This week we've got an article by Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris, the founder of InclusIQ, a leadership institute based in Edinburgh. Suzanne champions gender equality in the workplace has authored several books including Beyond the Boys’ Club: Strategies for Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male Dominated Field and Female Breadwinners: How They Make Relationships Work and Why They are the Future of the Modern Workplace.
When we moved in to our office at CodeBase, a tech hub in Edinburgh we at the InclusIQ Institute noticed a paucity of women in the halls. According to a recent article ‘Technology’s Man Problem’ in the New York Times there’s been a drop of 35% since 1985 in the number of women graduates in computer science. Women hold only one quarter of all tech jobs in the UK – a worrying statistic in an industry poised for explosive growth. We at the InclusIQ Institute are curious: How can the tech culture change to be more female-friendly?
Some advocate ‘women only’ coding camps and training courses as the way forward. All-female courses such as those offered at CodeFirst:Girls, Girl Develop It, Girls who code and Black girls code host coding workshops aimed at turning women into “awesome programmers”. It’s a case of separate but equal. It’s worked for many single sex schools, but are single sex programmes the answer when these women will be in a minority once they enter the work world?
Others think focusing on the positive side to the industry will attract more women. Numerous independent media platforms allow women to share their code programming and experiences in technology, examples being ‘Passion Projects’, and ’Model View Culture’. Sara Chipps, chief technology developer at Flatiron School, a coding faculty, said: “I’ve been doing this 10 years, and myself and everyone I’ve spoken to who’s a female developer has had an amazing experience in the developer community.” Given the prevalence of office ‘bro’mances’ in many tech start-ups, focusing on positive seems a stretch when there is so much misogyny.
The truth is the current talent pool in the UK can’t match the growing requirements for programmers. It’s estimated the demand for computing jobs will rise to 1.2 million by 2022 and there are insufficient graduates to match these vacancies. As a start up tech company ourselves, this is a dispiriting finding. We, like our peers, need male and female programmers to create innovative workplaces of the future. That’s why we’re delighted to be helping organise a raft of great speakers for the Edinburgh line-up for CodeFirst: Girls, starting on October 20. If you are north of the border, we can’t wait to see you here.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Ph.D
I am a grandma. This year I will turn 77. I have lived in India my entire life and like other women of my generation initially I did not know anything about computers. About 10 years ago I came to know of a centre near my house where they taught computer courses for beginners. I joined the course and it gave me a starting knowledge of how to operate a computer and use programs like word and excel but I was keen to learn more.
I then found out about ‘blogs’ from my grandchildren. As I sometimes write short stories and articles, I decided to start my own blog. It has been a revelation for me, opening new doors as it were. I have now published more than 90 posts!
When Facebook became popular I too started an account. I was amazed to be able to connect with friends from university that I had not seen in 50 years. I realised that if I share my posts with my friends in Facebook I get more readership for my blog. It is also interesting to exchange views, greetings and news in Facebook.
The last decade has brought such a great change in communication and technology and made it possible for women like me who have never worked to learn new skills. For example the website ‘Duolingo’ - I had always wanted to learn French because when I read English novels sometimes I came across French words and phrases which were literally Greek to me! Now I regularly do French lessons on Duolingo and actually enjoy doing them.
As if these were not enough for an old lady, my latest discovery is Codeacademy. Coding is very exciting, learning about strings, booleons, modulos, concatenation and things like that. It is actually like learning a new language! I am now getting into Python and I have learnt a bit of Java as well.
When I get something right and I get a message saying “way to go!” I feel delighted like a child. When the message says ‘syntax error’ in red I try to find out what went wrong. Most of the time it will be a small punctuation mark like a comma, or a colon and when I manage to find and fix it I feel overjoyed. When I get stuck I try again and again till I get it right!
Coding takes me back to my college days when my main subject was maths and I used to love solving problems. It keeps my mind alert. I want to now complete the Python course and then move on to Java. Later on I want to try building something on my own.
Nowadays there is a vast amount of technology available at our fingertips and so much is possible. There are many more opportunities to learn. If I, an elderly woman can do all these things what can all of you, the young girls of today not accomplish?
Balam Sunderasan: Grandma, active blogger, music enthusiast, Indian chef and amateur artist.
Code First: Girls