Influential women's tech network shuts down unexpectedly

Stock image of a woman looking at code on a screen
[Getty Images]

Women Who Code (WWC), a charity which supports women who work in the technology sector, has announced it is shutting down because of a lack of funding.

The US-based organisation says it had 360,000 people in its community, across 145 countries.

Tech has long struggled with its image of being male-dominated - the bosses of nearly all major firms are men.

Women working in the industry have been expressing shock on social media, describing the closure as "awful" and "heart-breaking."

"It's just sad to lose a space for women in a more male dominated industry," says Jessica Mu, VP for technology at Artest Management Group.

Ms Mu first joined the network six years ago, when she worked at a different company which she says "didn't have a great culture for women."

She told the BBC she "found a lot of comfort feeling like, obviously this stuff isn't just happening to me."

Beyond that, she describes a "camaraderie of other women that are interested in the same things I'm interested in," and got career advice from other participants at the WWC events.

As well as networking events and speakers, she also benefitted from events geared towards learning new skills.

"It's disappointing that other women entering the space aren't going to have that resource that I had when I was starting my career."

Posting on X, women who had been part of the WWC community also expressed sadness and surprise.

"It was a wonderful resource that impacted thousands of people and their careers, including my own," wrote Cassidy Williams, chief technology officer at app Brainstory.

Cecelia Martinez, lead developer advocate at software company OutSystems, called the news "heartbreaking," adding that organisation "introduced me to amazing people."

As of 2022, women represent about 34% of the workforce in large US tech companies, according to careers platform Zippia.

Apple boss Tim Cook told the BBC in 2022 that there were "no good excuses" for the lack of women in the sector.

'Our mission is not complete'

WWC announced that "with profound sadness," it had closed "following a vote by the Board of Directors to dissolve the organization".

It continued that it had to close "due to factors that have materially impacted our funding sources".

The tech industry has been cutting back in general in recent months, with layoffs announced by many of the largest companies in the sector.

WWC was started 2011 by engineers who "were seeking connection and support for navigating the tech industry" in San Francisco.

It became a nonprofit organisation in 2013 and expanded globally.

In a post announcing its closure, it said it had held more than 20,000 events and given out $3.5m (£2.8m) in scholarships.

A month before the closure, WWC had announced a conference for May, which has now been cancelled.

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

They would not comment on questions about the charity's funding.

The most recent annual report, for 2022, showed the charity made almost $4m that year, while its expenses were just under $4.2m.

WWC said that "while so much has been accomplished," their mission was not complete.

It continued: "Our vision of a tech industry where diverse women and historically excluded people thrive at every level is not fulfilled."