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Code First Girls, a social enterprise aimed at teaching women to code, has reached its goal of teaching 20,000 women to code in the UK and Ireland.
The not-for-profit, which currently teaches more women to code than the UK’s university system, set the goal in 2017, and is now aiming to double its community.
Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls, said: “We are thrilled to have been able to deliver on our promise to help 20,000 women learn to code – but we are just getting started. We are launching a new strategy and urging businesses to help close the gender gap further through investing in female talent who want a career in tech, and create additional possibilities for them.”
There is still a lack of diversity in the UK’s tech sector, with recent research by BCS finding that women make up about 17% of IT specialists in the region, a figure that has grown by only 1% over the past five years.
The social enterprise puts its reach down to partnerships with firms such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, KKR, OVHcloud and Trainline, which help Code First Girls by providing customised training, hiring trainees and upskilling their own employees through the social enterprise.
Code First Girls also partners about 50 universities in the UK to offer young women free coding courses.
In the past three years, the not-for-profit has provided women with free technology education worth more than £14m.
In 2021, Code First Girls is aiming to further increase the number of women in tech and close the UK’s digital skills gap by offering mentorship and upskilling programmes, developing a 12-week “nano degree” programme and offering free coding courses.
The nano degree, which is being developed alongside employers in various industries, will train women to be prepared for jobs such as software developers.
The free online courses will teach a number of different digital skills in short bursts, such as the fundamentals of web development, Python or data.
The social enterprise said the need to teach women new skills is increasingly important during the pandemic, citing research from the Centre for Economic Performance that showed women are more likely to lose their jobs than men as a result of the pandemic, and sectors with a disproportionate amount of female workers are at risk.
Brailsford said: “Covid-19 has accelerated the appetite for coding education, as we saw an unprecedented growth, by 800%, in registrations for our virtual classes during lockdown. Coding education is important, now more than ever.
“Over the last few months, we have been working to help women who have been displaced by Covid-19 redundancies or are entering a tough graduate market to reskill and find employment. Our priority has been to help women achieve jobs at a time of deep economic and social uncertainty.”
There has been increased interest in learning digital skills during the pandemic, with almost 60% of UK adults expressing interest in developing their digital skills over the next year, and 80% saying they believe digital skills will be important for the future.
Many think a focus on developing digital skills in the UK will be a main driver for economic recovery from the coronavirus outbreak.