Closure Of Women Who Code Sparks Fears Of Stalled Progress On Diversity

News that Women Who Code—a non-profit organization dedicated to building community for women in the tech sector—is shutting its doors, has prompted fears of a backsliding in progress toward gender inequality in an industry still blighted by sexism.

According to its website, Women Who Code most recently had 360,000 people in its community, across 145 countries. On social media, those affiliated with the organization expressed shock, disbelief and sadness at the closure. Many paid tribute to the group by sharing anecdotes of how it had in recent years helped them to persevere in the sector.

In a press release, Women Who Code attributed its decision to shutter to a lack of funding. “This decision has not been made lightly,” the organization wrote. “It only comes after careful consideration of all options and is due to factors that have materially impacted our funding sources—funds that were critical to continuing our programming and delivering on our mission.”

Women Who Code, according to its website, was initially founded as a community group in 2011 by a small team of engineers in San Francisco. Its mission was to give women the chance to connect and support each other as they collectively navigate the tech industry—a space in which men still outnumber women, especially in senior positions.

In 2013, Women Who Code, Inc., was registered as a non-profit organization in California. Five years later it moved its headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia.

Women held just 35% of tech jobs in the U.S. at the end of 2023, according to the WomenTech Network. A McKinsey report published last year showed that while women earn about half of science and engineering degrees, they make up less than 20 percent of people employed in these fields. The report also found that in tech roles, only 52 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men.

‘The Value of Networking’

As women took to social media to bemoan the closure of Women Who Code, employment experts and other advocates of gender equality in the industry also expressed concerns that women in tech industry might be losing an important resource.

“The value of networking organizations for underrepresented groups has been very well established,” said Portia Hickey, an organizational psychologist based in the U.K. “These networks are important as they provide role models for women and other under-represented groups. Role models are incredibly powerful, not only because they show that it is possible to be female and have a successful career in tech, but also behavioral modeling of how to be successful—sharing strategies for how to tackle various aspects of being a woman in tech,” she added.

“Through these networks one person can inspire a great many people and they really have the potential to lead to a meaningful increase in representation,” she said.

Riaz Moola, founder and chief executive officer of HyperionDev, an online coding bootcamp, agreed that the closure deals a blow to efforts to make the sector more inclusive.

“This situation highlights that getting more women into tech roles remains a systemic issue that requires multi-pronged efforts from organizations, companies, and educational institutions,” he said. He noted however, that investors should not be discouraged from investing in initiatives like Women Who Code, “as in the long term, diversity in the tech industry must be a given.”

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