PROVO — All moms are busy, but some are choosing to stay even busier.
One such mom is Christie Stephenson, a Utah native with six children who is a strong advocate for women in technology, and who recently completed a nine-week computer programming course with Coding Campus in Provo. Stephenson encourages her five daughters to pursue opportunities to excel in the technology field, and for a good reason.
Forbes.com reported last year that according to a study done by technology website Dice, the pay gap for men and women programmers has disappeared. The study reports that "average salaries are equal for male and female tech pros, provided we’re comparing equal levels of experience and education and parallel job titles."
Women make up about 12 percent of programmers and developers in today’s workforce. However, Stephenson hopes to see that number increase and encourages many women to pursue computer programming.
Though at the beginning, coding didn’t come easily for her.
“It's like a foreign language, so it's all very new,” Stephenson said. “The first day (of the course) I felt very overwhelmed. I went home and called my mom and said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I cried. But I went to bed and the next morning I thought, ‘I can do this.’ ”
By participating in a nine-week course, individuals like Stephenson can train to become programmers and developers, and there is no experience necessary. Stay-at-home moms, working professionals, recent high school graduates and entrepreneurs with little or no prior programming experience are all welcome to develop coding skills, learn to build unique products and improve their career opportunities.
“You definitely have your logical and mathematical people,” Stephenson said. “(But) if someone is excited about code and wants to learn how, they can do it.”
For stay-at-home mom Melanie Call, a chance to code offered more than just a steady salary, it gave her a chance to make an income from home.
“I feel like there are more possibilities for myself and more ideas are starting to come to me,” she said. “I have six children at home, and it's not like I can get a 9-5 job, but it really opens the door to more possibilities.”
Carah Burrell, who is taking a course through the Provo Web Academy, echoes Call's sentiments, saying that her new skills have changed her goals and ambitions and made her realize all that she is capable of doing.
I have six children at home, and it's not like I can get a 9-5 job, but it really opens the door to more possibilities.
“It’s given me lots of encouragement,” she said. “Realizing that it's not that hard and that it's really rewarding makes it a lot more fun. The possibility of how many websites I could build or websites I could design or businesses I could start, it's endless. … I know I can always build a website on the side, and it’s gratifying to know I have another skill set to make some money in the future.”
Along with the study by Dice, Smithsonian.com highlighted another study by the American Association of University Women that found pursing a career in computer sciences, as well as with engineering and health care, has some of the greatest earning potential for women. A chart from this study shows that from 2007 to 2008, one year after graduation, there was no significant difference between the income of men and women who majored in computer sciences; both made an average annual income of $48,485.
On the other hand, Dice said it still may appear that men make more than women. In 2012-2013, an average income for a man in the computer programming field was $95,929, compared to $87,527 for a woman. However, these differences are reflected in the difference positions that each gender holds. Despite this difference, Dice reported that the "satisfaction with compensation was nearly identical with 58 percent of women stating they were satisfied, as compared to 56 percent of their male counterparts."
Burrell says more women should enter this field because they offer different and valuable skill sets to the world of computer science.
“When you look at a screen with code on it, it just seems really intimidating, but with the right help it’s surprisingly easy," she said. "I think women should be in this field more because … our brains work so differently (than men’s). In this field we need more design, creativity and problem-solving.”
Stephenson likewise believes more women should enter the field of computer science, saying computer programming skills are some of the most valuable to have because of the endless career opportunities.
"It's one of the coolest professions anyone could ever get into, and I want all of my girls to be programmers," she said. "Anybody who has (computer programming) skills can go into any industry and dominate, because very few people have these skills. And computers are not going to go away. It's not a dead-end profession and it's always changing so you’ll never get bored. … As you get older, having your brain engaged — it's awesome."
Contributing: Nathan Tanner
Sara Phelps is graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in communications. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org