13 Women-Led Communities Transforming Learning

Discover how 13 women-led communities are transforming the learning industry.

What you'll learn in this article:

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“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” — Margaret J. Wheatley

As of 2021, women and other gendered-individuals outweigh their male counterparts in the online learning space, 52% to 48%. The gap of women founders to male founders in these online learning spaces is closing just as quickly.

Every day, more women are learning about virtual learning communities and the different opportunities they create for their personal and professional improvement. Some are even going on to found their own communities and lend their expertise to a network of kindred women.

We’ve had countless conversations over the years with female founders of learning communities, but 13 of those discussions helped us shape this report that hovers a lens over the greater learning industry and the way women-led communities are disrupting the industry at large.

We combed through pages of insights from founders and their teams to compile their most helpful learnings and nuggets of advice for anyone — female or otherwise — who is hoping to build an impactful learning community, like:

  • How to build and scale a learning community
  • How to hire team members who believe in your mission
  • How to monetize learning experiences
  • How to find the right tools and platforms for managing a learning community
  • How to set yourself apart from the competition

Throughout the article, you’ll find data points that paint a clear picture of how these teams are navigating the job market, diversity and equity challenges, and other experiences that are inherent only to women.

Here are 13 women-led communities to keep your eye on and draw inspiration from as leaders and disruptors in the learning industry.

13 women-led communities that are disrupting the industry and enabling access to transformative learning

women-lead community Click & Company

Click + Company

Professional and recreational photographers alike make up Click + Company’s vibrant community. Started in 2008 as a photography forum, the community has scaled to thousands of global users. As a part of Click & Company, members can:

  • Access tutorials and exercises to improve their photography
  • Find tips to start or scale their photography business
  • Meet other photographers to collaborate or converse with
  • Seek advice and ask questions in a safe, supportive network
  • Grow confidence, build skills, and define what their unique photography style is

The Click Community is accessible to any member interested in photography, but there are several other experiences and learning opportunities for members who want to dig deeper.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

In their efforts to be inclusive, supportive, and immersive, Click & Company offers a number of different learning experiences, including in-person and digital offerings.

Click Community is their membership-based community that fosters collaboration, conversation, and organic skill-building.

For more in-depth teachings, community members can join Click Photo School. Learners asynchronously take online photography classes from a bank of over 2,000+ tutorials that help improve their photo skills and hone their style while they learn how to launch a photography business and generate revenue.

Click Pro is a network dedicated exclusively to professional women photographers, though the larger Community welcomes enthusiasts and other non-professionals.

Finally, Click and Click Away represent the community’s two offline experiences for deeper learning; the former being a print magazine that spotlights best business practices, learning content, and global photo professionals, and the latter being the community’s conference that brings members together in-person for more immersive learning.

How Click + Company is streamlining their learning experiences to create a cohesive community

In their effort to be the most accessible, invaluable photography community for women, CEO Sarah Wilkerson and her leadership team recognized the need for separating out different aspects of the community. 

While some members were seeking companionship and mentorship, others were more interested in growing their business and utilizing professional resources — thus, the different types of learning experiences were built.

Looking ahead, the Click + Company team is excited to recentralize their learning experiences and integrate the community across the different products they are offering by creating uniquely rich experiences that focus on every aspect of photography, the art, and the business around it.

→ 5 of 13 organizations we spoke to use Slack as their main platform for community; others use Discord, a proprietary tool, or none at all

Women-led community Floxies

Floxies Community

Technology rules almost every aspect of our lives and, for the average user, the first thing they notice is sleek, user-friendly design. It’s why the field of design — specifically UX and UI design — is growing so rapidly: users rely on apps, webpages, and tools that meet their needs.

Despite growing demand and lucrative pay, only 3% of women have considered design as a career option. Floxies was born out of the desire to unite women across the world (now at nearly 1,500 members!) who share the same interest in UX/UI Design and Webflow Development. They encourage worldwide connections and collaborations where people can design and create Webflow websites together.

In the words of founder Claudia Cafeo: “Floxies is a place to grow, find professional collaborations, empower women and, most importantly, have a good time.”

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Floxies offers weekly meetups that are of the mastermind variety; the virtual space allows members to hang out or learn something new from one another. They create educational workshops as needed and allow members to apply as guest speakers to share their unique expertise.

How Floxies is showing founders ways to help learning communities thrive

Claudia wonders every day if she’s doing enough to engage, educate, and entertain members.

