Episode 025: MotherCoders with Tina Lee


Coraline Ada Ehmke | Rein Henrichs | Mandy Moore

Guest Starring:

Tina Lee: @mstinalee | MotherCoders

Show Notes:

00:16 – Welcome to “Not Your Mother’s Podcast!” …we mean, “Greater Than Code!”

00:55 – Origin Story and Getting Involved in Coding

03:17 – Programming Perspectives From People of Different Backgrounds; Teaching Adults vs Children

08:19 – Work/Life Balance

11:32 – Changing Culture Around Gender Roles and Caregiving

“Culture is like water in that it flows from the top down.”

Nev Schulman Wants to Erase Gender Stereotypes for Parents

18:18 – The MotherCoders Organization

What to expect when you’re done expecting (Medium Article)  

24:27 – Teaching Frontend Development and The Stereotype that Women are Better at Frontend than Backend Work

We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem (Guardian Article)

30:00 – Silicon Valley Elitism, Sexism, and Defining Cultural Norms; “The Ideal Worker”

The Motherhood Penalty

35:38 – Why do we not have many of women CEOs?

37:42 – Tactical Help for Cultural Changes

Stats on Millennial Women Becoming Moms  

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Thank you Nik Kantar!


Mandy: Donate to MotherCoders and/or support them via AmazonSmile.

Rein: The empowerment of women and the challenges they face are a global problem.


Coraline: Fostering entrepreneurship and empowering women worldwide. Also, thinking about role models and how to amplify voices.

Tina: Including moms as a kind of marginalized group as well.

Tweet to Tina that we want “Code Like a Mother” merch!

Please leave us a review on iTunes!


MANDY:  Hello and welcome to ‘Not Your Mother’s Podcast’. I am Mandy Moore and wait, yes, I am technically the show manager and producer but because I am particularly interested in today’s topic and being a mother coder in general, I am crashing the party. With me today, I am pleased to welcome, Coraline Ada Ehmke.

CORALINE:  Thank you, Mandy. As the producer of the show, though I would have expected you to remember that we’re actually called Greater Than Code and that’s something I’ve been corrected on a lot of times and I guess you just don’t listen to that part of the audio when you’re doing the editing.

MANDY:  Nope.

CORALINE:  Also, I’m happy to be joined by Rein today.

REIN:  I am very excited to welcome our guest this week, Tina Lee. Tina is the founder and CEO of MotherCoders, a non-profit social enterprise, dedicated to unwrapping women with kids to careers and technology so they can thrive in digital economy. Prior to founding MotherCoders, Tina worked in government and the non-profit private sector. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political, Legal and Economic Analysis from Mills College and an MBA from the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business.

In 2010, Tina received for MA in Education from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education where her studies in their Learning, Design and Technology Program focused on how technology can be used to foster civic engagement. Tina speaks and writes regularly on topics related to the digital economy, including diversity and inclusion, civic innovation, workforce development and the changing needs of women and families in a globalized and tech-driven world.

I’m happy that I can read that entire intro out because it’s very clear that you have spent a lot of time and effort understanding these issues, learning about these issues throughout your college and university career and onward. Can you talk about how these issues became so important for you and why you decide to make this, I guess your life’s work, if that’s an accurate characterization?

TINA:  It is an accurate characterization. Thank you so much for having me on this show. I’m delighted to be with all of you. It’s really funny, I don’t know if you ever see that video of Steve Jobs giving a commencement speech at Stanford saying, “Don’t worry about where you’re going. Just go with your gut and your life’s work won’t make sense and you won’t be able to connect the dots until you look back.” That’s the path that I’ve taken as I’ve just tried something and if it doesn’t work, then I try something else and I’ve just moved closer and closer to my life’s work, which I will right now say is really creating a space for us to intentionally create an economy that’s more fair and inclusive.

We’re going through this huge, worldwide transition and I don’t want us to replicate all the inequities that we have in this economy and bring it into the next economy. I want to spend some time making sure that the people that are feeling marginalized now have a foothold in the new economy so that we can change that you could [inaudible] their families. I know that sounds like huge and you’re doing this by yourself but really, I have been working towards this my whole life. I was born into an immigrant family. I was raised by a grandmother who worked in a sweat shop so I am very familiar with what happens when people are marginalized.

Having the first to go to college, I always thought like, “I’m going to go and make my mark in business,” and that just became clear to me it wasn’t going to happen there so I tried all these different spaces. I tried working in governments. I’ve been in philanthropy and I started in non-profit but I think the overarching thread that ran through all of those things was that I wanted to create a more fair world.

REIN:  Was there a particular moment or an event that put you on this path or was it a more gradual development?

