Tag Archives: role models

Suw Charman-Anderson: Why I founded Ada Lovelace Day

Suw Charman-Anderson (Photo: Paul Clarke)

Ada Lovelace Day on 11 October is a day to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM, and shine a light on inspiring role models in an industry long dominated by men. As the date approaches, we caught up with founder Suw Charman-Anderson to learn how it came about.

She tells Project Ada she founded the day in 2009, “fed up” of going to tech conferences and seeing few women on the speaker lists – or even none.

“I knew loads of women in the industry, but so few of them seemed to get conference speaking slots,” she said.

Suw, who was working in the tech industry at the time, recalls the women in tech community online discussing the issue, in blogs, social media and comment sections:

“People would name women who they thought should be on stage, but that never seemed to move the dial.”

“No one else had that imagination”

It was this frustration that gave birth to the idea of a specific day for raising awareness of female tech role models, spearheaded by computing pioneer (and this website’s namesake) Ada Lovelace.

The 19th century mathematician and STEM trailblazer seems like a natural choice as a role model. Often described as the world’s first ever computer programmer, Lovelace is best known for her work on Charles Babbage’s mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine and was the first person to realise the machine’s potential, far beyond number-crunching, to create music and art:

“She envisioned computer science as we now understand it, and saw how useful a computer would be to future mathematicians and scientists,” said Suw, adding:

No one else at that time, in the mid-1800s, had that kind of imagination or foresight.

Success stories “hugely important”

Ada Lovelace Day is all about celebrating those who inspire us. Suw says role models are “hugely important”, and she’s backed up on this by research showing that women actually need role models and success stories more than men do. 

The stories that we tell about other women inform the stories we tell ourselves about our own capabilities and futures.

In 2009, thousands took part in the first ever Ada Lovelace Day by blogging about a woman they admire. Seven years on, the day has grown into a fully fledged science cabaret evening: Ada Lovelace Day Live in London.

This year, speakers include design engineer Yewande Akinola, planetary physicist Dr Sheila Kanani, science writer Dr Kat Arney, developer Jenny Duckett, mathematician Dr Sara Santos, computational biologist Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, and climate scientist Dr Anna Jones.

“Essential for girls to see”

“It’s an amazing opportunity to see the breadth of work that’s happening in the UK, something I think is often hidden away because the media are only interested in certainly types of STEM news stories,” said Suw.

The cabaret takes place in London, but Ada Lovelace Day events are being held worldwide. If you’re not close to one, Suw encourages women in STEM to celebrate simply by talking to their daughters, granddaughters or nieces:

It’s essential for girls to see that they have a future in STEM, and for women to see that they can progress in STEM careers all the way to the top.

 

(Featured photo: Paul Clarke)

Role models and flexible hours: 4 things a survey of 1,500 professionals taught us about getting women into tech

13334080323_7b02cb3f42_k

More role models and flexibility. That’s the key to getting more women into tech careers, based on a fresh survey of over 1,500 women working in STEM.

The women were asked what the biggest career challenge was they faced as a woman working in a male-dominated environment.

Women make up just 24 per cent of the STEM workforce, according to US census data. And dismayingly, several fields are only becoming more unequal with time, not less. The proportion of female computer science undergrads in 2011 was less than half of what it was in the early eighties.

Clearly, this is an environment that poses unique challenges – here are four key takeaways from the results of the survey, conducted by Women Who Code and Pluralsight.

1. Women need a confidence boost

Women report a ‘pervasive lack of confidence in navigating a male-dominated workplace’ according to the survey.

Nearly two in three,  64 per cent, reported a lack of confidence is holding them back in their career.

And those in leadership positions struggle especially with this, as 19 per cent reported that the male domination of their work environment is holding them back, more than twice the average rate of respondents.

2. Wanted: Mentors and role models

The key to tackling the lack of confidence is clear based on this survey: Women need more female role models to look up to.

