Anytime the topic of technology arises in the news or media, it’s about what new ‘thing’ has been invented to make our lives easier. We are always talking about a new app that helps find the cheapest gas, or an app that edits photos with a seemingly endless amount of filters and features. But one thing we sometimes fail to focus on are the people behind these technologies. The minds that work and code meticulously through endless hours, and sleepless nights to bring us these advancements in technology. We appreciate the faces behind each line of code written, and we want to share the story of one such group that is making it possible for women to prominently step into these roles.
InMotion Hosting has always believed that the work place runs at its peak efficiency and creativity when there is a diverse group of backgrounds collaborating to build better products. That’s why for the past few years, IMH has been making the push to be a pillar of support in the tech industry by supporting groups and niche organizations that want to grow in the tech field. Most recently, in the last year, we’ve partnered up with Girl Develop It, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable programs for adult women interested in learning web and software development in a judgment-free environment.
Inmotion Hosting recently hosted a Girl Develop It event at our Los Angeles office. Afterwards, we had a chance to sit down with Natalie Macleas, the co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Girl Develop It and talk about the organization’s goals as well as the reasons on why there is a need for groups such as Girl Develop It, especially in our times.
InMotion Hosting (IMH): What are some of the barriers to entry in the tech industry for women?
Natalie Macleas (NM): The biggest barrier is intimidation. Being the only woman in the room when all your coworkers on a development team are male builds up pressure. There is an almost, ‘imposter syndrome’ that females might feel. But GDI isn’t like that! Our name says “girl” but we have had men comes to our meetings and even teach some of our classes!
IMH: If we could be so bold – what is the need for an organization like yours?
NM: There is a daunting truth that doesn’t sit well with me. Half of the American work force is made up of women but less than a quarter of that half pursue careers in the tech industry. There has even been a 7% decrease in women pursuing computer science degrees this last year. Our organization works to empower women and get them to understand that there is not only a place for them in tech, but that we are available to help and guide them into the field.
IMH: What is the advantage for encouraging more women to build their careers in the tech industry?
NM: So many! Let me start with the personal, and then the industry advantage. Personally, for women, tech careers are the best because of the ability to work from home. Many of our members are active moms, and they find that they can pursue a solid career and manage their family much more efficiently. There is a great option for flexibility in terms of a work life balance. For the tech industry itself, I would say diversity! Studies have shown how a workplace that is inclusive of both genders are more productive and creative. Do you know of a company that wouldn’t want to be more productive and creative?
IMH: Let me throw a scenario at you. I’m a female just out of high school that sees you on MeetUp. I read your event, your pitch and a little bit about the organization. How will I benefit from joining GDI as opposed to taking a class at my Community College?
NM: First let me say that those two things should not be exclusive. We think that GDI is a great compliment to a community college course. So girls should still take classes if they can. Having said that, I also think that the faculty members are not immersed in the industry and there is a gap between what they teach and what the industry needs. GDI fills in that gap because our teachers and members are actively part of the tech worldbecause of their careers or network. The networking and mentoring that members receive from GDI is superb because you get to talk to women that are in the roles you are training for.
IMH: What do you hope GDI will achieve for women in the next 5 years?
NM: GDI already has done so much for women. There are currently 35,000 members nationwide in over 46 cities. But I’d say for us in general and for the Los Angeles chapter specifically that we continue to enable the empowerment of women to advance their careers within the tech industry. For example, we had an accountant who trained with us, then applied to and was hired at a startup. Then we had another member, a chef, who joined our ranks and is now building her own app. These are the stories that inspire us to keep moving forward.
IMH: What has been the hardest challenge GDI has faced?
NM: The toughest thing is really a collective of three. We need venues, teachers and students. Sometimes we have groups made up of a handful of members and other times we have full capacity meetings. As of now, the Los Angeles Chapter of GDI has reached a membership level of 900 members, and we’re hoping to grow to 1,000 by the end of April. Currently the class structure is usually one teacher and one to two teacher aides to give everyone an equal learning opportunity. It works out great and we always satisfy everyone’s needs that shows up – so it does work out.
IMH: Has there been a general atmosphere of support or push back from male counterparts in the industry?
NM: I can’t think of anything negative. They have really been supportive and as I mentioned before, we have males volunteer as teachers or guest speakers.
IMH: What are some challenges that you yourself have faced in your career as a female in the tech industry?
NM: My opinion wasn’t as valued as much. There are the classical biases that you might expect – information delivered through a male is more valuable than that of a female, even though I was the senior member of the group. I remember this one time I went to a DevDays conference and in a room of 250 people there were a total of 5 girls!
IMH: Why did you ultimately decide to start/join with a group such as GDI?
NM: I was reading the original blog of Vanessa Hurst and Sarah Chipps (the two founders of the Girl Develop It). Their message about “we’re tired of hearing that more girls need to be in tech,” and that no one was doing anything about it really resonated with me and my own experience. So when they announced their plans to start GDI, I jumped on the opportunity and emailed them asking if they were looking for anyone to open a Los Angeles brand. When the time came, I applied and now we have our branch approaching 1,000 members!
IMH: And, just for fun. Who was your favorite character as a child?
NM: Has to be Laura Ingalls Wilder.
IMH: How about your favorite 90’s tune?
NM: Summer Time by Jazzy Time – which I’ll probably listen to right now.
In all, Natalie Macleas and the Girl Develop It group is a new hope for change in the tech industry. Change not just for the sake of change, but change for the sake of progress. With a more diverse tech workforce, one made of talented women and men working side by side, we look forward to quicker advances in technology.
Girl Develop It will be hosting their next event at InMotion Hosting’s Los Angeles Office on May 6th, 2015. If you’d like more information you can RSVP to that event here.