“Learn sketching, prototyping, basic programming and get introduced to the world of technology. Our aim is to give tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas. We do this by providing a great experience on building things and by making technology more approachable.” From the Rails Girls website
This toolkit consists of numerous tools enabling the learning of coding and meeting peers. In addition to this is a very active international network of local chapters who put on coding events and courses across the world. There are two types of resources; guides teaching the users to code and build apps using Ruby on Rails, and guides to setting up and running Rails Girls workshops – whether in person or online – including presentations and a Rails Girls app and information on how to become a coding coach. The core guide to coding itself is a 13 step guide starting from installation of the software taking the user all the way up to building several types of apps, making them live, allowing for interaction and building a backend. There are several more guides to building games, coding methodology and ways of interacting with the Rails Girls community.
When considering how to put the Rails Girls guides to use for your organisation there are several things to consider. Learning is fun! There is a lot to gain for an organisation or team to have an opportunity to learn something new and so heavily associated with gender stereotypes together. Demonstrating the equality in ability when patriarchal systems and assumptions are removed from the picture is liberating and great for building self confidence. Perhaps the learning process itself trump the outcome of what the learning outcome is? Making sure you have a safe and inclusive space for the girls and non binary persons taking place in the workshops. While you can consider opening the workshops up to all genders, the emphasis has to be on making it a gender neutral space where learning can be undertaken without then engendered stereotyping which often follows women and technology. There are two ways to start running the workshops: The first one is facilitating already proficient coders in your community to set up coding workshops for new beginners with the help of the Rails Girls guides to running workshops, meet ups and coding camps. The second one involves learning together with the beginners, and creating a shared learning experience where the peers and the community help each other, and the facilitating is light touch allowing for individual learning in a group. There are guides for both purposes, and there is ample scope for developing skills which will make for future careers and opportunities for the individual learner, and acquire valuable skills for the shared knowledge and development of the organisation. Increase accessibility; Bearing this in mind, as part of offering up the infrastructure and the safe and inclusive space mentioned above, consider how to make the workshops accessible for your core audience. If possible make them cost free; the hardware available; the timings participation friendly and if perhaps cover expenses and offer child care so participants who would otherwise struggle with taking part have that obstacle removed. Equal access to learning new technology and skills should be intersectional to help address issues of representation in technology, especially in web building and coding where in 2017 only 3% of workers were female and 1% non-binary. 95% were male and heavily weighted towards white, hetero cis men, under the age of 35.
Rails Girls was started in Finland in 2010 by Linda Liukas and Karri Saarinen. At the inaugural Rails Girls event in Helsinki 100 girls signed up, signalling the need for a different setting for girls women and non-binary persons to learn without gender performance expectations and behaviours. The network initially grew across Finland with help from government grants and local councils and sponsors. However it quickly grew into a big international network as more and more women and girls showed an interest in both learning and teaching coding, and started setting up rails Girls events internationally. From facilitating, running and teaching the Rails Girls events, it became necessary to develop step by step guides to setting up coding classes and boot camps, as well as guides to the coding itself. These were co-created, non-author attributed and are licensed under the creative commons. The enthusiasm and ability of the Rails Girls network means that the coding guides were translated and made available in atleast 11 languages, and are regularly updated or new guides are added with the emergence of new technological developments. The network has taken on a life of its own, as new chapters spring up around the world putting on new events and continuously improve the range of context, accessibility and gender representation in coding and web building. To further this ambition the Rails Girls Summer of Coding fellowship was started in 2013 and has been running annually since. The three month summer program elevates talented women and non-binary coders, by pairing them up with a mentor or coach and supporting them financially over the course of the process of developing ‘a worthwhile open source project.
Follow Rails Girls on social media to keep up with their activities, as every chapter is run locally, there is more convergence in social media spaces. The website remains the main resource collection.