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Did the media's attention to 'CodeBabes' bring awareness to the tech gender gap?

Published: Thursday, May 15 2014 1:53 p.m. MDT

Coding is becoming a more marketable skill and the website codebabes.com is bringing attention to the gender gap in the tech industry.

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The tech media’s attention to codebabes.com — a website that purports to teach men to code while their “instructors” take off clothing — has drawn attention to gender disparity and sexism in the tech industry, which is often seen as progressive.

The site first began garnering wide media attention when On the Media crowned it the “worst thing on the Internet” for the week of April 25, reminding readers that “sexism in tech is a pervasive, endemic problem.”

Gizmodo called the site “everything wrong with tech culture — plus strippers,” in its critique and questioned the accuracy of the site's coding “quizzes.”

Tech industry news sites reacted to a flurry of angry tweets accordingly, denouncing the site as sexist.

Yet the media and Twitter frenzy might have been exactly what the people behind CodeBabes had in mind, as some media outlets have questioned whether the site was designed as a hoax to shed light on gender issues within the tech field.

As Oh Snapski reported, the philosophy section of the website reads, “If we’ve offended anyone, well, let’s just say there are bigger problems in the world to worry about.”

And the Huffington Post quoted tweets from the website’s account that read, among other things, “Interwebz! [sic] Stop objectifying our instructors!”

Creators have yet to comment publicly one way or the other, but if awareness of a gender gap is indeed CodeBabes’ aim, they've drawn attention to what some within the industry see as a major problem.

In the midst of the media fallout over CodeBabes, Pinterest software engineer Tracy Chou published a spreadsheet of data she compiled of how many female engineers work at more than 80 tech companies. Quartz.com did a story about Chou’s spreadsheet, calling the statistics culled from Chou’s work proof that the industry’s “woman problem” is “worse than you think.”

According to Chou’s research, tech companies employ an average of just 12.3 percent female engineers. This may be in part to what Forbes calls a “pipeline problem,” with the magazine reporting that only 18 percent of computer science graduates were women as of 2008.

“In a way, it doesn’t matter whether CodeBabes is fake or real,” Oh Snapski blogger Amanda Levendowski wrote. “Not knowing whether a site like this is fake is a problem unto itself: We live in a world where it is conceivable that someone could have an idea for this website, build it and publish it to the public.”

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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