Over 60 per cent of those surveyed agreed that having more women on their team would be beneficial.

3. Who’s getting the promotions?

Are men more likely to get promotes? Nearly half of respondents aged 21-49 believed their male coworkers were more likely to get promoted over them.

Indeed, the lack of opportunities for advancement was listed as the biggest career hurdle among women surveyed.

4. Flexibility is key

Flexible work hours are the number one thing needed to get more women working in tech careers, according to this survey.

No less than 1 in 4 of those surveyed agreed that flexibility is the most helpful factor for getting more women into tech, over other factors like mentors and quotas.

What do you think would get more women into tech? Comment or tweet us @ProjectAda_!

Interview: We Got Coders’ Dan Garland on getting women into tech

wgc class

Dan Garland is the founder of We Got Coders, a residential coding school that is offering scholarships to women who want to learn how to code.

Currently, only around 25 to 40 per cent of attendants at We Got Coders are women, something Dan wants to change. Women are often his most talented students.

We had a chat with him to see what he thought could be done to tackle the lack of women in tech.

Female role models in tech

Dan believes that more could be done to show the impact of women in the past on the tech industry today.

Women in the gaming industry

Dan points out that often the computer gaming industry can be one of the most intimidating for women to break into.

Making tech a more accessible place for women

Dan believes that solving problems like the work/life balance and maternity leave in tech would be a good start to helping women break into the industry.

He also echoes what we heard at the event A Web For Her, adding that the purpose of an app is very important for getting women involved in developing it.

What do you think can be done to make life easier for women in tech?

7 most powerful and influential women in social media

mobile phone with social media icons

Written by Katerina Petropoulou

Women dominate social media platforms. According to Pew Research Center, women represent 77% of Facebook users in 2014, 21% of Twitter users, 29% of Instagram, 27% of LinkedIn, and a whopping 42% of Pinterest users.

But who are the female thought leaders in social media? We picked seven of the most powerful influencers to follow on Twitter for amazing social media marketing tips and insights. Take a look:

Ann Tran

Ann Tran is a social media marketing strategist, a travel writer with a unique approach to social media.

Pam Moore

Pam Moore is a social media influencer and the founder and CEO of a successful digital marketing agency. Her tweets are always insightful and provide excellent tips and how to’s based on her expertise.

Kim Garst

Kim Garst is a Twitter expert who always has excellent advice to tweet about social selling and managing social media.

Marsha Collier

Marsha Collier is the author of 48 books, focusing on social media commerce and online customer service.

Eve Mayer

Eve Mayer is the CEO of Social Media Delivered, a social media company focusing on consulting, training and social media management. Although ‘officially’ a LinkedIn queen, Eve Mayer covers all social media sharing tips and insights into different platforms.

Ann Handley

Ann Handley is the Head of Content at Marketing Profs a great source of social media marketing tips.

Pam Dyer

Pam Dyer is a leader in strategic marketing and a social media marketing blogger. Her tweets are always insightful, covering all the latest trends in social media management.

Now over to you! Which Social Media influencers do you keep in your radar? Tweet us at @ProjectAda_!

Article cross-posted from Twitter Counter

Featured image credit: Highways Agency

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_!

Geek Girl’s Josefine Hedlund on getting women on the stage

pa-ggm

Josefine Hedlund has never been afraid to experiment. As a little girl, whenever the TV broke down in the Hedlund family home, her dad would ask her to fix it, by poking and prodding at buttons to see what they might do, even though the “more natural” option might’ve been for her father to do it himself, as she says, laughing.

I’ve never been afraid of technology. I’ve always been happy to learn things.

The 31 year-old Swede founded Geek Girl Meetup in London in order to spread that confidence to other women. The organisation, originally founded in Sweden, holds regular networking events for women working in tech, and promotes female role models in the industry.

