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The Avenue

Closing the Gender Gap in Seattle’s Tech Industry

In recent months, we’ve heard a lot about the tech industry’s gender gap. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women represent just 19.7 percent of software developers, an occupation with a median salary of over $92,000 a year.

Women’s underrepresentation in these and other well-paying tech jobs is a major concern given that women still earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Meanwhile, labor shortages in software development and other high-skill occupations have tech companies worried about whether they’ll be able to grow as fast as they’d like.

Seattle’s Ada Developers Academy takes aim at both challenges. This highly selective, tuition-free program prepares women students to be full-stack software developers, meaning that they can do both front-end—what the user sees—and back-end—what’s behind the scenes that makes everything work properly. Prior experience in tech isn’t necessary to earn a spot at Ada: The main prerequisite is a strong desire to pursue a career in software development.

Ada combines six months of intensive classroom instruction with a six-month internship at a sponsoring company so that students have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in real-world situations. Sponsoring companies—which currently include Nordstrom, Redfin, Zillow and Expedia, among others—also benefit from the internships, which provide direct access to prospective employees at a time when proficient software developers can be hard to find.

If Ada’s first cohort is any indication, the academy’s combination of rigorous in-class training and hands-on work experience has tremendous value on the job market. All 15 members of the inaugural class got job offers for software developer positions before they graduated from the program.

Seattle has long been known for its vibrant tech scene. Ada Developers Academy, its sponsoring companies and its graduates together enhance that reputation by fostering a more supportive environment for women in the city’s tech industry. In the face of serious gender disparities, organizations like Ada Developers Academy in Seattle show that it’s possible to create career pathways that will perhaps one day close the tech gender gap.

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