Ladies — let’s bring it back to our coding routes

By Marty Stepien, Developer at Transform UK

Did you know the person who wrote the world’s first machine algorithm — hence the first ever programmer — was female?

And did you know that the ENIAC programmers (considered to be the first computer) — hence the first ever computer scientists — were all female too?

Outrageously, for over 50 years these six incredible scientists were mistaken for “Refrigerator Ladies”- pretty faces who posed for photographs with the machines (in fact, the only thing they got right there was that the first computers do look an awful lot like the back of a gigantic refrigerator).

At the birth of the tech industry a high proportion of women held these important roles. Yet today in the UK- where women make up 51% of the population- only 17% of employees in the tech sector are female.

Many studies show that teams with strong gender and race diversity achieve better results and perform better financially. So why is that we’re still struggling with this balance?

I’m one of the ladies to make up the 17% of female techies. Two years ago I decided to move away from my job in architecture to begin a career in programming. And so, barriers to entry in this industry, and what we can do to prevent them, is something I’m very passionate about.

My coding journey began with an organisation called Code First: Girls (CF:G). In Autumn 2015, without any previous experience in coding at all, I joined CF:G’s 8-week beginners’ course which introduced to me HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery and — the most terrifying of all back then… Git.

Code First: Girls is a not-for-profit that works hard to help young women access careers in tech through up-skilling them. They offer free coding courses for women to help address the gender imbalance in the tech industry. Courses are tailored to help address some of the learning challenges that women encounter when entering a field that they are new to, and a minority in.

Fast forward two years of hard work, and here I am in Autumn 2017. Once again, I’m attending the same CF:G web development beginners’ course. But this time…I’m a course coach and a professional developer at digital consultancy Transform!

This year’s Autumn CF:G course was hosted by Transform at their London office. With fellow Transform developer Cedric and CF:G coach Tanya we introduced 35 young women to the basics of web development through demystifying how the internet works; teaching web coding skills; making Git less intimidating (okay… I admit it still slightly scares me sometimes); and — most importantly — helping these inspiring ladies to create their very first fully coded and responsive websites.

One of the things that makes me proud to work at Transform is the company’s proactivity in tackling issues of diversity in the industry. With its own Women in Digital initiative, supporting programmes such as Code First: Girls is very important to them.

I’m also grateful to have such a strong female role model — Emma Robertson — as my CEO. So often it’s these small things that speaks volumes.

I believe it’s a lack of female role models that reinforces young women’s perceptions that a career in tech isn’t for them. They don’t want to enter a culture where they might feel like an outsider. And so, the more women we can encourage to get into tech now, the easier it will be for future generations.

I am optimistic that change will happen. I can see it happening already- thanks to programmes like CF:G- and it will only accelerate.

We’ve reached a turning point by acknowledging the problem and starting to address solutions. There’s certainly more work ahead, and it’s a tough issue, but the tech industry has solved tougher challenges before ( if we can master Git, we can master anything!).

Learn more about how you can get involved with Code First: Girls here[SW4]

Join Transform’s Women in Digital network here

Sign up to the Transform Women in Digital mailer here