Getting women onto the stage

Geek Girls London chapter’s third anniversary is coming up, and Josefine has met with me to talk about the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Only 2 in 10 tech employees are women, an issue that hits close to heart for her, as a feminist working in the tech industry. For the past four years, she’s been at digital agency AnalogFolk, and is now a senior producer.

Sitting in the agency’s painfully cool open-plan offices, we’re surrounded by men. This is hardly a new situation for Josefine Hedlund, who says that she’s regularly the only woman in meetings.

A Geek Girl Meetup in September 2014.

A Geek Girl Meetup in September 2014. (Photo: Alessia D’Urso/ Flickr)

“I almost don’t want to say it, but I think it’s about confidence. Girls think they can’t do it,” she says.

Combating this lack of confidence is the driving force behind Geek Girl.

Thinking back to why Geek Girl was founded, she remembers going to tech conferences without a single female speaker.

“And we thought, ‘we know lots of great women in this industry. Where are they? Why aren’t they on the stage?’”

Starting at an early age

With Geek Girl, she encourages other women to get up on that stage. So does she happily get up and speak herself?

“I’m getting better. I don’t like to stand up and talk in front of people, but I force myself to do it. And it does get easier the more you do it.”

Josefine Hedlund Geek Girl by Sofia Villanueva

Josefine Hedlund (Photo: Sofia Villanueva for 1984 London)

A big part of tech’s diversity problem stems from women getting discouraged early on, she says, with young girls being made to take sewing rather than coding in school. Luckily for Josefine and her older sister, their parents were always encouraging.

“There was never anything strange about us being interested in technology, or sitting in front of the computer, playing Pacman or chatting on IRC,” she says.

“I think I’m quite confident as a person today. I’ve had a safe childhood, and was often in a leadership role, so I feel comfortable taking up space.”

Feminism “feels like a harsher word here”

Josefine has been living in London for almost five years. But she grew up in Sweden, where she says gender inequality is less of an issue.

“Everything is more divided in the UK than it is in Sweden. Even kids are divided, into girls’ and boys’ schools, and girls’ and boys’ sports.”

For Josefine, who likes to relax by playing football, this has caused some raised eyebrows amongst colleagues who were surprised she hadn’t grown up playing netball instead.

Calling herself a feminist feels different in the UK too, she says.

“It feels like a harsher word here. There still seems to be this vision of the ‘man-hating feminist’ cropping up.”

What makes a role model?

With Geek Girl, she certainly takes a more positive approach. It’s about promoting female role models. Josefine’s own role models are Heidi Harman, Geek Girl’s original founder, and Alice Bentinck, founder of several Silicon Roundabout start-ups.

And being a role model isn’t just about doing good.

“It’s also someone who’s good at talking about the mistakes they’ve made and the experience they’ve gained from making those mistakes.”

So has Josefine made any mistakes of her own? “Oh, tonnes!” she says, laughing.

It’s all about daring to experiment.

Tanya Cordrey: Progress for women in tech has stagnated

tanya_guardian

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”.

Women in tech: the best posts of 2014

2014

As the year draws to a close, we’ve gathered some of the year’s best posts on sexism, gender equality and diversity in the technology industry.

Some celebrate role models and advances that have been made, others point out glaring cases of sexism in the industry. So, from #gamergate to tech giants’ diversity figures, here’s how we’ll remember 2014.

Why aren’t there more women in mobile tech?

Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, wrote an article for CNN about the mobile technology industry. In it, she calls for more mobile women – saying that we need to make women in tech the norm, rather than the exception.

As we collectively strive to connect the next one billion users and stimulate the positive change that the mobile internet brings, we must ensure that women will be included in this upsurge.

 

Why female representation matters

In March, the Guardian‘s Aleks Krotoski told us why female representation matters.

Technology companies build products that help us make sense of the world. How can they do this without input from 52% of the world’s population?

