Women working on their laptops at the local chapter of Girl Develop.Technology is cool. Creating websites is fun. Building an app is the modern day equivalent of being in a band. Oh, and there's the added benefit of exciting, well-paying jobs, too.

The number of people who build software is growing, thanks in part to educational alternatives that have emerged over the last few years—from online offerings like Code Academy and Code School to intensive immersion programs like Dev Bootcamp and Starter League. Free online courses and local meetup groups are helping make coding more accessible, and it's exciting to see the diversity of the technical community expand.

Here in Chicago, we've recently launched a local chapter of Girl Develop It, an international organization "that exists to provide affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn software development through mentorship and hands-on instruction." It's all about creating a non-threatening environment where people can learn, practice their skills, and network.

We recently wrapped up our first class, an Introduction to HTML/CSS that ran for two hours, one night a week for four weeks, and included nineteen women and two men. Many of the participants work with developers on a regular basis—as project managers, account managers, social media specialists, marketing managers, or graphic designers. Some are interested in making a permanent career change and becoming developers, while others want to get better at their current jobs and improve their communication with the coders on their teams. It was fun to watch their excitement, confidence, and curiosity grow as their web pages came to life, and they were able to control things they once considered magic.

Some of these women may now go off and practice on their own, explore online courses, sign up for the next Girl Develop It class, or even make the leap to a bootcamp program. Building software is fun and rewarding! It's so great to see people who had never considered it a possibility have a chance to launch a new career in coding.

This Saturday, May 18, at 10am we'll be hosting a Meetup: PairUp! Practice Your Coding Skills (Give Forward, 1564 N Damen Ave, Suite 303), so stop by to pair with another person at your skill level and hack on a project for a couple hours. Whether you're just getting started with HTML or looking to strengthen your Javascript skills, all levels are welcome.

And if you know any women who are interested in coding, please tell them about Girl Develop It!

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