TINA:  I think there were definite forks in the road but I think for the purposes of this conversation for MotherCoders, it was definitely shortly after I had my second daughter. I had a two-year old and an infant. I wanted to move back into a world that was more technical. I had been working in a government role and I was getting further and further away from the tech. I was like I’m going to spend this time during my maternity leave — because that makes perfect sense — to relearn all the stuff that I used to know how to do.

I was learning to code again. I was actually reviewing CSS — not super hard — and had a complete meltdown because I was exhausted. I was in between breastfeeding session in all of the night and I was lonely. Even though, I had gone to ed school at noon, that for me and a lot of other people, that online learning isn’t the best modality for me. It was kind of all I had left so I had a fairly significant breakdown and insight about how hard it is for mothers, for parents, any caregiver really to be able to do all these things and keep up with the skills that we need to be able to take care of our families.

MANDY:  I was in a similar situation back in 2009 when I had my daughter. I was put on mandatory bed rest so I was unemployed when I had her. Once that ran out, I went on to waitressing and I had no idea what I want to do with my life. I went to college, I had a degree in professional writing, a minor in communications arts and sciences but for me, I was a single mom and I had a very, very little help.

My mom was around back then and my sister was, I think a junior or senior in high school at the time and I was just looking for any kind of opportunity to be able to be successful without having to leave my house because daycare and other things like that are so expensive. Babysitters these days charge an arm and a leg just to go out for an evening so I started looking online and saw the opportunities in the technical space were just tremendous. Luckily, I fell into what I’m doing now, which wasn’t technically coding but now that I’ve met all these amazing people from just producing podcasts and doing a little bit of virtual assistance, I see the value that you can do it from home while the kids are taking their nap or when they go to bed at night, they spend a couple of extra hours learning new things and it’s just such a great opportunity in any situation to get involved in coding.

TINA:  Absolutely and we have some single moms that have come through our classes and it’s a community that gets them through, like you said: meeting the amazing people there in the space. I think that key and just knowing that there’s a world of opportunity for me out there, I just need to do these things and makes it less scary and more accessible. What we try to do is we try to bring in mothers who know they want to go back into workforce or switching to a more technical role but don’t know where to start.

I had people ran up to me and like, “Python or Ruby or some other language?” and I’m like, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” And they’ll say, “I don’t know. My friend told me and this is so cool.”

MANDY:  Been there [Laughs].

TINA:  Yeah, like a whole world that means making that decision and figuring out that’s the right thing for you and do you even like the jobs that are open to you once you learn something? We try to kind of close that gap for moms who are standing on the sidelines and want to get in.

CORALINE:  Tina, I’m curious. I’m a mom and when my daughter was very young, at the start of my career, I’ll already had some sort of baseline knowledge but I had a lot of trouble with work-life balance and I tilted way too far in favor of work and missed a lot of really important milestones to my daughter’s life. How do you address work-life balance as you’re working with moms who are just getting started in this field?

TINA:  Man, it’s tough. That question really goes back to how our society is organized around this idealized vision of a nuclear family where there is a male breadwinner — usually a male bread winner — who goes out and does all the things, 24/7, all-in, work first and he’s able to do that because the assumption is that there’s a homemaker — usually a female — who takes care of everything on the homefront so that he can do that.

That’s never quite been the case for a families in the US and it’s especially not the case today when almost half of families with children under 18 have working parents, both working full time just to stay afloat. It doesn’t reflect reality and we organize around it. What I mean by that is schools let out in the middle of the afternoon because they assume that there’s a female caregiver picking them up.

Summers are off. Two weeks were Christmas and that’s just schools. Then there’s the tax code and then there’s a workplace policies that kind of reinforce all this. All this to say, the structures that we have in society around work and just how we’re organized, it’s not suited for working parents. As a woman, not only do you have to overcome all the barriers around sexism, you have to, on top of that, really try to navigate this compact set of social structure that are stacked against. It’s kind of depressing if you think about it.

But what I found is this conversation around work-life balance isn’t necessarily moving us forward because it’s hard to make this problem about moms not being able to balance our priorities and manage our time. That’s not the case. The cases are we’re expected to do all these things and put in 45 hours a week so our bosses think that we are just as competent and committed to our career. I try myself not to play that game of work-life balance. It’s just one that I’m never going to win.

I have a husband who works full time. We don’t have our family around and we have two young daughters so for me and my husband, it’s just as not so much as balancing as coming together and prioritizing and working as a team to make sure that we each get what we need to cover our bases at work and also take care of our families. I don’t have anything new or a smart to say about that, other than we are all messed up in terms of how we’re organized and we have to rethink this whole thing.

MANDY:  So it’s a society issue?

TINA:  Yes.

