In theory, computing is egalitarian. Anyone with the right understanding of how it all works can code, whether you’re a woman from Detroit or a man from Laredo.
In practice, it doesn’t always work that way. Computing and IT exist in the real world, and the real world is not known for being fair. Not everyone has access to learning resources, to good Internet connections, or to halfway decent computing hardware. And for many people, what’s missing most is mentorship—having someone experienced you can turn to to help you find your way.
Women continue to face challenges in the tech industry, especially women of color and LGBTQ+ women. But over the last several years, a slew of organizations have stepped up to give women from all walks of life better access to resources for technical education, job placement, and networking opportunities.
Following are profiles of six of those organizations. In some cases, their missions and principles overlap, but all try to distinguish themselves—e.g., by focusing on women of color, or LGBTQ+ representation. Almost all of these programs also accept donations as a way to support their missions.
Ada Developers Academy
Black Girls Code
Black Girls Code (BGC) is a non-profit organization that runs after-school programs and workshops, providing girls of color with coding lessons, hackathons, and scholarships to attend their events. BGC events cover hands-on topics like building websites, but also include sessions on more advanced subjects like bioinformatics. Participants at the hackathons are provided with their own computing hardware and whiteboards. The organization mainly works in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also operates in six other states in the U.S. and in Johannesburg, South Africa, too.
Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code is a non-profit that offers a number of programs to help close the gender gap in technology. For girls in grades 3 through 12, it runs after-school clubs that run one-to-two hours per week, and offers beginner-to-advanced level courses in coding. For college-aged girls, there’s a program with a similar timeframe for community-building with other women in tech. And for those in grades 10 through 12, there’s a “Summer Immersion” program, running two weeks, that provides both coding and tech-job exposure. All programs are free; the summer program has stipends available as well.
Kal Academy is a non-profit coding bootcamp “dedicated to providing women and underrepresented minorities with the skills and tools they need to thrive in today’s tech industry.” Its offerings aren’t free; the entire bootcamp costs $2500, and individual classes begin at $420. The courses run for two hours on Saturdays and Sundays over a few weeks, so they can be integrated into the schedules of those with family duties or an existing 9-to-5 career. Some of the courses are offered through Udemy at reduced prices.
Lesbians Who Tech
Despite the name, Lesbians Who Tech isn’t limited to supporting LGBTQ women. A community of 50,000 members, the organization also aids non-binary and trans individuals, providing resources to allow them to be more visible in the tech industry and provide mutual support. Its most recent convention, the Debug 2020 Summit, featured speakers on LGBTQ+ people in tech companies like Peloton, but also more conventional tech topics like introductions to AI and workflow automation tools. The group also awards the Edie Windsor Coding Scholarship for “women and non-binary techies.”
Women Who Code
Women Who Code (WWC) offers a variety of resources for women to ensure proportionate representation for them in the technology world, including software engineering and technical leadership positions. The site includes curated coding resources for various subjects, a job board for WWC members, opportunities for members to take leadership positions within WWC, and offers for over $1 million in scholarships awarded annually.