(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
A little over five years ago in New York, a nonprofit named Girl Develop It was founded with a mission to balance out an industry dominated by men by hosting software training courses for women. A year later, GDI launched in Philadelphia, where it has found great success over the past four years. (Full disclosure: Corinne Warnshuis, who was picked as GDI’s first executive director in June 2014, previously worked for Technical.ly.)
Since its founding, GDI has expanded to 51 cities in 31 states — yet, interestingly enough, none of those 31 states start with “D” and end with “elaware.” That could all soon change, though, as a small troop of GDI alums and hopefuls in the First State are leading a charge to bring classes to Wilmington.
That troop includes (but is not limited to) Pocket Guide to Writing SVG author and web designer Joni Trythall, Zip Code Wilmington community engagement manager Dominique Clarke, First Ascent cofounder and web designer Pauline Rubin and 1313 Innovation community manager Megan Anthony.
“I want Girl Develop It to come to Wilmington because in order to succeed as a developer or programmer, the two most important qualities you need are confidence and persistence,” said Rubin. “Tech already perpetuates ‘impostor syndrome,’ and it’s even worse for women who already feel the need to prove themselves in a male-dominated field.”
Rubin said she hopes GDI will provide a non-judgmental environment for women to support one another in Delaware.
Anthony has been somewhat of a hub for the multiple spokes pushing for GDI in Wilmington. 1313 has the space to host the classes, and Anthony said she believes GDI can bridge the gap between Delaware’s startup community, universities and large companies.
“By having teachers from Zip Code, Delaware College of Art and Design, Wilmington University and a few startups lead these classes, we will be able to showcase these talented companies and programs to the larger companies,” she said.
"Wilmington needs this. I'm one person, and if GDI has had such an impact on me I can only imagine the stories of others."
Trythall, who was a TA with GDI in Seattle, argues that Wilmington’s tech climate is very much in need of some gender diversification.
“I’d like to see the city differentiate via diversity and avoid falling into the monoculture trap that plagues the technical industry,” said Trythall, who is currently a GDI teacher with the organization’s Philly chapter. “We can start by creating a community through GDI where women can feel safe and have a true sense of belonging while they advance their tech skills and form lasting relationships.”
Trythall said she’s confident the group of advocates will succeed in bringing GDI to Wilmington — and the city needs it. Desperately.
“It would be misguided and irresponsible for us all to support a growing tech scene in the area without at the same time making sure its as inclusive, safe and welcoming as possible for everyone,” she said.
Clarke credits GDI with landing her a job at Zip Code. She discovered the organization last year while serving with AmeriCorps and began taking classes.
“I didn’t expect my passion for tech to take off so quickly,” she said. “After attending web development classes through GDI, I started staying up late obsessively practicing my skills. When I realized that tech was keeping me up at night, still excited and motivated far past 11 p.m., I realized that I wanted to dig deeper into tech and web development.”
But it was the community that truly whetted Clarke’s appetite for tech.
“Everyone in GDI, and the women in tech community more generally, wants to see more females in the industry,” she said. “As women in tech, whether beginners or seasoned pros, we feel like we’re all in this together.”
Clarke said skills are power — and GDI provides those — but the most valuable asset GDI has to offer women are connections. GDI also provides those.
“Wilmington needs this,” she said. “I’m one person, and if GDI has had such an impact on me I can only imagine the stories of others. Hundreds of lives will be changed and the Wilmington tech community will never been the same.”
GDI is interested. Help bring the organization to Wilmington by filling out this survey:
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