Girl Develop It comes to Fort Collins to empower female coders

Many women are forced to choose between career and family. For those who choose the latter, a decade or two out of the workforce means starting over in a career and learning new job skills.

This is the situation Daun Davids, co-leader of the Fort Collins chapter of Girl Develop It, found herself in.

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Founded in 2010, Girl Develop It is an organization that provides software coding classes for women re-entering the workforce and small business owners starting a website, as well as women simply interested in technology.

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Although classes are available for both men and women, co-leaders Daun Davids and Gretchen Kastetter want to encourage mothers to sign up for classes because they serve as role models for future generations.

“Younger women grew up with technology, but women in our generation got left behind in technology,” Davids said.

Girl Develop It serves as encouragement for women and opens up opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. This is critical, since a small fraction of women earn degrees in computer science or work in science-related fields.

Amanda Carbonari, a second-year junior, said she has noticed a gender gap with both professors and students in computer science at Colorado State University. Carbonari said most colleges have 10 to 20 percent female professors. While she said there is an equal sex ratio in Foundations of Programming, the class she serves as a teaching assistant in, Carbonari said she believes this is because it is an all-university core curriculum class.

However, Carbonari said the gender gap quickly grows. In 200-level classes, she has seen less than 10 women in a class of about 90 students.

Davids said when she earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science in the 1980s, she was one of the only women in the class. Twenty years later, when she earned her master’s degree, Davids said the gender ratio was still the same.

Kastetter said women do not receive the same encouragement in computer science as men. Girl Develop It hopes to bring more women in, who can contribute different ideas in the field. Davids and Kastetter said this is because women tend to communicate more and ask questions of each other.

“Women in the field add diversity,” Kastetter said. “Women see different perspectives and work well in teams. They will add a different mindset.”

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Davids said traditionally, women choose careers that help people.

“They haven’t seen how technology helps people,” Davids said.

(Photo credit: Katie Schmidt)
(Photo credit: Katie Schmidt)

Fort Collins is the 37th chapter of the rapidly growing organization. Girl Develop It was brought to Fort Collins in order to expand the Boulder chapter and bring in people from Greeley, Loveland and Cheyenne. A month before classes start, the Fort Collins chapter has about 30 members.

Girl Develop It is founded on an inclusive environment where there are no “stupid questions.” Kastetter said student skill levels range from beginner to advanced, which allows proficient students to help out beginners. Kastetter said there will be a small teacher-to-student ratio and teaching assistants will be available to answer questions.

Classes cost about $10 an hour, or $80 for an intro course.  Free or donation-based workshops will be available soon.

The first class, Introduction to HTML and CSS, will be held on Aug. 2 and 3.

Collegian Staff Reporter Katie Schmidt can be reached at news@collegian.com.