You may have noticed that it's National Coding Week. Why do we have a week-long event dedicated to coding? Because it's everywhere! Tech, IT, Digital: whatever you like to call it, this industry is integrated into almost every business. It's fused into Medicine, Fashion, Architecture and so many more. Wherever we look, we're crossing paths with technology - just look at the rise of social media and the need for it for businesses to succeed and thrive. Yet, for various reasons, there's still a 44K shortfall of UK STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates. On top of this, only 27% of the digital workforce is female. We are missing out on a huge portion of talent, holding the digital industry back from really reaching its full potential.
Let's be honest - we're all aware of the gender stereotype in the IT industry. We know that over 50% of gamers are female, yet only 4% develop them. We know that out of the 100 richest tech entrepreneurs in the world, only seven are women. This clearly does nothing to tackle the fact that, when a lot of people envisage 'someone from the IT industry', they picture a certain type of person - usually a man. Because of this, we're directly thwarting many girls' first interest in this great industry.
Recently, we saw Isis Wenger (a software engineer from San Francisco) face backlash online due to being "too pretty" to be in her company's engineering ad. This led to the creation of the hashtag, #ILookLikeAnEngineer, and thousands of women in the tech industry tweeting their photos and job titles. By doing this, these women have helped to highlight female role models in a wide range of areas. They embody the 'If I can do it, so can you' mentality. Isis Wenger has empowered thousands of women and, triumphantly fighting against gender stereotypes.
Women Who Code is a world-wide not for profit which aims to eradicate the gender bias in the industry through free monthly hack nights, tech talks and career trainings. With over 30,000 members we are slowly but surely creating local havens all over the world for women to come and grow their confidence, network and nurture their digital talent. By bringing women together like this, we're able to empower them and allow them to realise that fame is not a prerequisite to be a role model - by taking that step to learn new skills, they are becoming every day role models (for the current and next generation).
In order to enable women (and men) to boost their skills, we need to provide them with events and resources. National Coding Week aims to inspire people to learn coding and other digital skills through face to face sessions, online training and reverse mentoring. By providing sessions all over the UK, National Coding Week is a facilitator for women (regardless of their background) to either invest their time in developing a new digital skill or share what they already know with someone else.
National Coding Week comes at a time of real momentum for the coding industry which is great to see. Even A-list celebrities are getting involved, most recently Karlie Kloss, a Victoria's Secret model, who has spoken about how amazing coding is and how it can affect girls' lives in such a positive way. She's been so enchanted by the industry that she has even founded her own coding scholarship with Flatiron School, Kode with Karlie. Karlie, alongside the many other coding advocates such as Lyndsey Scott and Lily Cole are all helping to erase the gender stereotypes , showing that you do not need to be a man, a 'geek' or a 'nerd' to be in the industry - all you need is an interest. And with BBC Three recently launching its Girls Can Code series it feels as though we are progressively changing the issues women have had to face in tech.
Projects like those above, alongside the huge shift in the UK national curriculum are all providing girls with opportunities to experience the tech industry.
I am a firm believer in 'slow and steady wins the race'. Will it take two more generations before the issue with females in our industry is non-existent? I think so. However, with all of the fantastic work happening to exterminate this issue, it can only go one way. Here's to another fantastic National Coding Week.