This week, we started a new cohort at The Iron Yard. It’s always exciting to see a fresh group of faces on campus – faces that look equal parts excited and nervous, but ready to tackle the huge challenge in front of them. This week, however, there were a few extra things to be excited about. Not only did we launch the largest class we’ve ever had on this campus, but we also launched one of the most diverse. I’m proud to say that we started this class with a 50/50 split of men and women.
Diversity and inclusion are core values of The Iron Yard, and our team has worked hard to ensure everyone can feel safe and comfortable with us. Not only do we feel our students’ unique qualities should be celebrated, we know that building a diverse classroom allows for a more robust learning experience. By filling our classes with students of different backgrounds (including work experience, race, age and gender just to name a few), all students have the opportunity to see things from a new perspective.
We didn’t always have this split, though. In our first five classes combined, we only saw 11 women come through our program. Instead of letting that discourage us, our team worked harder to make sure we were creating an opportunity for all aspiring engineers.
As we closed enrollment for this winter cohort, it was important for me to look at how we got to this point. After some thoughtful reflection (and a bit of data-digging), I compiled a list of things that I believe led to an increase in enrollment of women (spoiler alert: we didn’t do it alone).
By building a network of employers, advisors and mentors, who are also advocates for a diverse tech workforce, we’ve seen the women who have graduated from our program find jobs quickly. They’re working in the same types of roles as their male counterparts, and making the same (if not higher) wages. These successful women show others that it’s okay to take the risk.
Girl Develop It celebrated their second anniversary last week. They’ve done an incredible job of providing a fun, safe and encouraging environment for women to start coding. This group of women (and men) allows those interested in coding to see women who are doing it, men who support them, and meet others who are in their shoes. I truly believe the community that GDI founders Lindsey and Virginie created has led to more women feeling empowered to make this their career. We support, host and collaborate with GDI as much as possible. If you haven’t met the GDI crew yet, I recommend you make it a priority.
Walking the talk
As the leader of the Indianapolis campus, I’ve made sure to build a team that knows this program is for anyone with the determination, stamina and grit to tackle it. During 2016, our team of four was an even split of men and women, demonstrating that when men and women work together, we’re all more successful.
Studies have shown that diverse teams are smarter teams. Ensuring all people feel welcome in tech education, community groups and companies helps us build a stronger workforce. Diversity is not an item that can be checked off of a to-do list, and our team will continue to find ways to make our classrooms inclusive, open and welcoming.
In 2017, I hope that you too will pledge (or continue) to foster and support diversity in Indianapolis’ tech industry.