Solving Berlin’s ‘Women Problem’ with Rails Girls

By Silicon Allee |

It was interesting to read recently that Etsy wants to solve Silicon Valley’s ‘women problem’ through a sponsorship scheme at New York’s Hacker School. Berlin may not have such a facility around the corner, but what it does have is a group of individuals committed to teaching code to women for free.

This dedication was perfectly illustrated this past weekend by the Ruby on Rails workshop hosted by Rails Girls. It didn’t cost anything to attend, and the meet up and mentorship were both richly rewarding.

The subject matter was not too technical in detail, but rather a good intro and jumpstart into programming. My team of four worked together with an amazing mentor in Alex B Coles and we each successfully built our first site using RoR that allows you to upload a photo.

The results of labour!

There was no doubt that the event – like the after party, of course – was a big success, and Linda Liukas, Rails Girls founder and Future Code Academy community manager, said: “It’s been amazing to see how women around the world from Shanghai to Berlin want to be able to build something of their own. Our aim is to give the vocabulary to do that – to share the secrets and social glue of explaining scaffolds, SQLs and servers. Seems like Berlin has the critical mass of interested females to really redefine technology and build out a whole new software engineering culture.”

Those present at the event varied from women looking to improve their understanding of coding to those looking to get into it professionally, as Joan Wolkerstrofer, mentor and software developer at Mediapeers, said: “It was great to see so many women excited and encouraged about learning to code. Some are aiming to change careers the way I did as a self-taught programmer, and I hope I can be a role model and a resource for them, but I’m also excited about the women who are learning code to better understand and communicate with the developers in their workplaces.”

Event co-ordinator Henrietta Kekäläinen said: “A good part of the attendees finished their applications and some will continue to develop them at home along with exercises and looking more into the developer and tech community flourishing around Berlin. That’s the most important, as Rails Girls is a first experience into Ruby on Rails, but to improve a language only practice makes perfect.”

So what did those who attended make of it? Denise Philipp is a freelance info designer and tech writer, and she was impressed by what she found: “I thought I was just going to a workshop where I would meet some people, score a SoundCloud shirt, and learn a few things about Rails. I had no idea I was stumbling right into a movement that was clearly set out to do something big!

“I think the entire attitude of the workshop is summed up with ‘why the hell not?’ Why shouldn’t I learn how to program? Why shouldn’t I make a career out of it? I think if any of us had doubts that we couldn’t do it, Rails Girls set us straight.”

I’m fully confident that women in Berlin will dive in, continue to learn Ruby on Rails and potentially build powerful web applications in the future. And I’m already looking forward to the next crash course to be hosted by several developers in the city – details to be announced soon on at Berlin Geekettes. A big thank you to all the mentors, organizers and sponsors who made this happen. Your time and effort to support the ladies of tech do not go unnoticed. Exciting times ahead!

This is a post by Jess Erickson, the newest member of the team at Silicon Allee’s parent company Four Sektor.