The question in Krotoski’s subheading speaks for itself. The fact that girls achieve better grades that boys in GCSE and A level Maths and Computer Science, and yet drop out of the subjects to leave 82% men in higher education classes, begs belief.

In Defense of Women in Tech Groups

This article posted on Geek Feminism in March effectively mythbusts some common arguments against WIT groups. So next time someone tells you they aren’t necessary, point them in this direction. The author makes a clear case for why women in tech groups are essential, not least for networking and for finding role models.

Do you know how you go about combating stereotype threat for women? Logic dictates—and now a study shows—that female role models are essential. So, there it is: female-dominated classrooms, with female instructors, are an obvious win, for women learning technology concepts.

A Brightening Outlook?

On International Women’s Day, Forbes hosted an article talking about the “emerging opportunities” for women looking to develop in technology.

Leo King reported on several high-profile technology figures speaking at an event. While they warned that there is still a shocking lack of representation of women within the industry, they spoke of clear signs of improvement in the opportunities available.

They called for, among other things, an expansion of the opportunities out there for women in tech to advance their career – especially by focusing on education in developing countries.

It is in the interests of companies and governments to help women advance in the technology industry, [a vice president of Intel, Bernadette] Andrietti says: “Women offer a fresh perspective on product design, ways of working, risk-taking and many other aspects of business.”

 

No progress on inequality for 10 years

The Guardian‘s report in May highlighted just how far we’ve yet to go in securing a fair role for women in technology. The figures made for depressing reading.

The percentage of women taking the role has remained largely static at 14% since 2004, when the firm started gender analysis.

At the bottom, the article lists many organisations in the UK dedicated to helping recruit and retain more women in technology.

The Most Powerful Women in Tech in 2014

Forbes’ list on the most “powerful” women in tech gives us some role models within the industry.

The list is taken from a wider one of the world’s most powerful women in general – on this list, the highest from a tech company is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and the first female member of its board of directors.

In 2013, Sandberg released Lean In, a book encouraging women to materialise their professional goals by leaning into their ambitions.

Google’s Diversity Report

google diversity report representation gender technology

When Google published its diversity figures early this summer, a whole slew of tech giants followed suit, sparking a debate about the lack of gender and ethnic diversity in tech roles. The reports showed that barely 2 in 10 tech employees are women, and as Google put it themselves, getting these figures straight is an important first step to making a change.

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.

It’s Not Just A Pipeline Problem

This post on TechCrunch, published in August, argued that getting women into technology industries was a “trapdoor problem” as much as a “pipeline problem”.

The trapdoor problem is one we can collectively work on without having to wait for a new generation to filter through; and the first step towards solving any problem is admitting that it exists.

Jon Evans said that it’s unacceptable that people “turn a blind eye” to the fact that so many women are dropping out of technology-based jobs once they’re in one. He cites a 2008 Harvard Business Review report, which found that “between ages 25 and 30, 41% of the young talent with credentials in those subject matters are female … [but] 52% of this talent drops out”.

What it’s really like for women in tech

In September, Gwen Moran told a great story which she introduced by saying “it’s a pretty safe bet that no male CEOs could match this”.

In the piece, Heidi Roizen, cofounder and CEO of T/Maker, tells of how she was sexually assaulted by a company executive at a celebration dinner in San Francisco.

“One of the most responsive audiences has been men who have daughters who are entering the workforce,” Roizen says. “It would never occur to them that something like this would happen. When they hear these stories, it helps them be more aware and, when women come to them with these stories, to take them more seriously.”

Why Gamergaters piss me the f*** off

We know. We could make this entire list, or this entire site, about posts on the #gamergate controversy, but heck, who has the energy? However, Chris Kluwe’s open letter is an incensed tirade against gamergaters that actually made me laugh despite having thought that I never wanted to read about the topic again.

You’re ignorant. You are a blithering collection of wannabe Wikipedia philosophers, drunk on your own buzzwords, incapable of forming an original thought. You display a lack of knowledge stunning in its scope, a fundamental disregard of history and human nature so pronounced that makes me wonder if lead paint is a key component of your diet.

