Coding access champion

330. Despo Pentara (London)

A young developer who is spearheading the diversification of the tech industry.  Despo Pentara, a Cypriot based in East London, set up codebar in 2013 as a way of increasing the number of women, LGBT and ethnic minorities within the tech industry. Running from six venues across the UK, and with over 600 people having attended her workshops, Despo has made web development accessible to a diverse range of people.

Despo realised that as a female developer she was part of the minority. Indeed, under 20% of tech industry workers are female and an even smaller percentage than this are developers. In October 2013, Despo decided to set up codebar, an organisation dedicated to teaching women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities about web developing. Starting in East London, Despo began with 16 students and 8 volunteer coaches attending the first workshop, along with asking companies to offer their space and food, which was enough to run the workshops.

Since these small beginnings, Despo’s organisation has rapidly expanded. She now averages an attendance of 50 students every week in East London, and due to this increased demand, has expanded the business across the UK. Workshops are now also held in South and West London, Brighton, Cambridge and Birmingham, with workshops in Manchester due to start later this summer. Despo’s enthusiasm has also allowed her to grow a team of fellow web developers, volunteering their own time to support her sessions.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Despo has seen from her own experience the careers and opportunities that coding skills can open up to people. Through her classes and workshops she is doing a fantastic job in helping to get more women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds into coding. This is not just vital for them, but crucially important for the whole technology sector and I am delighted to be able to recognise what Despo has already achieved by making her the UK’s 330th Point of Light.”

Despo said:

‘As developers, we are lucky to be part of one of the fastest growing and more rewarding industries where we can help shape the future of technology. We can all offer a little bit of our time to help create better opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.’

MP for Islington South and Finsbury Emily Thornberry MP said:

“Fewer than 20% of employees in the tech industry are women, so clearly it isn’t getting the benefits of a diverse workforce. I congratulate Despo for working hard to break down some of the barriers facing women and minorities in this competitive sector.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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