Author Archives: Clara Guibourg

Interview: How Hera Hussain helps women empower themselves through technology

Hera Hussain

Guest post written by Rebecca Sentance

By day, she’s the Communities and Partnerships Manager at OpenCorporates, ensuring that data is used for social good. By night, Hera Hussain helps women to empower themselves through technology with the organisation Chayn.

Chayn is a small, volunteer-driven organisation which mainly works with women, primarily in countries such as India and Pakistan, who are victims of domestic violence.

Its team are developing a number of technology-driven projects to help these women in different ways, whether through open-source how-to guides, informative websites or uplifting mental health campaigns. Hera, its founder, says:

“We use technology wherever we can to empower women.”

When Chayn was first founded in 2013, it was a “very lean start-up operation” with a budget of just £500, which was used to launch its website. All of its projects are open-source, collaborative and crowd-sourced from a global team of volunteers.

Why digital is powerful

Using the internet, it can reach and empower vulnerable women who may not leave the house very often, but will likely have a smartphone with internet access.

“That’s why digital is really powerful, because most women have access to a smartphone and internet.”

Not all of them, of course, but rather than try to tackle the complex issue of getting women online in the developing world, Hera and Chayn just make a difference where they can.

“You’ve got to pick your battles,” Hera states.

“So if the middle class has smartphones, then let’s go for that. It’s about targeting women you are able to help.”

Helping women escape abuse

Chayn’s resources on domestic violence aim to plug key gaps in the information available to women and give them simple, practical advice, such as how to save money if they want to leave home, or information on divorce laws in their country. So far it has helped 15 women from Pakistan to escape domestic abuse situations in some way.

The organisation has also recently started developing workshops which will teach women the basics of email, internet navigation and simple website-building.

Basic though it may seem, these are powerful technological skills which can open up a new world for women and give them marketable skills that they can adapt to their lifestyle, especially if they have children.

Empowerment pop-ups

“[Learning these skills] feels really empowering for them,” Hera says. “Getting them to set up their own website, even if it’s a WordPress site, is so empowering because many women grow up thinking they can’t do much; the fact that they can do something is life-changing for them.”

“It’s little things that add up to a big thing.”

Hera envisions these workshops taking the form of “empowerment pop-ups”, day-long workshops on key employment skills.

In the future, she also aspires to open an academy in which women who are leaving domestic violence situations learn how to build websites. “I think it’s a great profession for women,” she says.

“I think it’s great and I really want to see more women in tech.”

(Featured image: Open Corporates)

The biggest problems with #TechSexism – here’s what you said

Wikimedia hackathon

The tech industry is struggling to overcome its problems with sexism in the workplace – both cultural and structural. Women are hugely underrepresented in all technical jobs, and a recent survey by The Guardian showed that 73 per cent of the people working in tech consider sexism to be a problem.

We asked you to share your experiences of sexism with us: What are the biggest issues? Here’s what you said, on the hashtag #TechSexism.

1. The sexist culture

Misogynistic jokes and not being taken seriously are both an unsurprising but unwelcome side effect of an industry with such a skewed gender balance. @blackgirltech described the cultural sexism as a problem:

The effects of a male-dominated workplace have been described by many of the women we’ve interviewed on Project Ada. City University lecturer Dr Simone Stumpf mentioned a brogramming culture she described as “casually misogynistic”.

Decoded’s Kathryn Parsons described something similar when we interviewed her in November.

“People still say to me ‘women’s brains don’t really work that way’. It happens every week. I won’t stop until I never hear that phrase again.”

2. The pay gap

One of our readers wanted us to highlight the gaping difference between men and women’s salaries.

And no wonder.

Here’s a bit of structural sexism that’s hard to ignore. Women in technical jobs only earn 73% of what their male colleagues earn, according to US organisation Narrow the Gapp.

3. Sexist and gendered products

Another reader called out needlessly gendered products. Especially when they’re also casually sexist.

Microsoft’s smart bra is supposed to prevent stress-related over-eating by detecting stress levels. (What they want male stress eaters to do is unclear).

This is the latest in a never-ending line of frankly incredible products. From Bic’s slimmer pens “for her” (finally, a pen my teeny tiny lady hands can grasp!) to extra feminine ear plugs or girls’ Lego (for an early start in gendering). Lady Geek, who campaign against this type of gendering, call this the “pink it shrink it” approach.

Thoughts? How do you think sexism affects the tech industry? Continue the conversation on #TechSexism!

Has gender representation in tech reporting got any better?

An open-plan newsroom

Back in March we found that women were not only underrepresented in the tech industry, but among the journalists writing about it as well. What we found was genuinely surprising: At the Guardian just one in five tech articles was written by a woman, whilst at the Daily Mail more articles were written by women than by men.

