If you haven’t heard of the LadyCoders, then you will soon. They’ve been hacked and attacked– spurring debate on the blogosphere over their primary purpose: helping women get tech jobs in a male dominated industry.
The group raised over $25,000 on KickStarter to produce an instructional video to help women break into the world of technology. After 100 hours of raw footage, they have whittled it down to a version they can present at their “Rocket Propelled Careers” seminar in New York on February 23.
The seminar includes teaching women how to talk to hiring managers, navigating returning to the workplace after maternity leave and juggling a career while nursing. These are real issues that not only plague the tech industry, but most other industries as well. The LadyCoders are also trying to offer women a support system in an industry that has very few women at the top.
In fact, only 9 percent of U.S. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are female, down from 11 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2010, according to a survey of 450 IT leaders by Harvey Nash Group. Also, about 30 percent of those polled said their information technology (IT) organization has no women at all in management. Ironically only about half of survey respondents consider women to be under-represented in the IT department.
But, the group is getting backlash on Twitter over the way in which they are approaching the issue. Specifically, over one particular statement LadyCoders made: “Men don’t deliberately keep us out; it’s our job (for now) to be easily integrated into an all-male team, nonthreatening, and hyperskilled.”
A flurry of Twitter comments resulted such as “you’re telling me it’s my job to be non-threatenting rather than a man’s job not to be threatened by me?” Shortly after that, the LadyCoders website was hacked and taken down temporarily.
I wanted to know why people were so angry. So I interviewed one of the LadyCoders, Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack.
“They are angry because we said that women needed to learn about the kind of workplace that they were going to be in and understand that their communication style was not going to impress the grizzled senior tech people that they were going to be interviewing with,” Van Vlack said. “So when we said that you need to be appealing and collegial and kind and communicative and confident -it was interpreted to be saying that women need to change everything about themselves in other to get technology jobs.”
It seems to me the very people who should be embracing the LadyCoders effort are the same ones that are trying to bring it down. Changing the demographics of the tech industry won’t happen overnight, but I hope all this internet drama does’t sidetrack the purpose.