Her strategy on keeping engagement organic and not sales-y? Claudia conducts much of the outreach herself to new members. That 1:1 approach makes members feel welcomed and comfortable that there’s a human on the other side of the screen.

“Be true to yourself,” she says. “I needed the support as a new designer, and I love building things with other people. Creating Floxies, in theory, was selfish!”

When you ask your community what they want then give them the security and the transparency to respond, you’ll be able to iterate with your member’s best interests in mind.

Women-led community Black Women In Technology

Black Women in Tech

Black Women in Tech is a non-profit organization that brings Black Women and other women of color together to encourage and inspire their interest in tech careers.

As a 501(c)3 organization, they partner with companies like Salesforce and Microsoft to bring some of their learning experiences to life.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Members of Black Women in Tech can participate in Weekly Virtual Zoom events that boast networking and collaboration opportunities. They also look for volunteer partners to help run these events and others.

How Black Women in Tech is carving a niche and standing out against the competition

Black Women in Tech isn’t the only learning community for women of color interested in tech. It’s not even the only one on this list. 

Black Women in Tech and many other learning communities operate as non-profit organizations and don’t collect dues from members or payments for their learning experiences. Rather, they lean on community members and support from outside organizations and businesses to create additional learning experiences and opportunities for growth that prospective members are seeking out.

These experiences don’t have to require a financial investment from you or your members. Consider these options that other founders of learning communities have used in the past:

  • Mentor-mentee partnerships
  • Masterminds, roundtables, and panels (volunteer-led)
  • Slack channels or other forums to foster discussion
  • Hiring fairs
  • Content distribution like newsletters, white papers, and articles

In order to scale community growth and get your members excited to participate, it’s important to seed value, create unforgettable experiences, and foster connection.

→ 7 of 13 organizations we spoke to are tech-specific communities focused on development for aspiring or current tech professionals

Women-led community Black Ballad

Black Ballad

Black Ballad is a UK-based lifestyle platform that celebrates the stories of Black women and aims to share the human experience through their eyes. Started in 2014 as an answer to the gap in lifestyle publications centered around Black women in the UK, the community now boasts over 1,500 members and a team of seven full-time employees.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

From events to podcasts to resources and content members can access asynchronously, the Black Ballad team has worked tirelessly to create a well-rounded learning experience for the women in their community.

Standard access to parts of the community and a handful of resources costs $4.99/month. For $6.99/month, members can unlock Premium membership to better connect with other women in the space, as well as:

  • Unlimited access to Black Ballad’s exclusive library of content
  • Access to the Black Ballad’s Business Directory of discounts
  • Free tickets to select Black Ballad events + discounts to the rest
  • Exclusive access to Black Ballad’s online Slack community
How Black Ballad is building a team to grow their community

For many years, Founder and CEO Tobi Oredein was responsible for building and maintaining the community and all of the content within it. As of late, she has grown her team to seven full-time employees and learned a number of important lessons throughout the process:

  1. Hire slow and fire fast: Take your time to find the right team members so you don’t have to suffer through regular staff churn
  2. Hire people that have more talent than you: And who share in your values and mission
  3. Don’t hire someone if you can do their job better than they can: You want the best, brightest, and most talented staff on the job
  4. Build a team that pushes you to do better: When your team feels invigorated and inspired by the mission, you’ll build a community that feels the same

Tobi is culture-obsessed and, as a result, has created a bustling community almost entirely organically and by word of mouth.

“The team is responsible for the community. We constantly evaluate how we are serving the community and, in order to do that, we have to really understand them. Your team should be reflective of the community you’re building.” - Tobi Oredein, Founder & CEO, Black Ballad

When members find Black Ballad, they stay — Tobi noted that their churn rate is as low as 2% because the team she has built adds value at every step of the learning experience.

With the rate at which the learning industry is expanding, learning communities can grow quickly; having a plan to scale when the iron is hot will ensure you’re not leaving members behind and you can shift your focus away from community growth to fostering member success.

Women-led community WeAllGrow Latina

WeAllGrow Latina

Professional Latina women make up 16% of the workforce (a number that is expected to grow considerably over time), but they face unique challenges that don’t affect some of their colleagues. #WeAllGrow Latina was created to celebrate and uplift Latina women through professional development and community.

