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Posted on 8/19/2015

​Sisters Code: Empowering Women to Explore Technology

Sisters Code's mission is to educate, entice and empower women ages 25 – 85 to explore the world of technology.

After college, I was an aspiring mortician working at a local funeral home at night and substitute middle school teacher during the day. Out of the blue, someone told me that a local company called Compuware Corporation was offering a professional development program where I would learn to program in seven languages in 13 weeks — and all I needed was a degree.  I would be lying if I said I knew what coding was or even knew what I was signing up for. However, the company offered me a salary and benefits, so I decided to make believe that I could do it. During the program I learned JCL, COBOL, DB2, CICS and IMS, and at the age of 25, I emerged as a mainframe programmer. Technology changed the trajectory of my life and offered me opportunities beyond my wildest dreams.

As a speaker, I have been asked to speak at many programs to empower young girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), but I didn't see many venues for older women to hear about the possibility of becoming a coder. Thus, Sisters Code was born.  

Sisters Code is open to all women, regardless of race, social status, career level or educational level. We offer a “Weekend Website Warrior Experience” where women are introduced to HTML, CSS and JavaScript while developing an interactive website. Our classes are very diverse, which makes for a dynamic and rich experience. We have had stay-at-home moms, attorneys, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, police officers and women looking to re-enter the workplace. My favorite Sisters Code success stories involve a 67-year-old participant who went from retiree to tech entrepreneur, and a Zumba instructor who is now a systems analyst.

We teach the basics in a fun environment as a way to empower women to believe that they can learn something new, and that they, too, can excel in the field of technology. We also take the “digital divide” into consideration by offering classes where we provide all of the needed hardware and software, ultimately annihilating all excuses.

My personal belief is that if I'm not giving back in every endeavor I'm involved in, I must do so some soul-searching to uncover my true intent and evaluate if the project is worthwhile.  As a form of empowerment and real-life experience, and in the spirit of giving back, our advanced students develop websites free of charge for small neighborhood businesses in the city of Detroit that have no Web presence.  This affords our program participants an opportunity to practice their new skills and build their portfolios, but most importantly, it helps businesses who are in need of assistance with engaging customers via the Internet.

As a participant at SXSW put it, “Sisters Code is not just a coding program, it is a vehicle to empower women to believe in themselves and learn a skill that could ultimately change their lives, the lives of their families, and neighborhoods.

Our next Weekend Website Warrior Class is September 12.  Please visit our website, sisters-code.org, for registration information as space is limited.

About the Author

Marlin Page | Sisters Code

Marlin Page is the founder of Sisters Code, a global social enterprise with a mission to educate, empower, and entice women ages 25 – 85 to explore the world of coding and technology. Here she talks about why she started Sisters Code, what goes on at the “Weekend Website Warrior Experience,” and how Sister's Code gives back to the community.    

 
 

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