MANDY:  If your kid gets sick, you have to stay home. A lot of people these days don’t work eight-to-four or nine-to-fives and it’s always expected that you have to be there at a certain time to take care of the children. When you’re taking care the children, they need fed around five or six o’clock at night and then they do the bath and they have to do their homework. In all of that, you’re trying to juggle a full time job. It gets to be bananas and it’s frustrating. At the same time, I don’t know how to fix it because I want to do things. I want to be a coder and I want to learn how to program. But at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. What can society do, in short of allowing your children to come to work or like young children before they’re school-aged or something else to try and help the situation?

TINA:  You’re basically talking about changing culture and that takes a lot of time. I heard this great saying the other day that culture is like water and it flows from the top down. I think people and power need to have that realization that, “This isn’t working for us. We’re leaving a lot of money on the table and by the way, it’s really inhumane.” I don’t even know which argument resonate more at this point because neither seems to be working that well. Ultimately, I think we have to change the culture around gender roles and specifically what our expectations are around caregiving. But on a micro level, I think workplaces that are leading some of this change have implemented more parent-friendly workplace policies, such as paid parental leave.

I was at a talk yesterday where they were saying that Slack has a saying that’s written on the wall. That’s how important they think it is. It’s plastered across a very, very visible wall that says, “Work hard and go home.” For innovative companies who really do realize that we’re humans and we have lives outside of work and we do better when we actually unplug and do other things are kind of leading the charge and most of the time, the people that are leading it tend to be parents who get it. I think with millennials moving into the workforce based on what sociologists have found about their preferences, they don’t want to be all in that work. The men tend to want to be as involved in caregiving as the women or more so than their fathers had been.

The research says there are some hope but ultimately, this is a cultural problem and it’s going to take a really long time to work itself out. My whole goal of doing MotherCoders is because the industry right now is so in dire need of talent and they’re going to have to enlist women because we’re getting more degrees and getting more educated and we can actually do a job that women with the technical skills will have a little bit more of leverage and over time will move into positions of power where they can help change it. That’s just the best I can come up with at this point.

MANDY:  I just saw this great video by Nev Schulman — he was the host or maybe still is, I don’t really watch MTV much anymore — of catfish and him and his wife had a baby. He made this great video about ending gender stereotypes for parents and I totally recommend that everybody watch it because not only it is funny, it hits home hardcore.

TINA:  It’s so bizarre that we’ve constructed this whole myth around how women are best-suited for that because they found that in societies where men are more involved at caregiving, they actually have lower levels of violence overall. Biology is tied up in caregiving and when men do it, everyone actually benefits. But we have a lot of myths here in America that promote the opposite, that men are incapable of making even change a diaper. We award dads for being able to take their kids for a walk without dying.

CORALINE:  I have a single dad friend who he said several times that the bar is set so low for dads and you hear dads talk about like, “I’m babysitting the kids this weekend.” I was like, “No, you’re being a father.” My friend just finds it just by showing up, he gets lauded because that expectation for dad is so low.

TINA:  Yeah and this is not just coming from men and this is a societal thing. Men and women both pull this up together, not all men and not all women but in general.

MANDY:  Majoritively.

REIN:  It sounds like there are a number of interrelated problems or challenges here. There’s the economic empowerment of women. You’re getting them more access to better income, more access to credit and things like that. There’s the increased well-being of everyone, starting with women. I think if women have increased well-being, then their children will increase well-being since again, they’re the primary caregivers, etcetera. There’s also this social empowerment of women and challenging these social structures. How do we tackle all of these problems at the same time?

TINA:  We are tackling it, just not in the same setting. Everyone’s working on a different piece, I want to say. There are people who are trying to change the narrative in the media. There are women who are around men who are doing it at the business front and government. Everything, the cultures in the air, you don’t even know that some things at play until someone calls it out.

For what I’m trying to do with tech, tech is basically the new economy. You can’t get to this new place without talking about tech because tech just underlies everything we do now and it’s just a matter of time before it’s a literacy that everyone needs to have: knowing how to code or just understand how technology works. I, for one hope that people who are a leading change on any form recognizes that and we’re all chipping away at this elephant in our own way and that ultimately because tech is the future of work that we are all being intentional about how we want to create this new economy so that we don’t bring along all the stuff we don’t want on this one.

REIN:  Maybe we could talk for a bit about the part of the elephant that you are currently chipping away at.

TINA:  What shall we name the part?


CORALINE:  Let’s talk specifically about MotherCoders.

TINA:  I know that was part of the elephant specifically [inaudible]. My word —

REIN:  I was just trying to roll with your metaphor. I don’t have one in mind specifically.