So, two months on with a much larger sample size, how has the gender balance changed?

Actually, for the most part, it’s got better.

Telegraph wins ‘most improved’

Every news outlet we studied got at least a little bit better, with an increased number of women making up their tech authors. Three sites had increased their female representation by over 20%.

The prize for most improved goes to the Telegraph, leaping from 46% of articles written by women in February, to 59% in April. This represents an increase of 27%. Did we have something to do with that? Probably.

The Guardian and Wired also saw the percentage of female tech reporters rise.

The Daily Mail had the largest female representation in March, and remains much the same on around 54%. Buzzfeed is also largely unchanged at 46%.

Although the Guardian increased the share of articles written by women from 19.6% to 23.7%, this is a small improvement that sees them still lag some way behind their tabloid rivals.

How many reporters are female?

The male dominance in tech journalism is clear when looking at the number of reporters for each site. Only two of the news outlets we looked at have more women than men writing about tech: Buzzfeed and the Mail.

Surprisingly, based on the articles in our sample, the Telegraph has the most skewed gender balance in the newsroom. Just 32% of their tech writers are female – but those writers have produced 58% of the articles.

What difference does it make?

Do investigations like these have any impact on gender representation? Well, as Google said when they released their diversity report last June:

“It is hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.

 

What do you think? Get in touch with us @ProjectAda_ or leave a comment below.

Sexism in tech: Share your story with us

Wikimedia hackathon

We know that women are still under-represented throughout tech and STEM industries. Less than 1 in 5 employees at tech giants like Apple and Facebook are female.

This skewed gender balance become less surprising considering the many reports suggesting that sexism is widespread in tech workplaces. A 2014 survey conducted by The Guardian showed that 73% of tech employees considered the industry sexist – both culturally and structurally.

Join the conversation on #TechSexism

Project Ada is now highlighting this important issue and how to tackle it – and we want to hear your stories. Whether you’re a woman or a man working in tech: share your experiences of sexism – and thoughts on how to change it. We’ll be featuring readers’ stories in an upcoming article.

Get in touch with us here, send us e-mail on news@projectada.co.uk, or even better, join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #TechSexism.

(Featured image: Flickr/Sebastiaan ter Burg)

Interactive: Who’s most influential on #womenintech?

pa-networks-feat

It’s hardly news that the people supporting diversity in tech make up a vibrant and active community. Supporting and inspiring each other through events, in the workplace – and on Twitter, through hashtags like #womenintech.

We were curious to see who some of the network’s more influential tweeters were and built the network below, based on the latest 18,000 tweets on the hashtag.

Interactive: Explore everyone tweeting about #womenintech

Click the image or here to explore an interactive version of the map. (Maybe you can even find yourself!)

Every circle represents one Twitter account, and the darker purple it is, the more central that account is to the community. The bigger it is, the more mentions it’s received from other accounts.

So who are the top ten?

1. @thistechgirl

Also known as Saadia Muzaffar, the founder of Tech Girls Can and committed to “changing the ratio” in tech. On her website she writes:

“Diversity forces innovation to snap out of becoming a claustrophobic, self-affirming, classist idea machine.”

2. @fedscoop

This is part of a US government agency and breaks government tech news, so it’s not entirely surprising that it has a central position in this network.

3. @marthalanefox

Martha Lane Fox

Martha Lane Fox (Photo: Flickr/Open University)

Martha Lane Fox balances several roles, as a business woman, the youngest female member of the House of Lords, and not least in her current position heading the digital skills charity Go ON UK.

4. @dilbert_daily

Yes, this is Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams’ Twitter account.

5. @dreamhost

A corporate account for the cloud hosting platform DreamHost.

6. @codefilm

Code - debugging the gender gap

Photo: Code

Code is a documentary exposing just how few software engineers are female or from minority backgrounds, by “debugging” the gender gap.

7. @girldevorg

This San Fran-based organisation have a clear mission:

“Won’t stop til we #closethegendergap”.

8. @blackgirlscode

Black Girls Code works to empower young and teenage girls of colour to go into tech.

9. @womenwhocode

This organisation supporting and promoting diversity in the coding workforce boasts over 25,000 members in 15 countries across the world.

10. @aauw

The American Association of University Women have been promoting education and equality for girls for quite some time. Their tagline?

“Empowering women since 1881.”

Did you find anything interesting or unexpected in the graph? Comment below, or tweet us @ProjectAda_!

Swedish pop star launches festival for girls in tech

Robyn

Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing to get girls interested in technology – by launching her own tech festival.

