Women make up around a third of Bulgaria’s ICT workforce. While this is one of the highest rates in Europe, the country wants to empower more women to develop their digital skills so they can seize the opportunities and enjoy the benefits of the digital economy.

Aimed at women with zero or minimal programming and technology experience, Rails Girls shows that programming is fun, exciting and useful. It runs free-of-charge workshops over two days for women and girls to learn the basics, as well as study groups to help them grow their knowledge and skills and develop their projects. They learn Ruby on Rails, or Rails, a software framework that supports the development of web applications.

Since the project started in 2013, around 1000 women have been trained through 14 weekend workshops and over 300 study group meetups.

Participants say that Rails Girls changed their perspectives on programming and IT.

To counter stereotypes that can put women off tech, Rails Girls highlights the social and creative aspects of programming.

The programme also emphasises the benefits that learning about programming can bring to women. It makes the point that ‘code is literacy’ – learning digital skills is empowering, as technologies are increasingly fundamental to all aspects of life and work.

Women have greater confidence in their digital skills, and are more effective in their use of technology and in how they communicate with technical colleagues in the workplace. Around 15 alumni are now working full-time as professional software developers.

"Rails Girls provides a safe environment where women can try things out and hopefully gain the confidence to continue learning and developing their skills"

-Dimitar Dimitrov, a member of the Rails Girls Sofia organisation team.