MANDY:  MotherCoders is based in San Francisco, right?

TINA:  Yeah.

MANDY:  What is it that you do there?

TINA:  I live here. That’s good at any place to start. I am born and raised in San Francisco so I am just immersed in this. I’ve seen it grow in prominence locally and I’ve also seen it now how it’s transformed industries and places and the backlash against that. You could say I’m at ground zero for this stuff. We started here because, I thought the issues here are so amplified because it’s such a small space, because everyone comes here. Capital is concentrated here. All of the issues that you might feel in places that aren’t as tech-centric here as like 10x so I was seeing all of these groups and organizations that were cropping up to address the pipeline: let’s teach girls, let’s teach youth, let’s teach kids, let’s get college students involved, let’s get the unemployed and just everybody except moms.

There are even women’s groups but they stop once the women become moms and that’s because the childcare piece is very challenging. The exhaustion piece is very real. They’re not having time. Melinda Gates calls this ‘time poverty’. Women have time poverty once they become mothers. There was this great post on Medium that shows based on the census survey on how Americans spend their time, the difference between parents and non-parents and men and women. Because caregiving is a very emotionally and time intensive and resource intensive enterprise, something’s got to give.

A lot of times, mothers are the ones who work full-time or even the ones that don’t, will only have a certain amount of uninterrupted time to devote to learning something and that tends to be in the evening, after the kids go to bed or on Saturdays where they might have some coverage from a partner or family members. That’s why we designed MotherCoders as it is. It’s a Saturday part-time program with on-site childcare for those who need it and then we also started experimenting with a day time class for moms whose kids are in school and they’re trying to re-enter and they have some flexibility during the day.

That’s what we do in San Francisco. We run a part-time tech training program for mothers who want to get into tech but don’t yet know how their experience might connect or they’re trying to get a refresh. What we do is we do three parts. We do a coding part. We do an industry knowledge part and then lastly, we do a community building part. I had gone to ed school and I’m a big believer in the fact that learning is social and contextual and people have evolved to learn because they need it to. I am a big Maslow’s hierarchy of needs person so people learn to do things because they want to meet their needs.

I try to design a program to help moms learn but in a way that social, in a way that fits into their own life goals and fits into the context of where they live. We run this program. It’s nine weeks, eight weeks of it is in class, one day of it is a field trip to a tech company so they can see how it works and talk to a tech team. Then the rest of their time, they’re learning how to do frontend development: HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript and that really isn’t to teach them how to code and then be job-ready. It’s really to demystify it to see if they even like it and understand it. Then we bring in women from the field to teach on specific things that we think are the most topical and important to understand.

We bring in data scientists, talk about that. We bring in an information security person and talk about that. Then we let them go at it with each other because the data scientist wants all the things and the information security expert said, “Nah, I don’t know if I want to even handle all the things.”

Then we bring in women to talk about marketing automation and product design. We bring in founders to share their experience and through that exercise, not only are the women are getting the latest and greatest from practitioners in the field. They’re also growing their social capital. They’re growing their network capital. They’re making connections with people who actually work in roles that they might want to pursue and that opens up a world of possibility because in the media, you might only know about you’re either a programmer or you’re a designer or a web designer or whatever. Now, there’s actually a person who does product management or user experience design. It has all these other roles embedded in it like researcher and UI. It kind of opens the mom’s eyes about what the possibilities are.

Lastly, we spend time letting them connect with each other and grow relationships with each other because I’m sure the moms here will tell you, being a mother can be very isolating because you don’t have time to socialize or make new friends so these women end up going to conferences together, they end up taking other more advanced together once they leave and they just become friends who hang out and help out each other with their code and share job tips or whatever.

CORALINE:  You talked about the training that the women received being in frontend development. Why did you pick frontend development? Do you think it’s because the on ramp is shorter and how do you think that plays into the stereotype of women being better suited to frontend work than backend work?

TINA:  Yeah, that is real. That stereotype. I made that decision because I found it’s the most accessible way to get someone to start. Everyone has seen a website. Everyone can click on view source code and see code. Everyone can envision themselves building something that they can see. I started learning Ruby and it took me a while. It was like so conceptual and there was no frontend to go with it and I’m like, “What is happening here?”

From working with marginalized communities, from being at ed school and knowing about how people learn, I picked frontend web developers because it’s the most accessible. people already have a mental model for what that is and what happens and it was just one of those things where I’m like, “What’s the sort of distance from A to B or even nothing to A,” and that’s why I pick that as opposed to starting with something that was more on the backend and less common that people have seen something like that. Way back in the stack, people probably will get more confusing or probably take them more time to develop a mental model for what that means.