She may be best known for pop hits such as “Dancing on my Own” and “Show me love”, but Robyn, whose real name is Robin Carlsson, is also a long-time promoter of gender equality, not least in tech.

Free festival for teens

On Tuesday, she announced her latest step: the upcoming Tekla Festival in Stockholm:

“Tekla will be a festival for girls where they get to try out tomorrow’s technology in different ways in what I think will be a fun and creative environment.”

The free festival will be held on 18 April at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and is directed at 11-18-year-old girls.

3D printing and games

Visitors can join workshops on everything from 3D printing and robot programming to designing games and producing music. And – as befits a festival launched by an international pop star – there’ll be live performances throughout the day, including one by Robyn herself.

Paulina Modlitba Söderlund from Tekla, Robyn and Sophia Hober, dean of KTH

Paulina Modlitba Söderlund from Tekla, Robyn and Sophia Hober, dean of KTH. (Photo: Sara Arnald)

Several companies have already got behind Robyn and KTH’s mission of getting more girls into tech, with sponsors including Google and Spotify.

Combining creativity and tech

Today, only one in three students at KTH are female. Robyn and KTH hope that Tekla Festival will get more girls interested in pursuing technology, by showing the creative side of tech.

“Technology itself isn’t the goal, it’s just a tool to solve problems that our society, organisations and people face,” said KTH’s dean Sophia Hober in a statement.

What do tweets about International Women’s Day tell us?

524

Twitter is overflowing with tweets about Women’s Day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Project Ada put together a little analysis of what and where people are tweeting on the topic.

Where are tweets about International Women’s Day coming from?

We should all be asking some big questions this International Women’s Day. Foremost among them for many of us is, where are people tweeting about International Women’s Day from? Luckily for you, we’ve got the answer.

We mapped more than 1,500 tweets from around the world, including the hashtags, #makeithappen, #internationalwomensday, #womensday, #paintitpurple, #iwd and #iwd2015, and it looks a bit like this.

The vast majority of the tweets are coming from the UK and North America, which is unsurprising as the hashtags are in English. Within the UK, around a third of tweets are coming from London.

In Australia, the city with the most tweets with those hashtags is Sydney, in the USA it’s New York. The UK outstrips other countries, with around a third of our sample tweets coming from there.

#makeithappen is the theme of International Women’s Day, 2015. #paintitpurple was chosen to represent dignity and justice, two values at the heart of International Women’s Day and the original Suffragettes.

Get the data for this map.

What are we tweeting about International Women’s Day?

We analysed what hashtags were used in some 30,000 tweets about Women’s Day, to give us an idea of what topics we’re talking about.



Countries and cities crop up most often, giving us a clearer view of where Women’s Day is a particularly hot topic. Iran was mentioned most often, nearly 6 times as often as runner-up the UK, and #Berlin was the top trending city – logical, as thousands of members of the Iranian opposition had gathered in Berlin under the slogan “Against fundamentalism and misogyny”.

Canada’s social democratic party #NDP makes it into the top ten with a widely spread campaign to end violence against women.

#Equality, #HeForShe, and #feminism are rather unsurprisingly all popular entries, as is #Beijing20, as the UN’s Beijing Platform for gender equality turns 20 years old.

Get the data for the wordcloud.

See anything else surprising in the map or wordcloud? Comment or tweet us @ProjectAda_!

Here’s how The Daily Mail beats The Guardian at gender equality

An open-plan newsroom

Women aren’t just underrepresented in the tech workforce, but also among the journalists writing about tech, shows an analysis by Project Ada.

Less than one in five articles on the Guardian’s tech section in 2015 were written by a female journalist.

How many women are writing about technology?

Project Ada decided to find out, as studies have shown that men dominate newspaper bylines. We scraped a total of 1507 articles from the tech sections of seven news sites, to check the gender of the authors.

The result? On average just under 40 per cent of the people writing about technology are women.

But what’s really interesting is the spread. The Guardian had just 19.6 per cent female authors, and the Mirror roughly one-third.

Daily Mail Online was the only site to have more women than men writing about tech, with 53.7 per cent female bylines.

An open-plan newsroom

(Photo: David Sim/Flickr)

“Although we have seen an increase in the number of female editorial staff over the past years, we recognise that more needs to be done to ensure this continued,” commented a spokesperson from the Guardian’s press office.

Most tech authors are male

These figures are reflected in the number of writers for each site. Only Buzzfeed and Mail Online had more female writers than male writers. Of the articles we analysed, The Guardian had just 26 female authors, compared to 48 male authors.

The number of female reporters at the Mirror in January and February 2015 was in single figures at just eight, compared to 24 male reporters.

