HALIFAX — Canada’s technology industry is still very much a male-dominated field, with women making up only about 25% of employees.
It’s a statistic, Pearl Chen, has witnessed first hand during her 10 years as a developer.
“I’ve never worked with another woman, besides the ones that I’ve helped hire,” says Chen.
In an effort to help more women embrace the technology, she joined Ladies Learning Code, a national not-for-profit organization that aims to teach women and girls the basics of coding.
“Learning how to code is (like) learning to read, it’s almost becoming as important as that,” explains Heather Payne, who founded the organization in 2011. “It can be hard to learn on your own, you’re not quite sure where to start. I went through that myself and that’s why I created Ladies Learning Code.”
The organization, which recently opened a chapter in Halifax, held its first workshop this Saturday. The session provided participants with an introduction to HTML and CSS.
One of the participants looking to learn how to build a website was 63-year-old Esther Lorencz.
“Webpages are very expensive when you rent them from other companies, and I wanted to have a webpage about my foot care business, so I thought this would be a nice little way to set up a simple webpage.”
Not all participants, however, were looking to build their own websites. Some, like Adriana Dolnyckyj, just wanted to understand how coding works.
“To understand, not necessarily do it myself, but even to understand how it works and so that when you’re talking to people who are doing this you are speaking the same language,” she says.
According to Chen, the organization’s lead instructor, knowing how to build simple websites can be a great equalizer.
“You don’t have to make a career out of it, but if you want to put up a message or even start a blog that’s something that you can do as a side project … so you get a lot of impact by just learning a few lines of HTML.”
So far, over 4,000 women and men have taken advantage of these workshops.