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Rails Girls and Thoughtworks

Across our 29 offices in six countries, Thoughtworkers are embracing Rails Girls, a global non-profit, volunteer community. Rails Girls gives tools and provides a community for women to build their ideas. The events are driven by volunteers and typically include a day of sketching, prototyping, basic programming and an introduction to the world of technology.

Thoughtworks offices in Chicago (USA), Porto Alegre (Brazil) and X'ian (China) recently hosted a Rails Girls events in 2013. Here are their stories.


Thoughtworkers Elisa Cutrin and Kelly Wu planned this year’s Rails Girls event at Thoughtworks Chicago on November 9.

“I thought it would be a good experience to coach and meet women who are interested in technology, which isn’t all that common,” Elisa said. “Last year I was a coach and it was a lot of fun, so Kelly and I decided to do it again.”

As organizers, Elisa and Kelly were responsible for signing up coaches (25  of 32 came from Thoughtworks), organizing the program and advertising the event, with help from Rails Girls.

In 2013, the number of participants increased from 25 to 76, mainly due to word-of-mouth and email marketing. The day included about six hours of actual coding sessions, along with lightning talks on topics like open source, testing, and women in IT.

“The best part was hearing how impactful the day was for so many women,” Kelly added. “And it was also really great that one of our coaches was a former Rails Girls participant in 2012. Talk about motivating!”


Rails Girls first happened in China in February 2012, in Shangai. So far, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi’an have launched six events in total. Right now the organization is planning the next big event to happen in January 2014 and five cities will join together on the same day: Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

The most recent Rails Girls event in China took place in Xi’an in October 2013. Nearly 50 participants were present.

"Among the women participating we have had some undergraduates and some professionals that have been working in the market for years," says Yameng Niu, one of the Thoughtworkers involved in the organization of the event about the diversity of people joining the initiative. "The event also includes women who have a background in IT, while others join to better get to know the environment. You will see girls joining because they want to meet more girls with a background in IT. Some others are developers with experience in a certain language and just want to have a try at Ruby, and there are still those who want to find out more about career opportunities."

Yameng adds, "I coached a team of three girls. They picked up quite quickly and asked great questions. At the end of the day, most of the girls had built their website, and some even spent some time on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to make their page look nicer. I have participated in two Rails Girls events. The first one in Beijing, as a coach, and the second one in Xian, as an organizer with two women, Gao Li and Xia Siyu. I like this event, I gain new experiences by teaching beginners and make a bunch of new friends. And I learned a lot by organizing the events. There is much effort needed beforehand, such as looking for sponsors, publicizing the event, contacting the applicants, and so on."

Porto Alegre

2012 was the year of the first Rails Girls in Brazil. Thoughtworker Natalie Volk organized it in Porto Alegre after attending the event in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After that, we had Rails Girls running also in São Paulo, Recife, Belo Horizonte and Belém.

What motivates Natalie to organise these events? She says,“Everyone is so excited, and it's motivating to see the girls and coaches working together. Each group is different from the other, but at the end of the day every group has something creative to show. When the day ends, they even want to keep working because they are so enthusiastic about what they are doing. This gives me more and more energy to organize the next event.”

The second Rails Girls in Porto Alegre was again organised by Thoughtworkers (Tania Silva, Gabriela Guerra, Marta Leal, Pamela Rampanelli and Pamela Mori) and happened in November 2013. We had 51 participants and 35 coaches. The atmosphere was great and we got some really good feedback from the participants.

Romulo Santos, a Thoughtworker coach, shares his experience:

"I just loved participating in this Rails Girls. It is awesome to interact with the software development community, helping to break prejudice about women and how capable they are. The feeling that stays is that together we light on others the fire of love for software development.

The capacity to transform an idea into something concrete, capable of making peoples' lives better is what fascinates me, and it's very good to look into other peoples' eyes and see the same brightness. It was also very good to be able to work in the reverse of the everyday scenario, being in an environment where most people are women; a fantastic experience that's unfortunately still far from the reality of most offices in Brazil and in the world.

I consider all these women heroines. Just by being part of Rails Girls they conquered a challenge men never had to. I admire so much all the courage and dedication I could see in each one of them."

Thank you to Elisa Cutrin, Kelly Wu, Yameng Niu, Natalie Volk, Tania Silva, and Gabriela Guerra for sharing their stories. 

Check out our Events page. 

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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