Learning not to play down your own abilities: My experience of a female coding club

This week I attended Women Who Code’s first London meet up which was organised for females wanting to learn web development (Ruby, HTML and CSS).

I get to do a little coding on Computer Weekly, however already working within a Content Management System (CMS) means I’m limited to how much I can really learn about web development, so I thought the meet up would be a good way to expand my coding knowledge – during the session I built the website pictured : )

Thumbnail image for Holly for blog.jpgHaving previously spoken to Sheree Atcheson, founder of Women Who Code London and Belfast, I felt the meet up sounded like a perfect opportunity to develop my coding skills and meet other ladies in the same basic coding boat as me….so I emailed her asking if I could come along.

Before I arrived at the session I was thinking of possible news angles and questions to ask some of the ladies about why they chose to attend the meet up and what they hoped to get out of it. My first thought was “fear factor.”

I was wondering if the ladies were attending beginners web development for females because of a fear of attending male dominated sessions, in case they were branded “the dumb female” if it didn’t appear clear to them at first.

However, when I started to talk to the ladies they didn’t mention fear. They simply attended because they felt web development is a great skill to have under your belt.

But what I did notice was the lack of self-belief in the room and this is something that comes up in women in technology discussions frequently. The ladies I spoke to immediately said: “I currently only know the basics though” or “I don’t know much on coding so I’m here to learn a little more” just like myself – basic – and this is what the session described itself as.

Ladies – You are not basic level coders – I’M A BASIC LEVEL CODER. I couldn’t believe that these ladies where underselling themselves as only having “basic” knowledge when the questions in the room seemed to me to be well beyond basic.

I hear this time and time again that females do not realise just how good they are and I experienced this first hand this week, hearing these bright young ladies play down their own coding abilities.  

The first Women Who Code meet up was hosted at FDM Group’s offices near London Bridge. If you haven’t heard of FDM before, they’re very supportive of women in technology and its work workforce is currently 25% female.

At the meet up FDM Group’s chief operating officer, Sheila Flavell said the majority of the company’s management team are female “not because they’re women, but because they’re bloody good at what they do.”

If you’re interested in attending a Woman Who Code meet up you can find more details here. I will be attending more of them for sure, as it got me over my fear of Ruby on Rails – and after a few more sessions I will no longer consider myself “basic” either.

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