Members enjoy a wealth of learning experiences designed to elevate the voices and stories of Latinas via the power of community and culturally-relevant content, while also offering tools to increase visibility and grow their social and economic power.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Members of WeAllGrow Latina enjoy learning experiences as well as community-based social and wellness experiences, such as:

  • Holding Hands Group Coaching with Wendy Amara on Mondays
  • Office Hours with #WeAllGrow leadership on Tuesdays
  • Morning Meditation with Alejandra Liera on Wednesdays
  • Monthly Amigas Heal sessions with spiritual and wellness practitioners
  • Monthly Amigas Mentor workshops for professional development
  • Latinas & Libros Book Club with over 1,000 Latina book lovers
  • Unlimited access to the Amigas Mentor workshops archive and #WeAllGrow personal and professional development ebooks

For an additional $59.99, members can also complete asynchronous masterclasses in a variety of topics.

How WeAllGrow Latina is carving a niche and inspiring members to join their mission

Now a bustling community with a five-figure membership, WeAllGrow Latina is looking to carve out its niche in entrepreneurship. Moving forward, they hope to offer more of a marketplace where members can hire one another for their respective entrepreneurial opportunities and expand revenue-generating opportunities for both the WeAllGrow business and members within it. 

But carving out a niche can come at a cost; the WeAllGrow community expanded massively during the pandemic as Latina women sought out virtual communities and connections. Their offerings catered to that broad population of their membership. Now, in narrowing focus to entrepreneurship, it’s inevitable they will lose members in that shift who don’t align with this new model.

By reseeding the value of community-based entrepreneurship support and offering content and relevant experiences, WeAllGrow Latina stands to grow a (potentially) smaller network —  but one that is aligned with the mission and willing to invest time, money, and resources.

→ 6 of 13 organizations we spoke to focus on more niche communities, such as POC and LGBTQIA+

Women-led community Freelancing Females

Freelancing Females

More than ⅓ of the US workforce participates in freelance work, yet it can be difficult to find spaces where these professionals can connect.

Freelancing Females boasts the world’s largest community of freelancing women as well as a strong presence on Instagram and Facebook. Businesses seek out the community to find freelancers for projects and to fill open roles.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Freelancing Females doesn’t offer specific learning experiences in the form of courses, but they create content in their newsletter and on their podcast for female freelancers to enjoy. Members pay $59 a year to be featured in their directory, access the freelance job board, earn discounts on merchandise, and participate in events.

The community started from a Facebook group that still exists today, but members can also access a private Slack community and participate on their highly active Instagram.

How Freelancing Females is finding the sweet spot between free experiences and a membership model

Almost every learning community that has grown and scaled their operations has faced the same issue Freelancing Females grapples with today: Knowing when to begin monetizing your learning experiences and understanding which aspects of your business to begin monetizing first. 

Your approach has to change as you scale. You always have to question your community. They are growing and changing with you.” - Tia Grado, Founder, Freelancing Females

With every new growth milestone, reassess what you’re offering, what you’re charging for those offerings, and what the value of the learning experiences is for your members. When you clearly communicate the benefits to your members and help them understand what they’re investing in, they’re more likely to stick around.

Women-led community Film Fatales

Film Fatales

Film Fatales supports an inclusive community of women feature film and television directors who meet regularly to share resources, collaborate on projects and build an environment in which to make their films” reads the community’s website.

Hundreds of women participate in Film Fatales efforts to make the film industry more inclusive and celebratory of women’s achievements.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Women direct less than 5% of the top box office films and less than 20% of episodic television series. To contribute to changing this reality, Film Fatales facilitate weekly panel discussions, educational workshops, and networking mixers focused on amplifying underrepresented voices in film. 

They also host a number of in-person events at film festivals to promote the work of women filmmakers in front of a global audience. This aligns with their eventual goal of expanding into the project and development space to help women team up on film and TV projects.

How Film Fatales is creating a hybrid experience

Though started in 2013, Film Fatales experienced — as many learning communities did — a major growth spurt during the pandemic. Their audience shifted to a wider breadth of film professionals, but the founding team lost a lot of the intimacy they had created pre-pandemic when they were able to host dinner parties, tight-knit networking events, and forge deep relationships within the community.

While the pandemic expanded their audience at a global scale, founder Leah Meyerhoff is trying to understand how she can create these in-person events to be more geographically inclusive and more accessible to people with disabilities.

Creating a hybrid experience where members can participate in online as well as in-person events is a challenge many communities face. There is less overhead online, but also less serendipitous connection between participants. Creating in-person experiences fosters more meaningful connection, but it costs communities more time, money, and resources.

Striking the right balance happens when your community has grown to a point that you can scale the business side of it and grow a team that can support both ends of the hybrid learning experience.