This may have something to do with readerships of each news site. The Daily Mail is the only national daily newspaper to have more female readers than male readers, admittedly at a 52.5/47.5 per cent split.

The Telegraph, Guardian and Mirror all have more male readers than female readers, according to The Media Briefing.

Change may be on the way, though, according to the Guardian.

“We are committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across all aspects of our business,” said a Guardian spokesperson, adding that the organisation is trying to increase diversity through programmes such as their women’s mentoring scheme and the Scott Trust bursary scheme.

Get the data.

Written by Sam Walsh and Clara Guibourg

Top reads: Fixing the pipeline problem – and why it isn’t everything

Belinda Parmar from Lady Geek

Missing out on this week’s top reads in tech? Don’t worry, we’ve got the round-up right here!

Why are women leaving the tech industry in droves?

Computing jobs look set to double in number over the next five years – and the gender gap in the workforce is actually growing. This article from the LA Times explores why qualified women are actually leaving tech jobs, arguing that solving the pipeline problem when women keep quitting the tech industry is a little like “trying to fill a leaking bucket”.

“The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it’s a valuable investment.” (Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation)

Want a creative career? Do the maths and put the tech industry top

Belinda Parmar from Lady Geek

Belinda Parmar (Photo: Flickr/Lady Geek TV)

The tech industry still has a huge image problem with the next generation. Lady Geek’s Belinda Parmar wrote in The Guardian about how girls are looking for creative jobs – and are being told that computer programming is dull.

When a study asked boys to think of words they associated with computers, they came up with “design”, “games” and “video”. The girls? ‘Typing’, ‘maths’ and ‘boredom’.”

The Best Cities for Women in Tech

Smart Asset's ranking of the best tech cities for women.

Smart Asset’s ranking of the best tech cities for women.

Smart Asset has used data from the US 2013 Census to see in what cities women make up the biggest percentage of the tech workforce and where they are best paid. Washington DC comes out top in their ranking, with just over 37% of tech jobs held by women.

(Spoiler alert: Silicon Valley doesn’t exactly impress.)

Seen anything else this week that you think we should have listed? Comment or tweet us @ProjectAda_!

The 5 best things we learned at #SWATLondon

Super Women in Tech (Photo: Keila Guimaraes)

The name alone made it sound like a promising event. Twitter UK gathered “Super Women in Tech” at its London headquarters for an evening of panel discussions and socialising.

Panelists Alice Bentinck, co-founder of Code First:Girls and other Silicon Roundabout startups, Madeline Parra, CEO of Twizoo, Robyn Exton, founder of Dattch, and Wendy Orr from Guardian News & Media openly shared their experiences as women in this male-dominated industry, in a discussion chaired by the BBC’s Philippa Thomas.

The evening proved hugely popular, and was three times oversubscribed, according to an organiser we spoke to. The venue, which started filling up half an hour before the panel even started, was packed by the time the event began.

Project Ada reported live from the event – but in case you missed it, we’ve put together our highlights from the evening.

1. The wonders of the women in tech community

The panelists’ praise of the WIT community was unsurprisingly warmly received by the audience.

Robyn Exton, who’s not just founder of Dattch, but also co-founder of Geek Girl Meetup UK, added that meetups and organisations are the best way to change the sexist culture in tech. “These organisations will change the world”

(You can read more about Geek Girl Meetup here.)

2. Women get called “pushy and emotional”

A murmur of recognition went through the crowd as one audience member described her experiences of working in tech. “When I’m driven I get called pushy, when that makes me frustrated, I get called emotional.”

Panelist Madeline Parra also shared some of the more sexist comments she’s received in VC meetings – one about nail polish stood out in particular:

3. Yes, there is a brogramming culture

Does brogramming culture exist, asked moderator Philippa Thomas and was met by a resounding ‘yes’, both from panelists and the audience.

(Project Ada has explored the issue of this macho culture in tech – and how to eradicate it – here.)

4. Do VC investors want confident bullshitters?

Venture capital is the main funding option for the tech industry, and is completely male-dominated. Is the solution a question of confidence – and if so, do men have too much or women too little?

5. Three top tips from the panelists

As the evening wound down, the panelists wrapped up by sharing some of their top tips for women in tech.

From Madeline Parra: “You have to believe in yourself […] I think it is something you can teach yourself.”

From Robyn Exton: “Get thicker skin and plough on”

And finally, from moderator Philippa Thomas: “Don’t wait for a mentor to float up to you – go out there and find them!”


Were you at the event? Any other highlights you think we should’ve mentioned? Comment below, or tweet us @ProjectAda_!

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