Marina Thiriet (centre), coding with Charlène Obrietan and Chloé Masson
Photo: Annabelle Denham
Technology: Rails Girls promotes programming for women in Luxembourg. The group, which originally launched in Helsinki, held its first workshop in the Grand Duchy last month. It aims to balance the gender gap in the IT field, where today only 10% of programmers are female.
Creating an app is about as easy as making a bowl of rice, according to Guillaume Desrat, a volunteer instructor at Rail Girls Luxembourg. He stands in The Impactory, a co-working space that is hosting a programming event for women. “A program is a recipe,” he says, referring to a slide projected on the wall behind him*.
Rails Girls, an event created by Linda Lyukas and Karri Saarinen, started in Finland in 2012 and has taken off in more than 100 cities all over the world. Including free events in Shanghai, Singapore, Tallinn, Berlin and Krakow, attracting thousands of girls to the world of web building. Last month, it came to Luxembourg for the first time, thanks to the enthusiasm of Marina Thiriet, a programmer who helps run cooperative workspace The Impactory.
The goal is to teach women how to program using Ruby, an open source language with a focus on simplicity. Lyukas and Saarinen founded the event as a way of giving women tools and a community in which they can understand technology and build their ideas. This is achieved by providing them with a day and a half of workshops in which they learn the Ruby language and things like sketching, prototyping and building apps.
At this event, Thiriet hopes women will also make connections with others who have similar interests or are at the same place in their careers. “In the IT and programming world, women are under-represented”, she says. “I want to break the stereotype of male geeks as programmers and encourage women to learn digital languages in order to take advantage of tech opportunities. Only 10% of programmers today are women.”
Thiriet attributes this discrepancy to the misconception that beating the IT learning curve would be too difficult, something she finds ironic given female usage of the internet, mobile devices and apps. “I want to give women who find new technology to be scary or confusing an opportunity to interact with it. Who knows, maybe they will create start-ups.”
Thiriet became interested in IT several years ago when she decided to start her own company. At the time, she was using the WordPress content management system, which was nice, but it didn’t enable her to do the complicated things she wanted to. Lacking the knowledge to go further, she embarked on a self-directed study in the school of hard knocks, relying on online sources and trial and error to learn programming. It wasn’t enough. “You need to be around other people who can help you,” she says.
Lionel Abdermane, a software developer volunteering at the event, agrees. “Programming is a job where you learn by yourself, but someone has to show you how to get info,” he says.
Rails Girls is devoted to making technology more approachable and the turnout for this event reveals how successful it has been. More than 80 people registered for the 40 available spots. The Impactory is jammed with eager students; just when it gets going it’s time to leave. There is a very clear need for this kind of community in Luxembourg. If Thiriet can get the funding to expand on it, it just might become the next big thing.