Imagine if the next Mark Zuckerberg was a young female living in Kansas City.
Despite an interest and aptitude in technology, imagine she walks into a popular clothing store and seeing a shirt that reads: “I’m too pretty to do math.”
Subliminal messages such as this are not an uncommon occurrence for many young women. With marketing and social nuance, we often think of computers as not for girls.
Jennifer Wadella, founder of KC Women in Technology, seeks to challenge these subconscious assumptions and make the tech scene an inclusive place for all to find opportunity.
With more women in technology, companies will have more diverse thinking and well-rounded design, thus creating better products, Wadella said.
“Diversity of thought is important,” Wadella said. “If only a certain segment of society is designing the products we use, then the products will only going to relate to that certain fragment of society. If we want to be creating robust technical solutions that are good for everybody, you need people who are going to be thinking in different ways.”
Founded in 2013, Women in Technology is a nonprofit aimed at growing the number of women in technology careers in the metro. The organization offers several programs that encourage people of all ages and genders to learn to code: CoderDojoKC, Django Girls KC, Coding & Cupcakes, and Coding & Cocktails
A software engineer herself, Wadella was motivated to meet like-minded people as well as ensure that girls have exposure to the same opportunities as boys.
“When we first started promoting CoderDojo, we had a lot of parents say ‘my daughter wouldn’t like that, but maybe I’ll bring my son,’” Wadella said. “It seemed that parents were dispositioning the daughters against it.”
Wadella said that 2016 was a growth year for the organization, as about 500 people connected with the organization. She expects demand to increase up to 70 percent this year. KC Women in Technology is currently seeking volunteer mentors and coordinators in order to keep up with the pace.
“2016 was a really amazing year,” Wadella said. “One of the coolest things for me is that I never had a grand plan when I started this, and everything has been a natural progression and evolution. It’s great that so many passionate people come on board. Together, we’ve done more than what I could ever do alone.”
In addition to growing its mentorship offerings, the nonprofit aims to increase diversity in attendance rates and seek corporate sponsorships in 2017.
Here’s more about the programs KC Women in Technology offers:
When: Second Saturdays from 8:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who: All children ages 7-17
CoderDojo is a global nonprofit that has chapters in several cities, Kansas City being one of them. Sponsored by Google Fiber, the program teaches basic programming for children for free.
Coding & Cupcakes
When: Second Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m.
Who: Young girls old enough to use a keyboard and their mothers
Building websites may not be a common mother-daughter activity, but Coding & Cupcakes offers a bonding and learning opportunity in which girls can build a website for their own make-believe cupcake company.
Coding & Cocktails
When: Second Saturdays from 5:00 pm. – 9:00 p.m.
Who: Adult women
Django Girls KC
When: July 23 through 24, 2017
As part of the global Django Girls network, the Kansas City chapter offers a workshop annually free of charge. The goal is to introduce women to coding. Last year, KC Women in tech hosted its first Django Girls event at Sprint Accelerator which hosted 76 attendees.
When: Third Wednesdays from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
TechTalks is a networking event that encourages people — both men and women — to break out of their silos and meet like minded people. Events will occasionally bring in speakers and covers a variety of topics, such how to be effective in different technology roles, value assessments and free technical sessions.