By Padraig Ryan

They may vary in age and have different personal and professional backgrounds, but a team of women who recently completed an intensive six-month computer coding program at Rutgers believes that women need to stick together to move forward in the high-tech industry. 

“Women represent more than half of our population,” said Nancy Lukas, a former teacher who graduated from Rutgers Coding Bootcamp after working for more than 20 years as a teacher. “We use technology as much as men and it is crucial for women to be part of the design and implementation of this technology.”

That’s why Nancy and four other women who met at Rutgers Coding Bootcamp decided to create a social networking application called The Loop that they say will lend support to women in the high-tech industry who want to break into what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

The high-tech networking application they developed is tailored to women in the technology industry who either want to be mentored or would like to be a mentor to a woman just starting out. The women say The Loop is meant to bring women in the technology field together and foster mentor-mentee relationships by using both the application and holding real-life gatherings.

Today, women hold just 26 percent of computing jobs. Many women, like Nancy, are concerned that there are not enough female role models in the industry. They believe that women don’t feel as supported as they should when they are trying to get a job in the computer industry or attempting to advance in their career.

“It’s important for women to get into this industry because technology is the future and women can’t afford not to be tech-savvy,” said Cristal King, who started in the industry in the late 1990’s but took a decade-long hiatus to take care of her family.

Cristal and Nancy teamed up with Josephine Pizzolate, Yana Yakubchik and Hira Ansari to create The Loop during the coding bootcamp, offered by Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies. There the women spent 24 weeks — two nights a week and half a day on Saturday — developing the skills needed to become “full stack” software coders. After working hours at home as well, they graduated from the program understanding a computer system’s infrastructure and how to create, manipulate and query databases. 

Everyone but Nancy – who spent more than two decades in education – had worked in the high-tech industry before attending the bootcamp, in areas ranging from software and web development to graphic design.

Still, the five women believed that even with their new skill set something was missing. They knew that when they started looking for jobs they would be in the minority. And they agreed they needed to do something that would enable women trying to break into high-tech careers to connect with those already working in the industry.  

“I’ve seen firsthand how men tend to dominate the technology industry,” said Josephine Pizzolate, who had worked as a web developer in the past. “We all hope that The Loop will bring women in the industry together and offer much needed support.”

The Department of Labor says that by 2022 there will be 1.2 million computer science jobs available in the United States and not enough people to fill the positions. This is why it is so important for women and young girls just starting out to have female role models to emulate as they move forward, the women said.

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, teams that included women were more creative, experimental and productive than teams that were composed of all men. A study that focused on research and development found that better gender diversity led to more teams meeting deadlines and keeping projects under budget.

The Loop team said they believe that women bring a different focus into the industry that should be encouraged and rewarded. This app, they say, could offer women and girls the opportunities and connections that are not now readily available.

“This is about bringing more women into this environment and inspiring them to not let anyone hold them back,” said Pizzolate. “We really think that this application could provide women the connections they need to make to get ahead.”

To find out more about Rutgers Coding Bootcamp, or to enroll in the program, call 732-430-2144 or visit us at our website.