CORALINE:  But you talked about bringing in people who do in full stack and the people who do data science and things like that. Have you tracked to see how people who have gone through a program like if they end up staying with frontend who are taking up and inspired to do some of the other aspects of development?

TINA:  Absolutely. It’s like the gateway drug. Once they figure out like, “Oh, I can build this,” so it’s a confidence building exercise and they’re like, “Oh, JavaScript. My head just exploded but yeah, okay, I picked up 10%,” and it does piqued their interest. We do have a group of moms right now that are learning Python with each other. One is actually using at her job now. She landed a data analyst role after graduating from our program and they saw her aptitude and now they’re helping her learn Python.

There’s another woman who didn’t know anything about Python and got looped into an open source project and they were very, very willing to train and now she’s learning Python. She made that leap. Then we have another one who’s learning on her own so there’s the data science Python crowd. One went through a coding boot camp so she’s full stack now, working as a developer at an ad tech company. Another went through, she’s a graphic designer marketing person and fell in love with coding and she went to CodePath and became a mobile designer. Now, she’s a visual designer on a product team of a health tech company. Then we have several that took a break and came back so they refresh their skill set and dove right back. There’s a backend Ruby person and then there are some other folks who jumped back into more technical account management, I guess I should call that.

They do get inspired to learn more and it’s just about getting them to a place where they have the confidence and the support to slog through the beginning part where there’s always a learning curve — the trough of despair. It’s one of those things where there is this gender perspective out there that women do frontend and that’s unfortunate because it’s not a function of whether or not these women can do it. That’s like a market or a cultural response to women entering the field and wanting to create a hierarchy so that the people who are in power hold on to that.

CORALINE:  Yeah, there was a recent article in The Guardian about how women entering development and specifically entering frontend development jobs is causing non-women to devalue frontend work. I think that there is definitely a lot of elitism around frontend versus backend or full stack versus frontend or what have you. I’ve been doing software development professionally for over 20 years and frontend work intimidates the hell out of me. It is not easy and I hate to see it devalue the way it is in our industry.

TINA:  Well, privilege will try to hold on to privilege and they’ll find a way to create barriers to entry. You see this in other industries too. The teaching profession, for example for the longest time, women were doing it and then they came in with administrative class which was mostly men and suddenly now, teachers are devalued and the administrators are held to a higher level of prestige. It happens in every industry. It’s just all rooted in power and tied up with gender and race and class and ableism among these other things. I’m not surprised. It’s a moving target. Women were actually the pioneers of backend and you just think these whole thing is [inaudible].

CORALINE:  Yeah, definitely. I’m also curious, you talked about why and how you got started in San Francisco. I travelled there from time to time and I have a lot of friends who work there at startups or at larger companies and it’s definitely a microcosm of tech but their cultural values that are present in Silicon Valley, in particular in the startup world. Do you worry that those necessarily translate to other places in the country that are not so venture capital focused and they have a different kind of elitism or sexism in place than what we see in Silicon Valley?

TINA:  Oh, absolutely. I’m all about contexts. It’s just like how gardens look different as you move around the country, it can grow things here but not there. Even if you’re growing squash here, it’s going to look a little different in Florida there. Same thing with tech. You’re right. There are these cultural norms here that don’t translate well. I’m really delighted actually to see this diversification of tech being how there are these nascent tech ecosystems are growing, actively and intentionally being grown by committees. Was it Kentucky got something going on? Tennessee, Austin, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Pittsburgh is just doing an amazing job of growing theirs and all these other places. I’m very optimistic about other places coming up so that we are not as much the center of the universe and defining the standards and the cultural norms for how tech is supposed to be. For the most, though, until we change the dynamics at work, I think white men from a certain class will continue to dominate even in these other places.

REIN:  We’re talking about the importance of context and I agree with you. It does seem to me that there are some generalities that you can make. We’re talking about how women are discriminated against in the workplace, specifically in high status job markets and sort of pushed toward more low status jobs. That happens, as far as I can tell, basically everywhere: every country, every industry. It seems like it’s such a systemic issue that we need a systemic fix to apply, not just in Silicon Valley, not just in Kentucky but something that would work everywhere. Is this something that we can tackle piece by piece or do we need a more systemic plan?

TINA:  Media changes narratives. I think media has a pretty big role to play if we are to change culture. One big thing that’s tied to what I was saying earlier about how we organized it all wrong is that we hold on to this idea of the ideal worker. All-in work all the time, work takes precedence over everything out. They’ll always take the phone call, always make a business trip and that all-in all the time mindset automatically excludes a lot of people that you can’t hold up that standard.

