Women in Tech

WomenWhoCode (WWC) announces sudden closure

22nd April 2024
Paige West

WomenWhoCode (WWC), a charitable organisation dedicated to supporting women in the technology sector, has announced its dissolution due to a severe funding shortfall.

Established in the United States and boasting a global community of 360,000 members across 145 countries, the closure marks a significant setback for diversity efforts within the industry.

Technology has historically been perceived as a male-dominated field. In fact, male executives lead the majority of major tech companies. The news of WWC's closure prompted a wave of dismay across social media, with many women expressing their sadness and disappointment. Comments ranged from calling the situation "heart-breaking" to recognising the organisation as a "wonderful resource" that had profoundly impacted numerous careers.

Among those impacted, Cassidy Williams, Chief Technology Officer at Brainstory, remarked on social media platform X: “It was a wonderful resource that impacted thousands of people and their careers, including my own.” Similarly, Cecelia Martinez, Lead Developer Advocate at OutSystems, shared her distress, noting the organisation had introduced her to "amazing people."

Despite women making up about 34% of the workforce in large US tech companies, as reported in 2022 by careers platform Zippia, the sector continues to grapple with gender disparities. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, acknowledged in a 2022 interview with the BBC the indefensible shortage of women in tech, stressing the absence of "good excuses" for this imbalance.

WWC, which began as a grassroots initiative in 2011 by engineers in San Francisco seeking mutual support, transitioned into a nonprofit in 2013 and subsequently expanded its global footprint. Over its tenure, WWC organised over 20,000 events and distributed $3.5 million (£2.8 million) in scholarships. Even as it planned a conference for May, the organisation was forced to cancel the event due to the impending closure.

The decision to dissolve followed a board vote, influenced by financial strains largely attributed to the broader cutbacks within the tech industry, including significant layoffs across many leading firms. The latest annual report revealed the organisation's financial distress: in 2022, it generated nearly $4 million in revenue but faced expenses just shy of $4.2 million.

A spokesperson for WWC stated: "We kept our programming moving forward while exploring all options."

WWC's farewell message underscored a sense of unfinished business, expressing a continued aspiration to reshape the tech landscape into one where "diverse women and historically excluded people thrive at every level."

Rajani Rao, Director, WomenWhoCode, told Electronic Specifier: "Given my experience in the startup ecosystem, I understand that securing funding has become notably tougher. Therefore, I'm not surprised that WomenWhoCode faced funding challenges this year.

"The community was both shocked and saddened by its closure. We received a deluge of wonderful testimonials about how much the community supported them, including stories of landing jobs and career progression. After a significant number of women in the community asked us to continue providing support, we decided to start a brand community from scratch called WomenCodingCommunity. Our mission is to see women at the forefront of technology and innovation. This initiative will help us continue to empower women to break into tech and overcome barriers in the industry."

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