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Women who code: Hacking stereotypes

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There is a pressing need for women in coding. Despite overwhelming interest in computer science by girls in lower stages of school, only a fraction continue to graduate in a relevant discipline. With Computer Science jobs predicted to be the highest-paying sector over the next decade (paying almost $15,000 more than average), young, tech savvy girls are missing out.

Whilst the tech industry is largely positive and disregarding of gender, a conversation with Lara Inskip, foremost software developer based in Washington highlighted “the real lack of female tech leads”. There are no role models and it seems the incredible achievements of today’s female coders are not being headlined. Girls are lacking essential inspiration that cements and progresses career choices.

But, with National Coding Week kicking off last Monday bigger and better than ever before, it is important to highlight the integral role women programmers play in the industry and demonstrate how gender stereotypes are being hacked each and every day.

Where better to begin than Matter Of Form’s very own offices?

Our Front End Developer, Kat Chumak, draws inspiration from her mother; a mathematician programmer who worked on the Soviet ES EVM in 1970s USSR.

“As a child, to see my mother working on computers the size of rooms in the very beginnings of the USSR’s computing industry was just so exciting.”

Kat’s mother is just one example of the pioneering role women have played in programming long before the staggering growth of the male dominated industry we see today. Another lies in the 1800s: Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, was the world’s first computer programmer who helped construct the phenomenal Analytical Engine. Thousands of women across Europe formed the essential crypto-analyst taskforce during World War Two. While Dina St Johnston and Dame Stephanie Shirley established the UK’s first software houses worthy of name in the late 1950s. The list goes on.

There is an exponentially growing number of training courses that facilitates and nurtures budding inspiration. Despite the frequent misconception that coding is a jargon-fuelled, complicated amass of numbers, programming is “one of the most prestigious and well-paid careers that you can teach yourself entirely online and with nearly no financial resources” according to Glamour. The Makers Academy in London has emitted a free programming guide and launched an apprenticeship scheme that it hopes will convince women to consider a career change as the tech sector’s gender gap widens. Code First: Girls and Women Who Code work with companies and with men and women directly, to help increase the number of women in tech.

There are the resources available – its just takes some searching to dig them out.

“Our mission is to inspire women to excel in technology careers” – Women Who Code Another of MOF’s front end developers, Amadea Kimmins, is testament to the ease with which women can enter the coding world. Knowing very little of coding following a degree in Economics and Philosophy, Amadea enrolled in as many free courses as she could find, primarily with companies such as Codecademy to get to grips with the basics. From there, she began a three month web development course and was quickly taken up by Matter Of Form.

“It was pretty intense and long hours but it is crazy how much you are capable of learning in just 3 months, enough to have left the course with a portfolio of 4 projects. On leaving the course I was by no means an expert but it gave me a great foundation to continue learning when I started working at MOF.”

Amadea has been working closely with high end clients, namely Yachting Partners International, creating a dashboard for their brokers to use with clients everyday when selling, buying or chartering yachts. Similarly Lara Inskip stumbled across coding following a degree in History. After chatting with her father about html, she found herself on a Makers Academy course for programming. She has since worked on an incredible range of digital consultancy, from client based projects with Waitrose to her own audiohistory project.

Rapidly improved access to coding is true for more than just the UK and has much wider implications for young girls across the world. With the necessary resources, global tech camps provide a rare opportunity for young, often economically disadvantaged girls to pursue STEM careers. In Morocco, for example, NGO, Dar Si Hmad, has organised a 10-day camp where a group of 20 young girls learn basic coding and the fundamentals of social media and digital photography. In fact, female based coding programs have sprung up all across Africa: from She Codes for Change and in Tanzania, The Clicking Generation in Botswana and Genius Centers in Cameroon to name but a few.

From a business standpoint, diversity in coding is essential. Great coding is the result of an eclectic mix of ideas, peoples and characters. Reducing the pool from which you choose an innovative, self-determined team creates a monotonous approach. How can you expect revolutionary change-makers when everyone thinks the same?

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Women Who Code envision “a world where women are proportionally represented as technical leaders, executives, founders, VCs, board members, and software engineers”. (image from Women Who Code Connect 2018 Conference)

“Having more females will transform the industry as it will lead to increased diversity in the workplace. Having a group of people that all think differently with varying perspectives, will increase the pool of resources and ideas available which will then lead to increased innovation.” – Amadea Kimmins

All Lara, Kat and Amadea have emphasised their fortune to work in a company and industry where your professional skills mean more than your gender. Lara has had “a hugely positive experience” and Kat emphasised how “every project still has that bit of magic – you’re making a site, and people all around the world can interact with your work.”

However, it is also important to emphasise the diminishing number of female programmers and reassert their importance to the industry. As the sector becomes more central to the world economy, it is essential women play their fair role.

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