For better or worse, we’re just out of place where women are still doing most of the caregiving, not just with children but with elderly and the parents. Women can’t meet that ideal a lot of times once they become moms or caregivers. If you look at the gender pay gap between women without children and with children, you will see a big gap. The pay gap between women without kids and men is not as big. That’s definitely one of those things where as long as we hold onto this idea of the ideal worker, this is going to continue to persist. What related to that is the motherhood penalty that once a woman becomes a mom, she’s automatically perceived as being less competent and less committed to her career.

Women overcompensate for that by never talking about the fact that they have kids or completely in the closet. They have no pictures of their kids on their work desk. They’ll never say, “I have to leave because I have to go to a ballet recital,” or whatever and that’s because of the motherhood penalty and they’ve done lots of research with this where you have women with the same pedigree, same credentials, same work experience, same everything except one resume that say ‘PTA President’ and that resume will get less callbacks and be offered less money every time.

It’s really sad but that’s culture talking and I think things like what Salesforce is doing, they’re going to actually auditing all their pay scales and their job titles to make sure that there’s a parity between men and women. That’s a huge leap forward. If every company were to do that, I think we would make a big difference in correcting some of that wage gap but outside of that, unless companies are become more accepting of people having flexible schedules and people are more forthcoming, leadership is more forthcoming about, “I’m a parent too and I get it and you should leave if you want to or need to,” or whatever and, “You’re an adult and you can measure time and just get what you need done, done,” then whatever. We’re not there yet.

REIN:  The example you just gave in Salesforce is an example of where change has to come from the top. That wouldn’t happen if there was no CEO who believe that there was a good idea to do that.

TINA:  And a white male CEO. That’s a huge signal. He knows the power that he has and he has a real thing at exactly right.

REIN:  In that context, you chose with MotherCoders to focus on empower women at the ground level, getting in there and working with women to make them more viable in the industry. Those human conflict, how do you maybe square those? Or explain to me how it isn’t really a conflict if I’m saying it wrong.

TINA:  We’re just fighting the same war on different fronts. The more women you have at the leadership table, the more women you have with skills that are highly, highly desirable and marketable and people are competing over having you on their team, the more leverage women will have and the more leverage leadership will have to say, “We have to do these things because look at what we need. Look at our talent gap. Look at what we need to retain women and to recruit women.” If they all work in concert together, that’s what I mean by ‘same war, different fronts’.

REIN:  I guess if the question is how do we get more woman CEO is part of the answer that has to be, “We’ll have more high valued women employees.”

TINA:  Yeah and we have to be open to seeing more woman CEO’s because going back to something that we talked about earlier, if women are expected to be the caregiver socially, to see a woman CEO, you’re like, “Wait, who’s taking care of your kids?” That’s a huge quandary, a huge dilemma for women. If you lead, you also have to seeing nurturing, you have to be nice but yet, leaders are required to make hard choices so then you start to doubt whether a woman is capable of doing that. Whereas a man just does it and you never ask.

The term ‘working dad’ is laughable. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh, he’s a working dad?” No one said that because the presumption is that he works and it’s not the same for women. It’s just all these expectations that we have and it’s hard because, I think women hold them too. It’s just one of those things where we don’t have enough female CEOs because we are not creating an environment where women can rise up to become CEO. They’re not even getting funding when they’re starting companies. I think women get like 4% of venture capital.

CORALINE:  Tina, we’ve talked broadly about MotherCoders and the mission that you have and we’ve also talked about the fact that we need to have a difference in the value installed in our culture. I’m sure that these issues resonate really strongly with our listeners but I also imagine a lot of our listeners are asking, “What can I do tactically to make these sort of cultural changes happen?”

TINA:  There are lots of things you could do but just to put into context again because I love context. MotherCoders for me really is a tactic for what I’m trying to do. What I’m trying to do is create a fairer worlds. The strategy that I’m taking is I’m going to focus on women, specifically mothers because like a weird way to put what mothers bring to the world but the social ROI — the social rate of return.

When you invest a dollar in women, you actually get more than a dollar back in benefits. I focused there. MotherCoders is a tactic for that. In thinking about the impact that I want to have with MotherCoders, we are currently working on licensing model where any community that wants to bring us there can do that by organizing their own people, their own community to come together and create a space around another MotherCoders program.

One way to help us with that is to start thinking about whether or not you want to have one and reach out. We are currently fund raising to make this licensing model a reality. We want to raise 1.25 million dollars over the next three years, $500,000 this year, $500,000 next year and then to $250,000 the year after that. Our goal really is to create a model where we have this incoming revenue streams who are less dependent on fund raising over time. The reason why we are taking that strategy is because it’s been really hard to raise money.