→ Only 2 of 13 organizations we spoke noted having systems in place for collecting and utilizing member feedback

Women-led community Black Codher

Black Codher

Black Codher is a full-stack and front-end bootcamp created to enable Black women to develop the necessary skills to enter the tech industry. Women still make up a minority of the tech industry, and Black women even less so.

At Black Codher, they aim to:

  • Teach technical skills including software programming, data management, analytics and design
  • Provide support in helping learners secure jobs following the training with partner employers
  • Inspire and empower learners through empowerment days on various topics
  • Enhance soft skills that are advantageous to the tech industry
What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Black Codher has run seven cohorts of their full-stack and front-end bootcamps. In addition to these longer, more intensive courses, they offer shorter courses and accelerator programs. 

A huge feature of each program is an in-person networking session.

How Black Codher is scaling without sacrificing quality

Black Codher is just one of an endless list of learning communities who face the same challenge: How do we scale our business without sacrificing the quality of learning?

In our conversation with Technical Director, Charlene Hunter, she mentioned a few ways in which Black Codher was achieving this:

  • Running more frequent but smaller cohorts concurrently to increase volume but maintain quality
  • Putting specific focus on keeping community at the forefront by regularly asking for feedback and engaging members
  • Hiring external support and help: Their team now employs 15 full-time staff and 20+ freelance staff

By employing a forward-looking perspective on building their community, Black Codher has managed to become one — if not the most — prominent coding bootcamp for aspiring Black female tech professionals.

→ 4 of 13 organizations we spoke to say their biggest challenge is differentiation from competition, while another 4 say their biggest challenge is keeping learners engaged over time

Women-led community Hackbright

Hackbright

In addition to women, Hackbright supports non-binary people and their allies in their mission to be the leading engineering school for gender equality amongst future tech professionals.

Of their 1,000+ graduates, many have gone on to work for major companies like Google, Airbnb, and Dropbox.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

At Hackbright, they’re teaching intensive full-stack development courses in Python, JavaScript, Flask, Jinja, and PostgreSQL. Their curriculum is intensive but also geared towards navigating the unique DEI efforts of women and people across the gender spectrum.

How Hackbright is navigating bigger, revenue-driving partnerships

Hackbright’s remote and in-person courses cost participants nearly $13,000. A big-ticket learning experience can be intimidating for new members to purchase. In order to offset costs for students, Hackbright is looking forward to forging more employer partnerships with organizations who will pay to upskill new employees.

It’s a model that has been successful with other bootcamps like Hyrise Sales Academy and, while other bootcamps are all vying for the same partnerships, Hackbright has carved out its own space in the industry by working specifically with underrepresented genders and non-gendered folks in tech. By seeding the value of hiring these folks and improving their DEI efforts, Hackbright stands a solid chance to make those partnerships a reality.

Women-led community Ada Developers Academy

Ada Developers Academy

Another tech-focused learning community, Ada Developers Academy’s mission is to prepare women and gender expansive adults to be software developers while advocating for inclusive and equitable work environments. They primarily serve and address the needs of Black, Latina, Indigenous Americans, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA+, and low-income folks.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Their tuition-free training program includes a collaborative learning environment, individualized support (mentors, tutors, a network of mental health supports, affinity groups), and an applied learning internship.

There are three distinct experiences learners participate in:

  • Ada Build: Self-paced course that every student needs to complete before submitting their application
  • Ada Build Live - An 8-week virtual series led by staff and volunteers who review the Ada Build curriculum with students
  • Core Program - 11 months (includes a 5-month internship)  
  • Offered in-person and 100% digitally

How Ada Developers Academy is finding their perfect fit

Every learning community grapples with curating the ecosystem that best represents who they are and who they want to attract. Ada is no stranger to this experience, and is working on community building and scaling in order to acquire new students but retain them, too.

Because it’s tuition-free, we’re learning how to keep people engaged,” says Rakia, Ada’s Marketing and Communications Manager. “Now that we’re a fully remote culture, we’re needing to qualify folks at the top of the funnel” in an effort to ensure they’re building cohorts full of people who are truly ready for the commitment of a bootcamp.

→ 6 of 13 organizations are free to join, not for profit, self-funded, or funded by partner organizations (meaning members don’t have to pay to participate)

Women-led community 50InTech

50 in Tech

Unlike the bootcamps we have highlighted in this report who are working to get more women, especially women of color, into tech, 50 in Tech celebrates the women who are already working in the industry and want to accelerate their careers.

