Women-only Coding School Aims at Worker Shortage, Gender Imbalance

Technology companies are clamoring for more software developers, and the industry as a whole is struggling to recruit more women to its ranks.

Enter the Ada Developers Academy, an immersive program to teach women with no prior programming experience the fundamentals of coding and place them in internships for hands-on training. The deadline to apply is Monday, and the $20,000 tuition will be waived for almost all of the students in the inaugural class, says program director Elise Worthy. Moreover, some students may be eligible for a living stipend.

The nonprofit effort of the Technology Alliance received backing from the Washington State Department of Commerce and is sponsored by local tech companies including Zillow, Substantial, Foundry Interactive, ActiveBuilding, EnergySavvy and Apex Learning. It is also running an Indiegogo campaign to raise more money.

Students will receive four months of full-day classroom training “from regional and national experts” in a range of web development tools, including HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and database fundamentals. They will then undertake up to six-month internships at regional tech companies put their new skills to use.

ada_logoThe Technology Alliance earlier this year presented research showing the state’s tech sector has thrived in the last decade despite chronic underinvestment in education relative to peer states, and has done so largely by importing talent from outside the state. The industry group cites some jarring statistics in describing the need for Ada—named for Ada Lovelace, recognized as perhaps the world’s first computer programmer—and programs like it: Men represent 85 percent of the software development workforce. And Washington has some 20,000 unfilled positions in science, technology, engineering, and math jobs.

Ada’s initial class of 15 to 20 students—who will begin Oct. 28—would make only a small impact on that at first, but organizers hope the program will continue and scale up to 80 to 100 students graduating each year.

And Ada isn’t the only effort of this kind in Seattle. Earlier this year, Code Fellows, a new software engineering training program started here to address the same workforce shortages, introduced women-only bootcamps. The next of these is in early 2014.

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