Nfld. & Labrador

Coding workshop for women hopes to reprogram the playing field

A women in coding event sponsored by the Women in Science and Engineering Graduated Group attracted a few dozen people into the classroom on a weekend at Memorial University.

Diversity is always better, says Danielle Quinn

WISE GSS and WISE NL teamed up for two-day coding course at Memorial University. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

A few dozen of women in science got together at Memorial University on Saturday hoping to learn a few new languages — but these languages would help them communicate with computers rather than people. 

Organizers hoped the event, which was aimed at women and gender minorities, would be make the male-dominated world of coding more accessible to women.

"I think women are generally underrepresented in the field of computer science and often coding," said Danielle Quinn, a PhD student and instructor at the workshop.

"It doesn't really matter what field you are in, coding is going to benefit you. It's always better to have a diverse community working on these types of problems."

Biology grad student Danielle Quinn helped organize the event and taught one of the workshops. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The event was put together by the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Graduate Student Society and WISE NL.

Coding 101 also covered introductory material from The Carpentries, a group whose mission is to teach coding to researchers.

Nearly 30 people signed up for the weekend-long workshop. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The two-day workshop offered two streams of learning: technical and analytical. The technical side is about how to automate tasks and make the computers do the work for you while the analytical stream helped students learn to organize data.

The latter is exactly what masters student Sam Dilday was looking for. Originally from Virginia, she came to Newfoundland and Labrador to study its honey bees, which are considered to be some of the healthiest in the world due to their lack of varroa mite.

"Before I start gathering large amounts of data, I wanted to be able to organize it in a way that it was going to be easy for me to understand," she said.

"As the time progresses it's going to be easier for me to do analysis and actually set up my thesis."

It took a lot of volunteers and planning to pull off the Coding 101. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Dilday agrees that coding has always been seen as more of a male field.

"I feel, personally, it's kind of daunting to go into a classroom and it's all men and you feel like you shouldn't be there," she said.

"Having workshops like this where it's open to the public but it's more focused for women and gender minorities is really important to make a safe space so that women can feel comfortable learning something they otherwise thought they couldn't learn."

Event targetted women and gender minorities in any field of research or industry who would benefit from learning how to code 2:09

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