This is a guest post by Shannon Turner, a software developer and founder of Hear Me Code, offering free, beginner-friendly coding classes for women in the DC area. In her spare time she creates projects like Shut That Down and serves as a mentor with Code for Progress.
Over 200 women were in attendance for the DC Fem Tech Tour de Code Kickoff party held at Google Thursday night. DC Fem Tech, a collective of over 25 women in tech organizations, collaborates to run events and support the women in DC's tech community.
The collective came together in early 2014 when Stephanie Nyugen and Shana Glenzer realized the DC women in tech community had many different groups doing similar work lowering the barriers women faced when entering the tech field. By bringing groups that share similar goals together, DC Fem Tech amplifies the voices of each group and builds collective power.
Events like Tour de Code are where DC Fem Tech really shines: it's a month-long series of workshops, classes, conferences, and hacknights run by different member groups. Most events are free (in line with DC Fem Tech's mission), and there's a wide range of groups represented.
Tour de Code's events calendar includes a beginner-level workshop like the Front End Hack Night hosted by Women Who Code DC, a Tech Resume writing workshop run by Girl Develop It DC, and many other events perfect for everyone from total beginners to experts.
Also joining the celebration was Jenn Gustetic, Assistant Director for Open Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who offered words of encouragement and gratitude for the leaders who provide role models to young girls and women alike.
DC Fem Tech and its member groups are having a profound impact on the DC tech scene. Over the course of the evening, I spoke to several women who all seemed to share the same story. In the past, they had attended tech events in the city, but felt intimidated and unwelcome in these male-dominated spaces. Most of the women who attended once never went back a second time. Events run by DC Fem Tech's member groups had a different feel -- they were more welcoming, and made it a safe space to be a beginner and ask questions.
These stories resonated with me -- and I started my own women in tech organization Hear Me Code for similar reasons. I'm glad DC Fem Tech exists to bring together this large and growing community of talented women, and I'm proud to be a part of it.