Who Run The (Tech) World? Girls.

August 18, 2015 | By Priya Bhana

A colleague of a friend who was my ex-colleague (you know how it goes with the degrees of separation in the Melbourne creative community) launched an initiative a couple of weeks back called ‘Code Like A Girl’.

It was Ally Watson’s intention to bring together like-minded members of the Melbourne tech community together, but catering specifically to – girls – a place where inspiration would spring. If the launch event was anything to go by, she achieved that. Hello, World!’ an event she, in conjunction with the wonderfully hospitable Deepend agency held at the Inspire9 studio in Richmond. She created a space that encouraged, embraced and connected women in technology in an inviting way.

Other than it being a wonderfully organized event with delicious snacks (always a bonus – keep em’ fed and watered and they won’t turn on ya!) and a generous bar, the content, speakers and topics were compelling, honest and a joy to listen to.

I arrived and was greeted with a competition form, a tote-bag gift and introduced myself to designers, women just starting out learning programming languages and a bonus, women I used to work with. We were introduced to a 5-woman panel. The format was a Q & A session with founder and Ally Watson (Developer, Deepend), Shevaun Coker (Lead Developer, Envato), Johana Foster (Student, RMIT’s Switch VP), Giselle Rosman (Coordinator, IGDAMelbourne) Jo Cranford (Development Lead, CultureAmp) and the panel was facilitated by Kath Blackham (Owner, Deepend).

While I can’t remember all the questions, it was the responses that have kept me thinking since. Topics included females in leadership roles, having more schoolgirls in computer classes as well as studying technology at higher education. And everything in between given this field has traditionally been male-dominated. The panelists drew from their own experience, successes, tips and tricks from the lecture hall to working developers all the way to management.

The evening kicked off with Kath asking Ally what she wanted Code Like A Girl to achieve. She was brave and honest in her answer. The sentiment of removing ‘the intimidation and scariness’ of being a girl in tech can feel stood out most in my mind from her comments. There was so much discussed about how often the panelists felt that they were one of a small handful in classes and around the boardroom table and represented at higher management with so many Directors, CEOs and business owners being male.

I reflected upon my own experience where there have only been two examples where my manager or business owner was male. I’ve been honored to be led by mostly women in business. And if they didn’t run the company, they were front-and-center of ensuring the place ticked along, or co-founders. Thank goodness for the Wellington (NZ) creative industry that, while still dominated by men, has amazing creative female leads. This trend for my personal employment path has continued on for me at 10collective with Georgie, a business started from her home 7 years ago – now 11 people strong; 6 with vaginas and smarts to boot!

Another topic at Code Like A Girl was the idea that at times panelists felt as though they were imposters, about to be ‘found out’; that the phrase ‘fake it till you make it’ was very real for them. The idea that women in technology feel like a minority and with that can come a lack of confidence. Another panelist talked about examples where male colleagues wouldn’t pay attention to an idea or suggestion that she or other female colleagues made but as soon as a male may say the same thing it was given attention.
It was posited that women should not shy away from saying good things about ourselves and be proud of the work we do.
Personally, it’s a day-to-day struggle. I find receiving compliments and more off, feeling good about my achievements difficult. But like anything, I’ll work at it.

The panelists talked about women in the game development industry, developers and those learning about technology. Giselle commented that the game development industry sees the benefit of having a diverse workplace, but that there is still work to be done. Johana thought that Australian Universities are simply not doing enough to attract women to enroll in IT/Tech courses. However, student societies like RMIT SWITCH exist to provide support and encouragement and foster passion among women in tech.
Empowering women, encouraging women and ensuring that more voices are heard in our industry is something 10collective supports wholly in what we say and do.

The panelists shared their resources for success and top tips for those of us out there who were curious about what tools they employ. Staying up to date with industry news, tools such as Trello and attending networking and learning events and Meet-ups were high on the list. In terms of advice for anyone wanting to get into the tech industry was to put yourself out there, network and showcase your work.
 The Lead Developers both agreed that practicing code tests and getting feedback on the ones you’ve completed will help you continue to improve.

The 10collectivites couldn’t agree more. We know that grads and juniors need a chance and the experience to become more experienced at their job, until that happens, work on your own projects, freelance for friends. Get your portfolio looking juicy, put your skills to the test and really demonstrate you have the skills needed to play in tech and continue to develop your passion, regardless of gender.

56% of women leave tech.
The panelists encouraged women to not leave the tech industry. ‘Give it a go! Express yourself! Do something that scares you. Smash the stereotype!’ they said. One panelist saying, “Don’t leave the industry. Leave where you’re working”; suggesting it just might be that you’re not in the right place not necessarily that you’re in the wrong industry.

In terms of advice the panelists had for women in the industry, one said, “Go for a good boss. That’s really worked out for me”. And impressed the importance of having an honest relationship between employee and manager. The panel then discussed the importance of having good managers, and “good managers care about you and not the manager above them”. Another panelist went on to say, “Don’t underestimate the influence of a direct manager”.

One of the last questions asked of each of the panelists was what they wanted the future to look like for women in tech. Ally, the founder of Code Like A Girl wanted the future of the tech industry to be more accessible for everyone.

Johana, the RMIT student said that the day she stops hearing men say, “You’re pretty good, for a woman”, is what she wanted her future to be.

I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you and well done to all involved.
I was so excited to attend and I’m looking forward to the next event. See you there.

For more information:
http://www.codelikeagirl.com.au
http://www.meetup.com/codelikeagirlau/
@codelikeagirlau

And congratulations Ally for the vision and the reception it’s getting.