It was a year ago this month that Shannon Weidman and Megan Beck announced they were organizing a Fargo chapter of Girl Develop It, a non-profit that offers coding classes geared towards women.

Since then they’ve organized six classes teaching HTML/CSS, and around 100 students have graduated from the program, Weidman said.


Beck and Weidman with a poster for CODE

“It’s gone better than we ever could’ve expected,” she said. “We didn’t know what the turnout would be in Fargo, but turns out there’s a lot of people who want to learn code. We’ve sold out every intro class that we’ve offered.”

I had the honor of participating in a class last Saturday, taught by Weidman herself, and can now proudly say I have built a website from scratch. A very primitive, clunky-looking website at the moment – but still a website! (This, from someone who has always regarded code as lines of scary garble.)

GDI class

My class!

A 64-year-old woman named Gail was also in our class. She came in feeling nervous.

“I’m not sure what I’m doing here, I don’t know much about computers,” she said. “But I’m here to expand my knowledge.”

By the end of the class, she’d created a website dedicated to her grandkids.

“You’re never too old to learn code,” Weidman said.

Looking ahead to 2016, Weidman said they plan to offer more classes and get more teachers involved. One teacher, Blaine Booher, plans to offer a few next level classes teaching Python next year as well, Weidman said.

CODE: Debugging the Gender GapCODE_poster_072915

To celebrate a year of teaching code, the Girl Develop It team is showing a free premiere of a documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap at the Fargo Theatre on October 22. The film claims that it “exposes the dearth of American female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gender gap.”

When Weidman and Beck saw the trailer a while back, they knew it fit perfectly with Girl Develop It’s mission.

“This is why Girl Develop It exists, to get more women involved,” Weidman said. “The film picks apart why there’s a gender gap, and how people can actively start changing that.”

The film showing, which earlier this year cost $10,000 to bring to a local theater but has since gone down, is being sponsored by the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.


Weidman receives the DVD from Johnny Mach

Weidman said she hopes to fill the theatre, especially with those in education who can bring more coding classes to schools. She also hopes to see the audience equally split between men and women. Right now, she said, the sign-ups are primarily women.

“A lot of people don’t think this is an issue. A lot of male developers don’t think its a big deal. But it is. We want dudes to come and watch this,” she said. “I would love to get equal men and women involved.”

Join the party on October 22 at the Fargo Theatre. 6:30 PM social, with cupcakes and a cash bar. 8:00 PM film showing. Get your free ticket here!


Photos courtesy of Greg Tehven and Marisa Jackels.



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Marisa Jackels