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Creating an inclusive code

A lack of gender and cultural diversity in the tech industry led Anisah Osman Britton to set up 23 Code Street in her early-20s to teach women in London to code while investing the profits into running coding courses for women living in the slums of Mumbai, India. She reveals the ups and downs of her company's digital journey and the importance of building an inclusive workplace culture.

Creating an inclusive code May 14, 2018Leave a comment

23 Code Street is a coding school for all women based in London. We also have a one for one model, where we teach women in the slums of Mumbai digital skills with the profits generated from our courses in the UK.

I founded 23 Code Street because while working in technology after leaving college, I realised very quickly that I was often the only woman in a room, or the only woman in the room with any technical understanding.

Over time, and thousands of events later, I began to see the true implications of what the tech culture celebrates and epitomises, shown in the lack of women and diversity as a whole which, in turn, has impacted on innovation, products and services.

23 Code Street was born out of a need to give more women – of all backgrounds – the confidence and tools to be part of building the future. Our foundation courses are built for those with little or no experience, but who want to become more technical. We start at the beginning and truly believe all questions are valid.

We need to skill up the people who can see the problems in their communities to help them create solutions. This is why we teach digital skills to women in the slums of India. We believe that when our workforce represents our diverse society, we will create innovation that will serve us all.

It’s early days in India, where we are working with a couple of partners and testing curriculum, materials and teachers. It’s a huge learning process and we have to make sure that we move slowly, but effectively. We know our patience will pay off in the long run, and we are in this for the long haul.

As a company, there are always challenges, which makes it so hard, so exciting and so rewarding. Last year, our biggest problem was having the space to run our courses. We were borrowing space from ustwo, GrantTree/Treehouse and others. It was clear we needed our own venue. It took until December 2017 to be financially and mentally in a place where this was possible. Now, we have our own space in London, and because we worked so hard for it, we value it.

Another challenge is keeping up to date with the fast pace of change in technology. When you are working full time and more (as our classes tend to be run in the evening), having time to keep up with the latest developments is difficult. Fortunately, we all have a passion for tech and keep our ears close to the ground. Also, friends and peers help to keep us in the loop, but we are not perfect.

For us, our culture is queen. It’s the absolute highlight of 23 Code Street. Our culture keeps us growing, learning, loving, and working together. It gives us the ability to strongly, but respectfully, disagree with one another because we understand it comes from a place of passion and respect. Our classes live and breathe this culture. Part of our culture also includes being alcohol free and vegetarian, and to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone.

We know that small things have a big impact, such as having a place to pray, having some time out during classes, having someone who you can talk to in a safe environment about your dreams and goals and having somewhere you can come and work during the day, or in the evenings, to practice what you are learning away from your normal distractions.

Yes, we are building a company, but we are also growing a family.


About the Author

Anisah Osman Britton, the founder of 23 Code Street, was born in London but moved to Spain with her family when she was three and then to India when she was 11, before returning to the UK for her GCSEs. Instead of going to university, Anisah interned in companies around the world and then started her first company which matched students with clients who needed odd jobs done from translation to gardening. The platform won her the Young Entrepreneur Festival in 2012. She then went to work at The Bakery, which matches brands with tech startups to take products to market. She found it frustrating that the majority of founders and key stakeholders they were working with were men, usually white. She made it her mission to find more female and minority founders. This motivated Anisah to start 23 Code Street to help create a more inclusive and diverse tech industry. Her work at 23 Code Street led her to be on the Code First Girls ‘Ones to Watch’ list, to win at the 2017 Precious Awards and to be featured on the 101 Female Founders list by Business Cloud. Find out more about 23 Code Street. You can follow 23 Code Street and Anisah on Twitter: @anisahob @23codestreet

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