We all know that women are under-represented and underpaid in the tech industry. But here’s a reminder of the problem’s scale:
Women only account for 25 percent of IT workers in the US.
Think that’s bad? Try this one.
Women own a total of—wait for it—5 percent of startups. 5 percent!
In an industry that prides itself on being progressive, liberal, and forward-thinking, this has unsurprisingly got a lot of people asking: “How has this happened?”
The rise of the “brogrammer” stereotype has been attributed to many sources, but one thing’s for sure—the idea that coding is “a guy thing” is at best unfortunate, and at worst repressive.
So yes, things are bad. But what’s actually being done to bridge the tech gender gap?
Coding bootcamp Ironhack has a plan. And it all starts with education.
From one gap to another
Founded in Madrid before setting up shop in Barcelona, Miami, and beyond, Ironhack’s mission statement is simple: fill the gap between traditional education and the increasingly tech-focused job market.
Ana Larrea, Head of Growth at Ironhack Barcelona, explains:
“Here in Spain there’s a huge unemployment problem because people finish university and can’t find a job. They think they’re not valuable. Then at the same time tech companies are saying, ‘Oh my God, we need developers but we can’t find them.’”
So Ironhack runs intense, two- to three-month coding courses to connect the industry’s demand for developers with smart, willing candidates. And it works—over 90% of Ironhack graduates land a tech job in the months after they finish.
Here’s a class in action:
But the school’s staff noticed that while they were treating one industry fracture, another had opened up: of the 1000+ recruits who’d made it through their bootcamp, only a small number were female.
This didn’t sit well with Ironhack’s mission to show that tech is an empowering career option, however your chromosomes are paired:
“Tech’s not just for men. We all have the same brain. But as a woman, you get told from a young age that you’re more suited to the arts or dealing with people, and that you’re not very analytical. That’s why many women don’t even think about a career in tech.” – Ana Larrea, Ironhack
Luckily, Ironhack’s role as a gateway into the trenches of web design meant they were perfectly placed to change this. Not just at Ironhack, but for the wider industry.
So they launched a simple incentive: any woman accepted into an Ironhack bootcamp gets a 10% scholarship.
It was a solid start, and the offer still stands to this day.
But to really make a difference, they needed to think bigger.
Expanding the cause
Ironhack knew they had to reach beyond their techie community.
So how do you get people to find something they may not know they’re looking for yet?
You put it on Craigslist. Or if you’re in Barcelona, the local equivalent: Wallapop.
Ironhack connected with Wallapop in search of a partner to get more women into tech. They ended up finding a kindred spirit in Wallapop CMO, Gemma Escribano.
“Gemma told us that there wasn’t a single woman on their tech team—not even one. And she was a bit embarrassed about it. So we all said ‘Okay, let’s do something.’” – Ana Larrea, Ironhack
They came up with a plan: Wallapop would offer 200,000€ to give 10 women full Ironhack scholarships, and 90 more partial scholarships.
To spread the word, Wallapop sent an in-app message to all its female users. It included an embedded typeform so people could respond without leaving the app. You can check out their typeform here.
The aim was to run the message for 20 days in hopes of getting around 2,000 responses.
But on day ten they ended the campaign, because over 6,000 women had already filled in the typeform.
That’s a lot of interviews for Ironhack Barcelona’s 5-person team to conduct—but it didn’t dent their enthusiasm:
“All we said was ‘you can do it!’ and it was overwhelming how many women responded.”
Fast-forward a few months and the industry is benefitting from 100 more qualified female coders.
So what are they up to now?
Student becomes teacher
Women who have graduated from Ironhack’s bootcamp have gone on to work everywhere from Visa to Cabify.
Some Wallapop scholars were offered jobs within weeks after finishing. Others have written fondly of their Ironhack experience on Medium.
But one story in particular stands out. Wallapop scholar Jennie Dalgren cofounded Kids Hack Club in Barcelona, which aims to turn the toddlers and teenagers of today into the programmers of tomorrow.
The after-school club accepts children as young as four, so some are literally writing code before they can write a sentence. The motivation?
“Kids learn foreign languages and public speaking in school, but one thing is missing—the computational thinking and understanding of the digital era.”
In other words, Jennie is filling a gap between traditional education and the increasingly digital demands of modern life. Just like Ironhack.
And if the next generation is encouraged to code earlier—both boys and girls—hopefully we’ll see those gender stats start to even out.
Because right now, Ana thinks the industry is lacking something:
“Many articles show that companies with more gender diversity perform better. And I believe it—women are nonconformist and creative. They can bring a lot to the industry as leaders.”
Can your company help bridge the tech gender gap?