Some mothers and daughters go out to eat to bond. Other mothers and daughters code a website.
The idea started when Chicago-based web designer/developer Jen Myers, a single mother from small town Ohio, brought her daughter along to tech conferences and development workshops. Her daughter became curious about coding, so together the duo created a website. It occurred to Myers that other women in web development, a field she pointed out hasn’t historically been women or mother-friendly (for example, companies may not have childcare benefits), might be interested in a similar bonding experience with their own children.
“It’s important to consider the fact that most women out there have these responsibilities– if we want them in the workplace we have to consider what their lives are like,” she said. “I really wanted to come up with an event that serves mothers’ needs and bring in young girls in at the same time.”
Part of the motivation was also that Myers didn’t have this infrastructure and encouragement growing up. She fell into coding by accident about 15 years ago while at community college, stubbornly learning backend development when a website she was building through cut-and-paste HTML didn’t fit her exact creative vision.
After teaching herself these skills, she became an educator herself, starting the Columbus, Ohio chapter of Girl Develop It!, a national nonprofit that provides women opportunities to learn to code (she currently advises the Chicago chapter). She then moved to Chicago to teach with Dev Bootcamp, and now works freelance.
It wasn’t always easy working or learning in the tech community as a woman, she admitted. There was a pressure to “conform to a stereotype,” whereas she always approached coding from a more creative background.
“There is this idea that if you are a programmer you just want to tinker,” she said. “I think you can be someone who wants to create something that benefits people and code is just the way to do it.”
Myers stressed that these workshops are for anyone interested in programming, whether it is a web developer mother hoping to introduce her young daughter to code, or a software engineer daughter who wants to introduce her mother to something she is passionate about. Both have been scenarios in the four previous workshops, she said.
Bringing in people with different backgrounds is important as well–Code and Cupcakes offers scholarships that cover the $35-$45 tuition for the day-long workshop. Myers also did a crowd funding campaign that raised enough money for 20 Chromebooks, meaning women don’t have to bring their own technology to participate.
The next workshop is Saturday, April 25 at the Chicago Innovation Exchange. Registration is $35. There will also be a May workshop (just before Mother’s Day!) at the Living Room on North Avenue, but after that she said she is going to take a break to decide where she wants to take it next.
Regardless, even if you aren’t sure coding is the next big career move for you (or your daughter), Myers said she just wants people to know it is an option.
“I think the main thing is to make it clear that this is a thing [women] can do; it is accessible,” she said. “It’s what I wish I would have had.”