The organization has built their own “Gender Score” tool to measure the impact of efforts that partner companies have in increasing female representation in tech.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

50 in Tech offers a number of richly impactful resources for members in the organization like their innovative job board.

Others are inherently learning-driven, like free virtual bootcamps, mentorship opportunities, and access to coaching, content, and other free resources to help you navigate the job market, negotiate your salary, and understand DEI throughout tech.

How 50 in Tech is sourcing the right tools to build community

The platform on which virtual learning communities are hosted on can make or break both the member experience. 50 in Tech noted one of the biggest difficulties in getting their community to scale is not having the right tools in place — yet.

“Our talent is from all over the world. Discord and Slack aren’t used by everyone.” - Helen Lucien, CPO, 50 in Tech

When your community represents a global scale of members, it can be hard to nail down a tool that is easy for everyone to navigate and access the content and community they’re looking for. The best learning management systems offer comprehensive community support and the capability to host a number of engaging learning experiences — no matter where your members are coming from.

Read about Disco’s mission to be the platform that helps founders and learners alike of learning communities thrive in whatever their mission may be.

Women-led community Empower Her Community

Empower Her Community

For women in Information Technology, Empower Her Community aims to spread more awareness for opportunities in IT and incorporate as many women as possible to make the field more accessible and inclusive.  

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

Empower Her offers a wealth of free learning experiences members can access, such as:

  • Bootcamp 1.0: The Empower Her Community Bootcamp 1.0 was a free bootcamp that ran for the course of 1 month. The facilitators were all volunteers who gave of their time to see that these women were trained efficiently. 
  • The bootcamp featured Digital Marketing, Web development, Graphics Design, Data Science, 3D Design, Modeling and Printing
  • Webinars
  • Mentorship Programs
  • Slack channel for conversation and collaboration
    The entire program is self-funded by the founding team and from donations, but they’re seeking out support from companies.
How Empower Her Community is navigating today’s job market

It’s no secret that the current job market is volatile — mass layoffs make up the majority of our LinkedIn feeds and top headlines. Helping members navigate these layoffs is one of the biggest challenges Empower Her Community and others are up against today.

By creating and sharing relevant content, fostering connections through mentorships or networking opportunities, and opening up your community as a place where people can share their thoughts and experiences, you’re providing value to members who are going through these turbulent times. Empower Her is doing just this — not only to train women for roles in IT, but actually get them hired in roles and, in their words, “put food on the table.”

→ 12 of 13 organizations consider themselves “forward-looking” and make decisions based off what will be best for the community in the future

Women-led community Rosieland

Rosie Sherry

“In Rosieland, we exist to support and nurture the present and future community building industry,” says founder Rosie Sherry, who is now a leader in the community-building space. She also created The Indiependent Community, where indie founders can garner support for the products and businesses they’re building.

The catch? You’re removed from the communities after 30 days of inactivity in an effort to better foster participation and relationship building.

What type of learning experiences do they offer? 

The Rosieland business model is heavily content-based. There is a ton of content behind the paywall, as well as a private Slack community where people can gather. The Indiependent offers a similar experience, both with tiered membership models that allow you free, paid, or sponsored access to content.

How Rosie Sherry is creating a community of practice

In our conversation with Rosie, she coined Rosieland and The Indiependent as “Communities of practice” and acknowledged the challenges in bringing them to life.

Community happens in so many different ways. People learn in different ways. Some like cohorts, some don’t. It’s important for us to take that into consideration. A community of practice should cater to all things and everyone’s needs.” - Rosie Sherry, Founder, Rosieland

Other founders experience this same predicament: How can we be everything to everyone? By offering different learning experiences — synchronous, asynchronous, event-based, in-person, digital, to name a few — you’ll be able to meet members where they’re at and support their unique, individual journeys.

Supercharge Your Learning Community

A step-by-step guide to build and grow a thriving learning community.

The Learning Community Playbook by Disco

Join the roster of women-led organizations leading communal learning and career development

Every day at Dico, we celebrate the achievements of female founders and the women-led organizations they’re building. We believe the impact they’re making in the world will be felt for decades to come. 

If these 13 organizations are any consolation, the learning industry is heading in a very exciting, prosperous direction. There has never been a better time to build a learning community that addresses the unique challenges, interests, and needs of women at global scale, and Disco is thrilled to be the platform that helps you create that space.

Learn all about our mission and our platform, then start your free trial by clicking here.

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