In October 2017, Bloc, one of the nation’s only fully online coding bootcamps, reached a new milestone. For the first time, a majority of Bloc’s newly enrolled students were women. Given recent events in the Silicon Valley and across the tech sector, the team at Bloc is proud to have tipped the gender balance in enrollment. We didn’t achieve this goal by sitting back and waiting for potential women students to show up. We took active steps to recruit women and make our programs more empowering and accessible to women interested in retraining for a career in tech. Our new scholarship for women is just one part of our ongoing efforts.
It’s now a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in the tech sector but especially in tech positions. Part of the problem is the talent pipeline. Women account for only 18% of computer science graduates. There are many reasons why women select out of computer science programs but one reason is the campus climate. As computer science programs rapidly expanded in the 1980s to 1990s, they developed a reputation for being hostile environments for women. Despite considerable efforts to change this reality, to date, women continue to choose other fields, including other STEM fields, over computer science.
Coding bootcamps won’t solve the gender problem in tech on their own, but there are a few things that coding academies, especially those that operate online, are already doing that make tech training more viable and empowering for women.
First, online coding bootcamps are flexible. Whether one already has a full-time job and wants to retrain for a career in tech or has taken time off to care for young children and is looking to re-enter the workforce, online coding bootcamps hold the potential to reach these students wherever they are located and whenever they have a few hours to dedicate to retraining. Second, online coding bootcamps enable students to earn an income while they learn. Simply put, one doesn’t need to move, quit their current job, and go into debt to acquire the skills needed to launch a new career in tech. The most important factor, however, is that online coding schools enable students to acquire tech skills at their own pace without immersing themselves in the culture of an on-campus computer science program or on-premise coding bootcamp.
At Bloc, we have embraced a model of competency-based learning. Students move forward only after they have demonstrated mastery of a specific set of skills. Because students work one-on-one with a mentor, it is possible to ensure that students are reaching or exceeding each and every critical benchmark. But this model holds another advantage, which Bloc’s women find especially empowering. Working one-on-one with a mentor, the culture of our programs is ultimately defined only by the people who matter most: the student and their mentor. This means that students are free to ask questions, repeat steps as needed, and move at their own pace without judgment.
Changing the current status of women in tech will require a concerted effort from schools and tech companies. What Bloc has discovered is that by building programs that dismantle some of the cultural and financial obstacles that have traditionally faced women hoping to retrain for careers in tech, we’ve already been able to tip the gender balance.
About Clint Schmidt
Clint Schmidt is the Chief Executive Officer at Bloc, an online education company offering structured, mentor-led courses in web development, mobile development, and design.