As being a non-profit, we’re going after philanthropic money and the state of our country being where it is right now, a lot of money is going towards shoring up the safety net so targeted at people living in poverty, targeted at communities that are really suffering and dealing with a chronic unemployment and violence and all those things. That’s where a lot of the money is going towards. There’s also a lot of money going towards electoral politics.

That doesn’t leave a lot of space for middle income people and that’s a large swath. With moms, with families because childcare is so expensive and housing costs are also increasing, families ended up not having a lot of disposable incomes. They might not be living in poverty but they don’t have the $10,000 or $15,000 that might be required to go to a full on boot camp.

Nor that they have the time to quit their jobs and find childcare to cover themselves while they’re in these programs. MotherCoders is really is trying to make a case for these moms who are so important to our economy, not only because they help hold up the economy but they can actually help fill these jobs at companies need, to keep innovating. We are asking philanthropist to invest in middle income families and middle income moms and that’s been a hard case to make in this climate. That’s why we’re really focused on creating a model where we’re generating revenue. Not all moms though go for free. Most of our moms pay. It cost us about right now, $7,000 for each mom to go through the program.

Right now, the moms either pay $2500 if they don’t need [inaudible] or $3,000 if they do which is only half of what? The actual cost is. But as we grow, we’re going to have economies of scale and hopefully, MotherCoders will become the self-sustaining thing over time because we’re like the weight watchers of coding school where each community that wants it, comes together and designs a program, teaching the technical skills that fit the needs of their local employers and they’re doing it in a way that meets the needs of the population of moms and families they have locally.

Different states have different childcare laws so that’s another thing so we’re just trying to design a model that is enough structure for people to get started but has enough flexibility where people can customize it to meet their needs. To get there, we have to raise all this money to do it.

Number one is money. Number two is if people are involved in discussions at the workplace where they do have some power to shape, workplace policy to make things easier for moms and parents in general because whatever happens for moms, tends to benefit everyone else, please weigh in and help push the needle on that. Lastly, it all goes back to implicit biases that people have to. Learning about maybe what your implicit biases are and then how that might play into your interactions at work, how that may play into recruiting practices and hiring decisions, promotions and all of that stuff. I think that would go a long way in demystifying it.

From just a technical code perspective, a lot of moms find it very hard to make evening meetups because that’s where the high traffic, intense parenting happen. Kids have to get bathed, they have to do the homework, they have to go to bed and moms cannot regularly make meetups and not be at home for that. To make events more accessible with me, maybe having on-site childcare. It would mean hosting it maybe on a Saturday with on-site childcare, creating spaces where moms are welcome and just in general, just being mindful that there are parents and other types of people with caregiving responsibilities who right now are standing on the sidelines and want to participate but can’t.

CORALINE:  Yeah, I helped organize a Women’s Hackathon for non-profit engagement a couple years back and one of our goals was to have on-site childcare for that exact reason. We wanted to make sure that we were open and accessible to as many people as possible. That was hard, even with our budget but we ended up funding by a company that specifically was interested in sponsoring the childcare portion of our budget so we’re very fortunate in that.

I’m also happy to say that I’m hearing about a lot more conferences and mainly, these are larger conferences that are starting to offer childcare. I think that it would be great if we see that trend continuing so that we can involve more people from the community with different needs and different expectations and different responsibilities and get them folded in the community.

TINA:  Absolutely. The numbers are going to push people to do this, I hope. Over the next 10 years, it’s expected that 64 million millennials will become parents. Right now, 25% of them are parents and if companies want to hold onto the people that they’ve worked so hard to recruit and train and retain, they’re going to have to do these things. If they don’t, I think women will get pushed out.

CORALINE:  I want to take a moment to give a shout out to one of our patrons, Nik Kantar, @nkantar on Twitter, recently joined us as a patron and if you are interested in helping to support the show financially, we hope you’ll visit Patreon.com/GreaterThanCode. Donating at any level at all will get you access to our patron-only Slack community where you can make suggestions about guests that come up on the show or ask questions of prior guest and just in general, take part in a community of listeners who believe in the same values that you believe in. We hope you will join us.

MANDY:  At the end of each show, we like to take some time to reflect on what we’ve talked about and think about something that we can take away or make actionable after the episode. I am definitely inspired. I love the idea of MotherCoders. I would love to see it expand. I think everybody should donate to the cause and they do AmazonSmile and every time I buy from Amazon, a percentage goes to MotherCoders so that’s definitely the cause that I get behind when I’m doing that and I encourage you all to do the same. Rein, do you have anything?

REIN:  Am I allowed to have two things?

MANDY:  You are allowed to have two things.

REIN:  Okay —

CORALINE:  Three is a bit too far —

REIN:  Four is right out?


