Tonight will mark at least the third recent, focused initiative to bring women closer to the forefront of the technology community here in Philadelphia.
Web Start Women, a group dedicated to teaching basic elements of web design and encouraging and fostering startups, will host its first paid CSS class in South Philly, the first of four weekly classes dedicated to the subject.
Founded by University of Pennsylvania web design lecturer Susan Buck and psychology scholar Nicole Noll, the group launched informally in April, and is already building traction alongside and with local groups like Geek Girl Dinners and TechGirlz.
Buck teaches a web development course in Penn’s fine arts program, and has a background in multimedia arts and science, including a masters from New York University’s interactive telecommunications program. She also works full-time at Photojojo.com, a unique photography gadget shopping website based in San Francisco.
“I’ve been at this for a while, interacting with mostly men in the field. I often have the experience where I get an e-mail from someone, and they assume I’m not the developer on the project. They often ask me to pass the message on to the developer,” she says, noting the disparity between men and women in the technology field.
What gave Buck the edge to get into an industry lacking women?
“I grew up in a household where my parents made computers accessible to me as much as they did to my brother,” she says. It didn’t take long until she was digging into HTML, she says, along with Adobe Flash and Photoshop.
Buck says that a lack of women role models and presence in the field can begin to be corrected by groups like Web Start Women, Geek Girl Dinners and TechGirlz.
“Seeing other women that are doing this, seeing it as normal and not a stand-out thing is important,” she says.
That’s why the group isn’t solely focused on web development education; at the group’s StartLuck, a monthly gathering — and a play off of the classic Philly potluck — Buck and Noll hope to encourage discussion and hold one another accountable for ideas they have for startups and other initiatives.
“The more apps, nonprofits that are led by women, the more ubiquitous they become,” she says. The group’s second StartLuck, free, goes down on June 27.
As for its first class, taking place tonight, the group will meet at the Chi MAC dance studio at 9th and Wharton. The $80 fee covers venue and personnel expenses for four weeks of classes.
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