It's been a fews days since I advertised our first Blackgirl.tech workshop and the tickets are already sold out. It's humbling and amazing, I've received so much positive feedback and support from both inside and outside of the industry, Blackgirl.tech is something that is both wanted and needed.
However, there are still some who do not understand why this is needed, why do women of colour need their own space? Why am I being exclusionary? Not surprisingly, these kind of questions haven't come from those in tech fields nor have they come from women of colour.
A few weeks ago I posted an article with the same name as this on my personal blog, so I thought I'd revamp it and answer some of the questions I've been getting.
Having graduated last year and wanting to expand this very blog into a full site, I taught myself how to code. I started with HTML and CSS but then I found a wealth of other languages and before I knew it I was hooked onto Ruby. I quickly phoned up tech agencies and companies looking for work-experience but they all said the same thing "Codecademy wasn't enough" so I joined a full time intensive course and spent the better part of last year doing that. It was difficult but greatly satisfying and I loved it.
Now here's the thing, I learned in a multi-cultural class; we were five - a Greek guy, a Hungarian guy, a Malaysian woman, a British guy and myself - a Nigerian. Although I was the only black person, I was still surrounded by a mix of cultures, and at least one other ethnicity, which put me in a kind of sheltered environment.
Coming into the industry I knew that women were greatly underrepresented but I had never really thought or heard much about the representation of ethnic minorities. It wasn't until I started looking for jobs that I noticed, there aren't that many of us out there. If there's a BAME person on a tech team, likely chances it's a guy and if there's a woman on a tech team likely chances she's white. I've seen tech teams of 27 where 24 of those are white. This frightened me a bit, I was going to be the outsider. In this whole year of learning to code, I have seen less than 10 other black web developers, and roughly around 10 other ethnic minority developers. But I can count the amount of women in those categories on one hand.
Economically this is worrying. The tech industry is one of the most profitable industries globally. The paycheques that come with knowing how to build an app, maintain a site, deploy, etc are very, very nice. But if the industry is dominated by white men - as most very profitable industries are - then that automatically means that others have a harder time of breaking through and thus, getting some of those riches. Women are already paid less in tech making it harder for them to get a piece of the pie.
Now there are a few orgs and workshops targeted at women (RailsGirls, Women Who Code, Girls Who Code, etc.) but nothing that targets women of colour specifically.
Cue Blackgirl.tech. I have never been one to sit around and complain about something I'm unhappy with, without attempting to change it, so I decided to start my own org. The aim of which is to provide free workshops for ethnic minority women to learn how to code. Our first workshop will be in 2015 and we'll start with HTML and CSS. I will also be releasing a bunch of tutorials and learning resources for anyone to learn from online. This may not help the pay gap, but it will get more BAME women into the industry. My goal is to give women of ethnic minority the opportunity to be interested in tech, and make sure that they feel comfortable in this sector and show that they're not alone.