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BattleHack: coding for good in London


Coders and developers gathered together from April 25-26 at BattleHack London, a hackathon that encourages participants to build projects that would have a good impact on society.

On Sunday (26) the groups pitched their ideas to a juror made of names such as Jess Williamson, director of TechStars, Julia Shalet, product doctor at The Mobile Academy, and John Lunn, senior director at Braintree_Dev, a branch of PayPal.

The topics pitched went from helping victims in natural disasters to enhancing urban mobility.

Women in Tech London was represented by team “I am Home Safe” and got a sponsor prize.

The winner was @Risk, for their project focused on elderly people. They developed an app that tracks the routine of elders and make automatic calls to the elder’s emergency contacts.

The team will compete in the finals in November at Silicon Valley, for a chance to win a US$ 100,000 prize.

Check our Storify for a summary of the best ideas presented at the weekend.


Less than 1 in 5 of UK top tech bosses are women

Canary Wharf | Photo: S nova

Top jobs in the UK’s technology firms are dominated by men, with over four times more men than women on their executive boards.

Just 18.3% of the board members on UK’s TECHmark companies are women, compared to 81.7% men, according to our analysis. Among FTSE 100 companies, 22.8% are women.

The TECHmark is a specific part of the London Stock Exchange for “specialist segments of the Main Market focusing on innovative technology”.

According to Bloomberg’s profile pages for the 60 companies, their boards have at least 533 men and 119 women on them. One fifth of the companies have no female board members at all.

This means that tech companies are performing worse than FTSE 100 companies.

A government report revealed that women’s representation on FTSE 100 boards was 22.8%. There are no male-only boards in the FTSE 100.

When announcing the report, Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

British businesses must keep up the momentum and alarm bells should be ringing in the ears of those FTSE chairs who are not yet doing their bit to improve gender diversity.

13 of the 60 TECHmark companies had no female representation on their executive boards, including Triad BiomedicaGresham Computing and Oxford Biomedica.

Phoenix IT performed the best for female representation on its board, with a third of its bosses being women. BTG is next – with women comprising of 28.5% of its board.

Female representation on executive board

Tanya Cordrey: Progress for women in tech has stagnated


Tanya Cordrey, the Guardian‘s chief digital officer, is a leading figure in innovating the way we consume information online.

She’s in charge of engineering the Guardian’s digital product, using data analytics and testing labs to improve user experience.

One of the joys of working in digital media is that “you learn something almost every day,”  according to Cordrey. She emphasises the importance of “developing in the open,” with the launch of the Guardian‘s new website last Wednesday, stressing how essential it is to use tests to continually improve your product.

“Over the years I have become a complete evangelist around developing in the open – I’m a big believer that getting feedback and constantly learning from it is a really important process.”

tanya cordrey digital officer guardian observer

What’s the situation for women in tech?

Cordrey reflected on the “sad” reality that there are still many barriers for women looking to build a career in the technology industry.

“One can always think back on your career and there are probably several instances of things that have happened that I feel grieved about when I was treated a certain way because I was a woman.”

For example, when she had a child, her working hours shifted – coming in earlier in the morning, leaving at five to pick up her baby, and then working online after.

Colleagues had warned her that she was “putting my career on hold” while working fewer hours to look after her child. She said that leaving the office to pick up her daughter would be seen with disapproval:

There’s a kind of macho culture at the office of who can stay the latest

“What is more damaging and more pervasive is those constant everyday things: when you see women not getting invites to contribute as much; or women being described in different ways to men.

“If a man is described as ‘forthright’ or ‘decisive’, sometimes a woman can be described as ‘strident’ or ‘bossy’.

“It’s just that sort of underlying pervasiveness of it, not just in technology but in society overall.”

I’m not sure it’s got any better over the last few decades

On the working conditions for women in tech, she said that progress had stagnated. She described it as “sad”, adding: “I’m not sure it’s really got any better over the last few decades.”

Cordrey’s teenage daughter is coming up to the age where she starts looking for a job. “The truth is,” she said, “I’m not sure my daughter’s going to experience huge improvements being a woman entering society – because I’m not sure over the last twenty years, things have actually got that much better.”

When asked about why there are more male than female applicants for technological roles, Cordrey said that the “problem starts at a very young age”.

