Deleting the gender gap with Ladies Learning Code

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Tech industries are male-dominated in Canada but that’s all about to change thanks to Ladies Learning Code. It’s an educational startup from Toronto and the first women-founded programming boot camp in history.

The company is a not-for-profit organization that was started by Heather Payne who graduated with a degree in business from the University of Western Ontario. She decided to move to China during the 2009 recession. There, she taught herself how to code, but found the process pretty difficult. Eventually, she noticed that her hard work paid off and she understood how applicable this new skill of hers was. Finding it hard to learn in a vacuum, she decided to reach out and help other women learn the increasingly important skill of coding.

Through collaboration with Laura Plant, Melissa Crnic and Breanna Hughes, Payne created Ladies Learning Code to combat the overwhelming dearth of women in programming. These workshops started in 2012, teaching women without any prior experience in coding. HackerYou is another workshop started by Payne and her partners. It’s a coding boot camp that lasts nine weeks and is designed for experienced programmers. This particular project is co-ed, but enrollment is still 75 per cent female.

Realizing that it’s best to teach these skills as early as possible, Girls Learning Code was also developed in 2012, for girls aged 8 – 13. The demand was so high, that Kids Learning Code was created the very next year as a co-ed program. And last year, the company started Code Mobile, which is a truck that tours across the country to teach programming to Canadians everywhere.

Ladies Learning Code is doing a great job of making the people – specifically the women – of Canada more computer literate and closing the gender gap in our tech industries.

By: Jassi Bedi

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