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Dev Bootcamp's tuition includes a $250 non-refundable registration fee.

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Learning how to attract women to web development

Posted on 06 Feb 2013 by Dave Hoover

One of our goals at Dev Bootcamp Chicago is to change the ratio of women in software development: we want a 1:1 ratio in our cohorts. We feel like we're in a unique position to make this happen, and that most men and women are ready for the ratio to change. This goal drives many of our day-to-day decisions, and to illustrate, I'd like to share a story of how we found some traction.

A couple weeks ago, Jen and Elliott and I decided we wanted to do a practice run of Dev Bootcamp Chicago by creating a one-day experience for 30 aspiring web developers. So Elliott created an event in Eventbrite, while Jen and I thought about how to promote it.

Since we’re only charging $20 for the event, we figured it would sell out quickly. We knew that if we promoted it to our established social networks, we’d end up with 85% male attendees. Instead, we made a few decisions that resulted in us selling all of our event tickets in just 4 days, with 60% female attendees.

I don't know exactly why that happened, but I can tell you some deliberate choices we made to improve our chances of attracting aspiring women developers to this event:

  • Jen Myers is co-leading the event with me
  • I listed Jen's name before mine on the event page
  • I found a female yoga instructor, Jen Smith
  • For the first 24 hours, we only sent the link to groups where women were in the majority: Devchix, Chicago Women Developers, and Girl Develop It. Mac 'n Cheese Productions went out of their way to promote the event in their newsletter. (Thanks Saya!)
  • For the first 72 hours, we only promoted through women. No tweets or posts from me or any other men. Only stuff like this and this.
  • On the fourth day, we promoted through our typical networks, and not surprisingly, quickly sold the rest of the tickets, mostly to men.

This was an encouraging experiment. It's obviously much easier to sell 30 $20 tickets to a one-day event than 16 $12,200 spots every 3 weeks to a 9 week bootcamp. Yet, we now have some new approaches to try, and on February 18th, we'll have a room with 18 women in it to help us hone our pedagogical techniques.