Here’s why NYC is sending moms to javacript school to ‘code like a mother’

Before landing her current position as a project manager at a marketing agency, Alison Foster took a six-year break from working to raise her kids. She describes her transition back into the rehiring process as “horrendous.”

“I never felt I could talk about having kids in an interview, and just felt that there wasn’t a lot of support,” says Foster, mom of Sophia, 13, and Morgan, 10. “It seemed like interviewers thought that just because you are a mom you can’t contribute the way you could when you weren’t.”

Foster’s negative experience is all too common among women seeking to reenter the workforce after having children. According to a Pew survey, 42 percent of working moms say that they scaled back work hours to care for their kids, and 35 percent say that this decision was detrimental to their careers. On average, women’s salaries decrease by four percent with every child they have. Add to that the exorbitant childcare costs—roughly $2,000 a month on average in NYC, for example—and it’s clear that working moms face a real disadvantage, despite being the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households.

“I never felt I could talk about having kids in an interview, and just felt that there wasn’t a lot of support,” says Foster, mom of Sophia, 13, and Morgan, 10. “It seemed like interviewers thought that just because you are a mom you can’t contribute the way you could when you weren’t.”

When Foster learned that women.nyc was bringing Bay Area-based startup MotherCoders to New York City, the 46-year-old jumped at the opportunity to gain job skills. She hopes to use them to transition from marketing into a more technical role as a UX designer or data scientist. The aspiring techie joined NYC’s first cohort of students in February 2019.

Paige Polk/Mayoral Photography Office

According to MotherCoders founder and CEO, Tina Lee, the program will tap women to “grow and diversify the City’s tech talent pool and lead to greater economic prosperity for families and the wider community, yielding benefits for generations to come.”

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen affirms this call to bring more women into NYC’s tech sector, which is currently one of the city’s fastest-growing industries. “We need to do all that we can to connect talented people with tech opportunities, including mothers who have historically been underrepresented in the field,” she says.

Even if MotherCoder grads don’t go onto careers in tech, per se, acquiring skills in web or user experience design has applications across industries. MotherCoder student Selena Juneau-Vogel, a former manager at a nonprofit and the mother of a 13-month-old daughter in Brooklyn, plans “to make tech serve people and non-profits,” she says. “I want to look at issues in society and use tech to ensure that the way we work is conscientious and accommodates different people and different work styles. I would love to go back and teach a class in tech for public administrators and public servants.”

Juneau-Vogel’s classmate Alicia Tam Wei, an assistant professor of architecture at Barnard College and Columbia University, and mom to a two-year-old daughter, can also picture how becoming more tech-savvy could help her career. “Design and technology are merging as a field, and coding is just a great tool, no matter what,” she says. “It will bring my work to the next level as an educator, as a designer, and as a strategic thinker.”

Since MotherCoders launched in 2015, five classes of moms have graduated and gone on to start businesses, advance in their industries, or get hired at tech giants like Google and Airbnb. On average, alumna increased their salaries by 68 percent.

“Google has been proud to support the amazing work of MotherCoders for the last three years and we’re thrilled to now welcome them to the NYC community,” says Carley Graham Garcia, head of external affairs for Google NYC.

If the success of Bay Area grads is any indicator, NYC moms will be well positioned to benefit, too.

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