REIN:  Okay. The first is that we spend a lot of time talking about Silicon Valley and tech industry in America but the empowerment of women and the challenges are a global problem. I just want to talk about the decades of research case studies and work that’s gone into, for instance exploring microfinance as a tool for the economic empowerment of women in the developing world, especially places like India.

Since the mid-80s, we’ve been giving small business loans to women to try to bring them and their communities out of poverty. There is a ton of research case studies. It’s interesting both that it’s been successful and it hasn’t often for reasons that aren’t because the women did it wrong, things like resentment from men and a variety of challenges. That’s the first one.

Then the second is there’s an amazing Twitter account that is much more fun that I want to share with you. Its @manwhohasitall and it’s basically a gender reversal of all the sexist things that men say at or about women in the workplace. They are instead said by women about men and it is glorious. That’s it for me. Coraline?

CORALINE:  I actually had a note to talk about something very similar about encouraging women worldwide, not just in the US. I had the privilege of taking part in a program, maybe five or six years ago now that was aimed at fostering entrepreneurship in women in Africa. I think it’s interesting that like we have a very male-dominated culture in America and this woman who ended up staying with us and we are supporting in this program. Her name was Jovita.

In her country, women were seen as the agents of social and economic change. There was actually a lot more respect paid toward women, expectations were very, very high but women were revising [inaudible]. I think it’s interesting that through the programs you’re talking about Rein, like micropayments or microloans and things like that, we should be looking at this as a worldwide problem and there are ways in our organization to addressing it that way too. But of course, we take care of things here as well because we have so many problems as a culture here in America.

One of the things that I’m taking away from this I think Tina mentioned role models and how many of the role models we have, in terms of the idealized worker, are unrealistic. I want to think about how I can personally promote role models who better reflect where we want to be as a culture not just where we currently are. That’s going to encourage me to find some new voices, maybe people that I don’t permanently follow on Twitter and amplify their voices and amplify things around their struggles and their achievements and their accomplishments. Tina, do you have any thoughts for us?

TINA:  I just want to say thank you. Thank you for being part of this community. I’m really happy. I was logging with this for — my little ones is almost four so — three and a half years and I’ve really seen this movement grow and this community grow, this community of people who care about diversity and inclusion in tech and are actively doing something about it. Thank you so much for being a part of this and for including moms because moms are not included in the beginning and now moms are in the conversations so thank you so much for talking to me and being interested in what we’re doing in MotherCoders and promoting us. Mandy, you for just being an example for what is possible so thank you.

Then, two because I, at the end of the day, really feel like I’m just trying to change culture, this invisible thing. I spent a lot of time thinking about like how do we make moms cool? Part of the problem is like moms aren’t cool. I don’t know why because I think I’m pretty cool. Mandy is pretty cool. I don’t know, Coraline, you probably think you’re pretty cool too, right?

MANDY:  I’m totally cool.

CORALINE:  Sometimes I feel that way.

TINA:  I don’t understand why we’re perceived as not cool. Anyway, I want to help make us cool and I think about silly ways to do that. We have to come up with some cultural meme or something that make us cool and I’ve been playing around with this idea of making hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts or swag or whatever that’s say, “Code like a mother.”

MANDY:  Yes.

CORALINE:  Love it.


TINA:  Would you buy?

MANDY:  I would.

REIN:  I would absolutely buy that t-shirt.

TINA:  Okay, I’m going to work on that. I’m going design that right now because I think that would be pretty awesome, right?

MANDY:  Yes.

REIN:  We are a representative sample of your target market and we agree so go for it.

TINA:  I made this MotherCoders for a reason. Everyone’s going to remember because it sounds like something else that rang with MotherCoders so we play around that all —

CORALINE:  ‘Mother loaders?’

TINA:  Yeah.

CORALINE:  I don’t get it.

TINA:  You know, mother… mother…


TINA:  Mother givers, mother frienders. So yeah, the sweatshirt would be like ‘Code like a mother’ and I hope that is something that people would be into and want to buy.

CORALINE:  Awesome.

REIN:  You just point me somewhere where I can give you money.


MANDY:  Take my money.

CORALINE:  Well, it’s a great conversation today, Tina. Thank you so much for joining us and I’m also really happy, Mandy that you decided to join the panel today because I thought you had some great perspectives as a mom who was exactly in the situation that Tina’s foundation is trying to serve better so thank you both so much. Of course, Rein, you had some great questions so thank you for being here as our check in male guy. That wraps up Episode 25. Thank you all for listening and we will talk to you next week.

This episode was brought to you by the panelists and Patrons of >Code. To pledge your support and to join our awesome Slack community, visit patreon.com/greaterthancode. Managed and produced by @therubyrep of DevReps, LLC.

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