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Girl Geek Academy wants to teach one million girls to code

A new initiative aims to teach women how to create apps and launch their own startups, with the aim to reach one million people by 2025.

Girl Geek Academy

Last month, the International Game Developers Association released the results of its developer satisfaction survey, revealing that, 22 per cent of people working in the gaming industry are women. Although this is almost double the percentage five years ago (11.5 per cent), it seems a bit low when women make up 48 per cent of those playing games.

This disparity is pretty common across software and app development, as well as tech startups -- even though startups led by women produce 12 per cent higher returns. The logical next step would be to encourage more women to enter these fields. This is where Girl Geek Academy comes in, an initiative aimed at teaching women the skills they need to start their own ventures -- everything from coding classes to mentoring programs from successful start-ups.

And there's definitely demand for it, according to co-founder, programmer and senior digital strategist Tammy Butow.

"We have seen over the years that female-focused groups have helped increase the number of women attending technology events and learning technology skills," Butow told CNET. "Over the last few years I have run Girl Geek Dinners Melbourne -- in January 2013 we had 350 members -- and we then ran a series of tech workshops to teach skills such as HTML, CSS and JS."

"Girl Geek Dinners Melbourne now has over 1000 members. [Fellow co-founder] April [Staines] and I also ran Australia's first all-female hackathon She Hacks in Melbourne. She Hacks sold out in one week, a few weeks later we also ran Australia's first Startup Weekend Women event and that sold out too."

After running these workshops and discovering just how many women were interested in learning these skills, Butow and her associates decided to widen their scope -- opening up a series of classes and programs for women of all ages (above the age of 18) and skill levels with a target of helping one million build apps and learn to create startups by the year 2025.

"The internet we know now was primarily built by men. We are interested in finding out what women would like to create," Butow said. "At the Startup Weekend Women event we recently ran, there were several teams that created apps focusing on flexible work opportunities for women. This was a very clear theme for the weekend. We had several women in attendance who were expecting children or had small children; they are interested in using technology to solve the problems they are experiencing."

Partnered with Google, Aduro and 99Designs, the Academy offers a number of classes, either as face-to-face workshops, or via Google Hangouts and Aduro. Both 99Designs and Google provide mentors and teachers -- as well as the teachers who are regularly part of the Girl Geek Academy team. The two-hour classes include learning different programming languages, such as JavaScript and Ruby, down to the basics of founding a startup, such as a public speaking class and how to manage your finances.

More experienced women are encouraged to teach classes, and the Academy is already a variety of events: hackathons, makerfests, code getaways and study tours. The team is already organising the very first study tour, hoping to take Australian women to visit global startup hotspots such as Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv.

And, although women are the focus, men are welcome too, Butow said -- as long as they attend with a girl geek, in order to help achieve the goal of reaching one million women by 2025.

"Our experiences and content have been created with girl geeks in mind. There will always be delicious and healthy food and you will be able to meet like-minded girl geeks from across the globe. Our focus is on asking the community what they want and helping make that happen," she said.

The first class, to be held July 15 and coming in at AU$35 a ticket and including a healthy dinner, will take place in Richmond, Victoria, will focus at the very beginning: how to pitch an idea. You can also purchase AU$10 tickets to attend via Google Hangout, and you can check out the program for the next 12 months on the Girl Geek Academy website.