Alexandra Fogarty, Graphic Communications and Interactive Media instructor, is teaching at a new local chapter of Girl Develop It, an organization whose mission is to empower and mentor women looking to learn programming. A 2007 graduate of the Graphic Communications program, Shannon Luney, helped start the chapter.

“Growing opportunity: New Fargo classes to teach women skills for high-paying development jobs”

By Tracy Frank
tfrank@forumcomm.com
www.girl developit.com

Web development jobs pay well and are in high demand, but not many women are applying.

Developers, who design and create websites, earn more than $60,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But 20 percent or fewer developers are women, said Shannon Luney of Moorhead. That’s something she and Megan Beck of Fargo hope to help change.

“With all of the mobile app development and the web, there are so many opportunities and that’s only going to grow,” Luney said.

The women are launching a branch of Girl Develop It in Fargo. The international nonprofit organization offers classes to people who want to learn web and software development. The classes and workshops are offered to both women and men, ages 18 and up, though they are geared toward women and taught using mentorship and a hands-on instruction style.

The organization, which started in 2010, is now in almost 50 cities, said Corinne Warnshuis, Girl Develop It executive director.

“The whole idea behind it is it’s judgment-free,” Warnshuis said. “Our learning environment really is a positive way to learn.”

People can learn web development online, Warnshuis said, but women especially want to be part of a social environment and Girl Develop It provides that.

“Our main goal is to get more women into tech,” she said.

One woman from Philadelphia who took the classes went from being an administrative assistant to a front-end developer in a year and a half, Warnshuis said.

“It’s so inspiring to know you can change your life and change your income,” she said.

Participants range in age from 18 to 70. Many are right out of college.

Luney and Beck hope to start offering classes in Fargo in October. They are still finalizing plans, but the pair says there has already been a lot of interest.

“We’re just really flooded with people who want to volunteer, who want to help teach and people who are interested in attending the classes,” Luney said.

Once classes are scheduled, the women will announce it on Girl Develop It Fargo’s Facebook page. Class listings will be posted on www.meetup.com.

Luney heard about the organization during an American Advertising Federation of North Dakota luncheon. She immediately wanted to bring the organization to Fargo to get more women interested in coding and programming.

Beck agreed to help Luney bring a branch here. Both women are graphic designers. Beck, 23, graduated in May.

“I’ve noticed how much development and design overlap, but it’s hard to learn how to develop without going back to school,” she said.

Girl Develop It is an “awesome opportunity” to give her and others the development education she needs, she said.

“There are so many jobs that are morphing into the development area,” Beck said. “As more jobs pop up, now women can have the opportunity to take them.”

Luney, 30, said she’s been thrown into development and learning as she goes. She’d like to take the classes for the handson training she said she could benefit from.

“Coding is fun,” she said. “It’s like putting a puzzle together.”

Because there are so few women in developer jobs, Warnshuis said it can be an isolating experience.

“It can be hard to get ahead, especially if a culture is dominated by a male atmosphere,” she said. “We’re just trying to even the playing field a little bit and bring some parity to the gender imbalance there.”

Women leave those positions because they experience harassment and isolation, Warnshuis said. The most important thing Girl Develop It is doing is getting more women into tech now so by the time the younger generation enters those fields, they are no longer dominated by men, she said.

“The best thing is you can do anything you want with those skills,” Warnshuis said. “You could be making apps, you could be building a really great platform. There are so many great things you can do if you have those skills. If you have a passion and you have these skills, you can do something awesome with them.”

Classes will range from about $9 to $15 an hour, and the length varies. A beginner class typically runs about $90.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

Girl Develop It classes and workshops give women (and men) the opportunity to pursue highpaying web development jobs.