Today was Ada Lovelace day and at Makers Academy we celebrated this by having a panel discussion about the issues facing women in technology, as well as women wanting to get into technology.
Having also been a Physics teacher, this is something I am very familiar with. For all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, this is the same question that has been asked decade after decade.
How many girls are actually in technology?
At the point of writing this, the percentage of women in the IT industry is a measly 17%. This is a ridiculously low number. But why is it so low?
There are countless studies and articles written by people much more qualified than I am that have tried to answer this question. Their theories vary from the toys children are given in childhood, to the percentage of female STEM teachers to the idea that STEM subjects are portrayed as “masculine” in society.
I don’t know the answer to the question. I do, however, know two things.
a) it is possible to change this gender balance
Makers Academy is young. They are still new to the whole idea of teaching coding. But with effort and determination, in their 16th cohort, Makers Academy has managed to get 43% female students. This is an incredible achievement, keeping in mind that the percentage of women in the IT industry is 17%.
This means that I am lucky enough to be part of a cohort that feels very evenly balanced. Sitting in a lecture and looking around me, it would be very easy to forget that I was trying to enter an industry in which I would very much be in the minority.
But days like today remind me that I am, in fact, in the minority, but there is hope that this won’t always be the case.
b) I got in to coding because no body told me I couldn’t
I went to a very small International School in Tanzania which meant we all grew up in a sort of bubble. We were quite protected from media and social ideas that are maybe more pronounced in Western society.
I enjoyed Physics and English, so I continued both of these subjects into IB. Both of my teachers for these subjects were male, but that didn’t make me think that I couldn’t continue these subjects into University. So I did.
When I decided to quit teaching and go into coding, I knew that about the gender imbalance. However, I figured that if I could get into Physics teaching despite the gender imbalance in that subject, why should the fact that I was a woman stop me getting into coding?
So what’s my point?
That there is hope. More and more women are getting into code and there are numerous organisations that are promoting this, including the following;