Where are the programs that are teaching tech skills to young girls? I owe this conversation to several bloggers that have written about this. Nathaniel Levy put together a brief report that more institutions are looking for ways to boost women’s activity in tech startups and in coding. I found this video on his site, but I am not quite sure the extent of the training program being referenced here.
There is more. Mashable created a list of five educational programs for boosting young women’s involvement in tech, ranging from teaching grade school girls how to set up their Justin Bieber fan sites to Boston’s Geek Girls Camp.
But then there was this great conversation that jumped out of Fred Wilson’s community site: The beginnings of an XX-Combinator, a version of Y-Combinator created exclusively for women. The idea was started in comments by Tereza, who wrote about the need for XX Combinator in her Tumblr blog. She comes at it from an entrepreneur’s point of view, but you can see where she is going with this, and you can see where something may be missing in the educational system before women even get to the age where they think about getting something of their own rolling. Tereza writes:
Y Combinator participants are for the most part very young — in their early 20’s. This is not when women would be most inclined. Women who start businesses like to know what they’re doing, and be trained and experienced in it. That takes up our 20’s. We have kids in our 30’s. Our entrepreneurial sweet spot is around age 40. Conventional tech investors are not really into this group and the metrics they look for are really hard for these people to hit. Most of the (few) women’s businesses that go big were funded by friends & family or strategics, not traditional angels and VCs.
Nothing against Y Combinator. It is truly excellent at what it does. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Take the best of it and adapt the package so it draws women in, not block them out.
The XX Combinator program would provide women who know their target market extremely well, based on personal and professional experience. They’d have a huge innovative idea in a huge market and a clever idea about how to crack it. The program would help define their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to get to market. Benevolent hackers would work side-by-side with them to build it, for equity and possibly paid salaries by sponsors and can convert into CTO positions.
So, what is missing in the education canon? The Mashable piece speaks to it just a little bit. In addition to the emphasis on STEM and making math and science a common part of young women’s lives, shouldn’t there also be an emphasis put on how to build something like an online company, a community site, or how to mash the business skills essential to life in the adult world with the creativity and facility of being able to blend code and shape something that other people can use?