When Women Stopped Coding

women computer science coding

This piece from NPR was published in October, but I’ll be honest: I didn’t get around to reading it until the other week. It’s a fascinating article that explores why the percentage of women in computer science dropped so sharply in the 1980s.

These early personal computers weren’t much more than toys. You could play pong or simple shooting games, maybe do some word processing. And these toys were marketed almost entirely to men and boys. This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture.

Women in tech earn less than men: Here’s one reason why

Fortune published some great data on the pay gap in Silicon Valley in November.

In it, they explore how women are – unsurprisingly – still paid significantly less than men to do the same job. However, on top of this, the report shows how women also ask for less than men at an interview stage. This is a significant issue in the mentality of people within the industry which needs addressing.

women technology sector curvery pay gap sexism gender split

Survey: Women ‘belittled, underappreciated and underpaid’ in tech industry

The Guardian’s survey of women’s experience of working in the tech sector was published in November and makes for some depressing reading: 73% of tech employees consider the industry sexist. 52% say women get paid less for the same job. But the reports of cultural sexism are among the most shocking.

The gender split was 90% male, 10% female. I was hit on by almost every man I met, and felt like a novelty to the point where I ate lunch in a room on my own to avoid repeated awkward conversations.

Why women are leaving the tech industry in droves

December saw Sue Gardner write an op-ed piece about the important issue of  women leaving the tech industry.

In it, she makes several points which are hard to describe as anything but common sense. Over time, she says, women are ground down by a perfect storm of hostility, demeaning attitudes and condescension. Women in tech are often subject to sexual harassment and have few female role models to look up to – why would the industry seem like a good place in which to work?

If you’re a tech executive, you want your available workforce to be as big and varied as possible. In that context a rational industry would shut down overt misogyny because in addition to being morally repugnant, it’s terrible for business. It would aim to provide the same things for female workers that it does for male ones: an enjoyable culture, competitive pay and challenging work.

 

Have you got any other ideas for great articles in 2014? Tweet us @ProjectAda_ and we’ll add them to the list!

Written by  Clara Guibourg and Ashley Kirk

Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates on the “varied” abuse women face online

Laura Bates addresses the audience of A Web for Her | Credit: Keila Guimarães

Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, has been a prominent campaigner for diversity and equality in the technology industry. Because of this, she has also seen her fair share of online abuse.

She was part of a panel discussion at South Bank’s Web We Want Festival, called A Web For Her. It asks a simple question: what would the Web look like if it was run by women?

After the event, we caught up with Laura to ask her why it’s important to have true online equality.

She said that she’s been the victim of a lot of online abuse, and claimed that “abuse is much more varied than people realise.”

It varies from discounting women’s articles, getting abusive comments instead of constructive arguments, and being less likely to be retweeted and followed on Twitter.

“It goes all the way up the spectrum to really serious abuse. A lot of the stuff that I get falls into a middle-ground category, where I don’t think I should report it to the police, but it still completely refuses to see you as a human being”.

Women in communities

With this in mind, I asked Laura why it’s still important that she risks such abuse and threats by going out there on online communities.

The panel discussion focused on the the fact that there’s a lot animosity towards women within within the technology industry, and asked how we can persuade women to challenge and overcome such resistance.

The advantages of women in tech

I asked Laura afterwards what the advantages would be once this has been achieved. As she said in the event, “no matter how anti-feminist you are, you cannot believe that the statistics represent a true indication of where talent lies.”

Advice for women in tech

If you were to give a woman aiming to start a tech-related career or project, what would the one piece of advice be?

Laura’s answer was immediate: network. She urged women to get together with like-minded people to improve the industry towards a more progressive future.

Decoded CEO: Lack of confidence keeping women from tech

decoded

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.”

« Older Entries