Decoded CEO: Lack of confidence keeping women from tech


Boosting confidence and a new perspective about what tech is. That’s the key to getting more women to choose a career path in tech, according to Kathryn Parsons.

Kathryn Parsons

Kathryn Parsons. Photo: Decoded

Parsons, the CEO and co-founder of London-based start-up Decoded, is here to spread her gospel and get the world – not least women – into coding.

“We believe it is a journey, and the first step is the hardest,” she told Project Ada.

Goal: Changing the idea of tech

Decoded’s Code in a Day classes get beginners rolling. You can arrive never having written a line of code, and go home having created a web app. In between, there’s time to go through the basics of computational thinking and the basics of languages like HTML, CSS and Javascript.

Kathryn Parsons says that she wants to reframe the world’s idea of what tech is. She describes going into classrooms of 17 year-old girls, and asking who thought of themselves as brilliant coders.

“Not one of them puts up their hand. When I ask them ‘are you a good problem solver?’ Are you a good creative thinker?’ all hands shoot up.”

Decoded was founded in 2011, and has now gone bi-continental, with the New York offices soon to celebrate their first birthday.

“We’re passionate evangelists”

Having studied languages at university, Kathryn Parsons herself comes from an entrepreneurial background, rather than from the tech world. Most of the Decoded staff are also self-taught coders who used to work with something else. But Kathryn Parsons doesn’t see that as a problem.

code in a day

Code in a Day participants. Photo: Decoded

“We’re all passionate evangelists. We want to communicate skills. Tech can often talk only to tech, not to the rest of the world. It can feel quite exclusive,” she said.

That exclusive feel may go some way towards explaining the lack of women working in the tech industry. The percentage of women in the workplace is not just low – but actually dropping, from 22% in 2001 to 17% in 2011.

“The stats are pretty awful,” she agreed.

Women lacking confidence

Among Decoded participants, who are pretty equally split among men and women, there’s no difference between genders in aptitude for programming, according to Kathryn Parsons.

“The difference is a huge lack of confidence among women,” she said.

Unsurprising, perhaps, considering the sexist attitudes that still abound about women and technology.

“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.”

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