Her daughter has been to coding classes where, Cordrey thinks, she may have been the only girl.

There’s something going wrong at a very early age – where young girls are not being encouraged to do these activities

“There’s something going wrong at a very early age – where many young girls are not really drawn or being encouraged to do these activities. To help stop the problem we have to work when people are very young.”

guardian observer office kings place london

Photo: Bryantbob

So what can we do?

“I think that many people – both men and women – are doing a great job. They’re often humble and don’t think to stand up and be counted as a role model, but I would encourage all women who work in technology to take a deep breath and realise that they are role models.”

She would encourage them “to do what they can – put themselves forward to speak at conferences, put themselves forward to help organise events, put themselves forward to mentor younger women in the organisation or help with graduate recruitment programmes.”

I encourage all women who work in technology to take a deep breath and realise that they are role models

There are, of course, challenges with this – such as the “utterly depressing” abuse that women can get when they decide to be high profile on places such as Twitter.

She said it is also important to “give lots of support to the men you work with as well, because I know there are many men in the industry who are also despairing over the low numbers of women and are keen to address that.”

What does the future hold?

Looking forward to the future in digital media, Cordrey sees women playing a vital role.

It’s a “very exciting time” in the industry – with expansions in video, new forms of storytelling and user-focused innovations in design and interface.

Cordrey is confident that there will be greater equality for women in tech in the future. She is sure that women will be playing a “really important part” in tackling “all of these wonderful challenges ahead of us”.

How can we encourage women to study computer science?


It’s unlikely any of you would be surprised, sadly, to hear that only 17.6% of computer science undergraduates were women in 2011.

What might surprise you, is that that number is less than half of what it was in 1983/4 – when 37.1% of undergrads were women.

Computer science is the only field in mathematics, engineering and science where the percentage of women on the course has decreased since 2002.

After leaving university, women made up 26% of the computing workforce in 2013, but still only earned 84cents for every dollar a man earned.

17% of Google’s technical employees are women, and at Facebook it’s a measly 15%. But these statistics are as unsurprising as they are unfortunate, as if only 18% of the people with the qualifications are women, that’s how many women are likely to get hired for the jobs that require that qualification.

However, some universities are taking steps to tackle this trend.

Universities in America are offering courses to train secondary school teachers to teach computer science to their students before, and have started using photos of women in their prospectuses.

The President of Harvey Mudd college, Maria Klawe, said in a speech at George Washington University:

“We made it very clear that being a female scientist, that’s normal.”

The gender gap in tech – in 3 charts


Next time someone questions whether tech really has a gender problem, you can always refer them to this post. (Don’t worry, we’ve even got pedagogical and colourful charts to lighten the mood!)

1) Less than 2 in 10 tech giant employees are women

Google released a diversity report a couple of months ago, and Facebook, Apple, Twitter and a whole lot of other tech companies swiftly followed suit. The results neatly expose tech’s gender gap.

On average, something like 7 in 10 employees at these tech giants are men. But if we break it down further, and look at technical roles specifically, the figures are even more dismaying.

Google puts it pretty simply in its report.

“We’re not where we want to be when it comes to diversity. And it is hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts.”

No arguing with that.

2) Female coders “work for free” from mid-November

A female computer programmer in the UK earns 87 pence for every pound her male colleagues earns, newly released statistics from the ONS show.

That adds up to close to £2,000 every year, and translates to women coding for free from Nov 13 through to the end of the year. This chart shows female coders’ salaries as a percentage of their male colleagues’.

Things are even more dismal across the Atlantic, where US women in technical jobs are earning only 73% of what their male colleagues do, according to Narrow the Gapp.

3) One in five top STEM companies had no women on their boards

It’s no surprise that executive boards are not the most gender balanced of places. But did you know that STEM (that is, science and tech) companies are even worse off?

Across the board, FTSE companies have 17% female board directors. Dismal enough. STEM companies, however, have only 13%, the FTSE Female Report 2012 showed.

One in five top STEM companies didn’t have a single woman on their boards, meaning that they’re literally recruiting their leaders from only 50% of the workforce. (In other industries, all of the top companies had at least one woman on the board.)

Anything else?

Should we have highlighted something else? How would you summarize tech’s gender problem in a few key points? Please comment or tweet us @ProjectAda_.