The CEO of a coding boot camp for women says tech has become too 'frat-like' and 'entitled'

Key Points
  • Hackbright Academy has a new CEO, veteran tech executive Alice Hill.
  • The former CTO of Kelleher International and eBay is on a mission to "change the ratio" of women working in tech.
  • Hill says coding boot camp grads appeal to recruiters because they have practical skills and business experience, unlike recent college grads.

Veteran tech executive Alice Hill is taking the reins at Hackbright Academy, a coding boot camp strictly for women.

Founded in 2012, Hackbright teaches women with some programming experience the advanced skills needed to become full-time software developers. It offers 12-week-long intensive courses, and then places graduates in tech jobs.

Women make up just 26 percent of the U.S. computing workforce, according to research from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. That's a very low portion, considering that women make up 59 percent of the U.S. labor force according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hackbright's mission is to "change the ratio."

Hill told CNBC that the treatment of women in tech has actually worsened in recent years. A spate of new allegations has raised the alarm about sexual harassment and gender bias in venture capital and at large tech employers alike, notably 500 Startups, Uber and Tesla.

"Now we can talk about what needs to be done to fix things from venture capital, to the hiring side of tech. Any time the ratios get out of whack, with any demographic underrepresented, you end up promoting the worst aspects of the overindexed culture," Hill said.

"Tech has become very frat-like with lots of people who are young and very entitled. That eventually spirals in on itself and is really bad for business."

Some have blamed the lack of women in tech roles on a "pipeline" problem. Women take less than one-fifth of the computer and information sciences degrees at an undergrad level, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Influential actor and investor Ashton Kutcher recently told CNBC, for example, it's not reasonable to expect tech companies to hire as many women as they do men given this educational divide.

Hill did not attain an engineering degree herself. Yet she has worked as a software engineer and hired and managed hundreds of engineers at places like Kelleher International, eBay, Slashdot, Maker Media and CNET.

The advent of quality trade schools and boot camps is beginning to change recruiters' and executives' attitudes, she said.

"You learn a lot of great fundamentals with a computer science degree, like the basics of architecture, scalability and algorithms. But that does not give you the hands-on tools you can learn in a boot camp," she said. "One benefit of hiring boot-camp grads is that they tend to be a little bit older, and have developed some business acumen already, as well."

Hackbright's outgoing CEO, Sharon Wienbar — a venture investor and board member at several tech companies — said she was leaving only because of an overwhelming number of personal and business commitments. Wienbar is an investor with Scale Venture Partners, holds board positions at several tech start-ups, and is on the board of a tech subsidiary of Planned Parenthood.

Taking the reigns from Wienbar, Hill said she aims to help Hackbright create new fellowships for mobile and AI developers, and to figure out ways to make the courses flexible for women who may not be able to take them over 12 weeks on a full-time basis.