Diversity in Coding Bootcamp Instruction
A year ago, I was starting a full-stack programming bootcamp through Galvanize. One of the things that attracted me to it was that they made sure their class was 50/50 female/male. In fact, one of the two instructors was female, as was the TA. This was a bit of a relief for me on the first day when I had to ask if there was a place I could pump breastmilk. While I could have asked a male instructor about that, it was much more comfortable to ask a woman. A suitable place was found and I continued that for the first 3 months of the 6-month bootcamp.
Fairly early on in the program, that female instructor left and the program was searching for a new one. I was really hoping they’d find another female instructor. Unfortunately, they didn’t. The new instructor was great and I leaned a lot from him, but I think there was something lost in now having 2 male instructors lead the class. I noticed from time to time that the male instructors had some blind spots when it came to issues that mostly affect women.
One example of this was the new instructor’s insistence that we all get blogs. That’s where this little blog came from. And this little blog has served me just fine. However, the emphasis that we all have some sort of blog or portfolio to display our work came from a place of privilege. I know people who cannot have an Internet presence because of exes and past stalkers. And while men can be the victims of stalking, harassment and doxxing, women are particularly vulnerable and targeted. It upset me that this push for a blog came without any instruction on how to showcase your coding work without endangering your online safety, and without the note that you can have a successful tech career without a public blog. I can’t know if the original female instructor would have encouraged a blog or not, or how, but it’s more likely that she’d have fewer blind spots when it comes to the landscape of tech for women engineers.
My experience is limited in that I am white and so were all the instructors we had. I’m sure my classmates of color could write a similar essay about the blind spots our instructors had concerning race.
I share this as a suggestion to those who are in charge of bootcamps: have female instructors, have gender-queer instructors. Fill your faculty with people of color. The combined life experience of your instructors needs to have both breadth and depth. Bootcamps are a great way to encourage diversity in tech and get people from various walks of life into coding. I, myself, was a stay-at-home-mom for many years prior to my bootcamp experience and having the bootcamp bridge the resume gap was priceless. As people come into tech from unconventional paths, we will need instructors that reflect the diversity of the new students.