Girls That Code: A new initiative to support and inspire coding skills in Georgia
Last night Cristina Maza and I organized our first workshop in what we hope will be the first of many Girls that Code workshops in Tbilisi, Georgia. As far as I know, this is really the first workshop of its kind in Georgia, yet the number of requests to participate was overwhelming - so much so that we had to actually restrict the number of people who could participate this first go-around. Our goal is to create a supportive environment for women to learn what programming is and how they can use programming skills in their professional and personal lives. The workshop is free and the only restriction was based on gender.
The group that attended last night was diverse with a diverse range of backgrounds and reasons for participating. Everyone had little to no exposure in coding. Some were journalists who recognize that data journalism is in increasing demand and that understanding how to work with data and coding is important for their future careers. Some were project managers and professionals who recognize that if they want to work on technical projects, which are numerous these days, it important to be able to manage a technical team, as understanding what programmers do is an important part of managing those projects. Some raised the issue that many of their peers believe that the web works by magic, but they want to understand that medium better. Some just think coding is the new cool and want to be a part of the movement!
We at JumpStart think there is a lot of potential for this workshop and type of outreach. It is definitely filling a huge gap in Georgia, where the Ministry of Education is struggling to get even traditional education standards in line with other countries. There is no data available yet on how public education (both schools and universities) is meeting the demand of the market, since there is no good data on what the market is demanding. Georgia is in transition. However, Georgia is a country with few natural resources to speak of except for its human capacity. With this in mind, it seems to me that education should play a central role in developing a sustainable human economic resource that is competitive both locally and globally.
Teaching women to code on Sunday evenings in my colleague's living room might seem like an unlikely way to solve Georgia's education, economic, and gender disparity issues, but it seems to be exactly what we are doing.