Dana Parsons is keenly aware of the importance of technology; around 15 year ago she received an implantable cardiac defibrillator. As the technology improved, so did her quality of life, sparking a love of technology.

Today, Parsons is the St. John’s Chapter co-lead for Ladies Learning Code, a non-profit organization that started in 2011 and has chapters all across Canada. They organize workshops to encourage women and girls to become tech literate, teaching skills like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python and other essential languages.

When the local chapter arrived back in 2014, Parsons was quick to get involved, first as a student and then as a volunteer. In those four years, she estimated 450 people have been through their workshops, and have ranged from age 6 to 64. “Anybody can do it. It’s meant to be accessible.”

Sometimes people feel intimidated because they didn’t study computer science in university, but that shouldn’t hold anyone back, Parsons argued. “If you want to learn how to do apps, or if you want to learn how to do websites, or you want to learn to do something else, you can just take those languages and learn them. The reward comes really quickly.”

People are taking the courses for a variety of reasons: maybe they work in HR and manage people in working with tech, she said. They might be an artist who can’t afford to pay someone to create their website, so they take courses in order to do it themselves.

The workshops have a student to mentor ratio of 4:1, “And I think it’s important, because when you’re in a class and you’re learning something that’s absolutely foreign to everybody, you don’t know how quickly different groups, different individuals will pick it up.”

Someone who is struggling with the task can get the necessary instruction in this setting.

When asked about specific obstacles in the province in regards to promoting tech literacy, Parsons was quick to answer. “I believe ours is the fact that we’re laggers … And that does not help with technology. We’re late adopters, so we’re often a little bit of a culture of, ‘Well, I’ll see how it goes and then I’ll try it.’”

Local businesses don’t embrace new technology when it comes out. She explained it’s probably due to our historical climate that has created a culture where people are averse to risk taking.

But if we want the future of the province to prosper and keep the youth here, we need to embrace technology. And one of the benefits of the tech industry is that geography isn’t the hurdle it used to be. You can code from your kitchen table in rural NL, she explained.

So far, the tech industry has been male dominated and Ladies Learning Code is challenging that. Though the workshops aren’t exclusive to women, “Our ultimate goal is to reach gender parity in the technology industry. So whether that’s start-ups, technology roles, or seats on boards. It’s really to get gender parity in those areas. And the only way to do that is to start young.”

For upcoming Ladies Learning Code workshops, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/llcnl/