features chapters in Halifax, London, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary.
Also playing large roles in the organization are Breanna Hughes and Laura Plant. Together the four also cofounded HackerYou, a course-based coding education organization that offers hands-on learning from industry professionals.
Crnic emphasized that Ladies Learning Code is not exclusive to woman. In fact, men consistently participate in the workshops. The name is more indicative of the style of learning the organization advocates.
“What we’ve learned is that women have a unique and different learning style which is more social and collaborative and we think that’s beneficial to the workplace,” said the Richard Ivey alumnus. “But men can learn in the style too and there’s a lot of men who enjoy our workshops.”
Over 5,000 Canadians have attended a Ladies Learning Code workshop to date. They often draw a varied crowd of wannabe developers, ranging in age from 16 to 75 years. Participants also range in intent, from young entrepreneurs to career-changing individuals eager to learn a new skill.
Those who run Ladies Learning Code don’t earn money, nor do the several hundred other volunteers and mentors involved. Chapter Leads earn a small commission but the real rewards come as a result of bringing together up to 100 learners in a room over seven hours.
It’s been less than two years since the first event, but Ladies Learning Code is surging forward. A new chapter in Edmonton is set to open next month while the organization has set their sights on New Brunswick for the fall.
Meanwhile, "Girls Learning Code" workshops are being offered, devoted to girls aged 8 to 17. They are also offering co-ed "Kids Learning Code" workshops during summer and March break. The organization seeks to have equal number boys and girls in order to promote understanding of workplace diversity at a young age.
Crnic recalls grateful parents saying how much confidence their children built as a result of the workshops, while some participants returned to five or six workshops. “The fact that they return just because they want to keep learning, that really talks to how powerful it is,” she said.
Women or men, anyone interested in taking part in Saturday’s chapter launch and workshop in Montreal are invited. In the opinion of Ladies Learning Code, it beats trying to learn alone.
“It’s a collaborative and social environment, they’re really comfy, there’s one mentor for every four people and it’s very intimate,” said Crnic. “And you get to learn with a bunch of people instead of being by yourself online.”