Diversity in tech: breaking down barriers

This year, one of our key goals at Apps for Good is encouraging and championing greater diversity within tech. Working with thought leaders, Fellows and our Expert Community, we’re helping to transform young people’s perceptions of technology as well as highlighting the opportunities and diversity within the tech sector.

As part of this process, we have been identifying the barriers to diversity and looking to address these challenges through a series of initiatives. These include face to face engagement activities such as workshops, focus groups, Expert hangouts and workplace experiences for our students & Fellows. We have also been hearing from women and other minorities within tech and business about their own experiences as well as the growing opportunities for young people within STEM careers.

The importance of role models

Attending events like the WeAreTech:Women Conference and ADA lovelace live, we were able to hear from pioneering female role models within STEM and learnt one of the main ways to address these issues is by increasing the visibility of both senior women and “near mentors” to our students.

“I absolutely believe you can’t be what you can’t see and without role models and visionaries, younger girls don’t know what they can aspire to be.” – Melissa Di Dinato (Area VP of Salesforce, UK)

We’ve been making sure to champion ‘near mentors’ by highlighting the successes of some of our student teams, such as WeKonnekt and I’m Okay, who recently celebrated being nominated for BBC Teen Hero award. 

 

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Near mentors: Successful Apps for Good Fellows like weKonnekt & I’m Okay can help inspire students

 

 

We’re also building more relationships with tech leaders and were able to speak at events organised by CogecoPeer1 and Capgemini. By collaborating with these companies we can help spread the word on diversity issues and work to grow our Expert volunteering community. We have already seen some success with the Expert Community’s female membership grow from 32% in 2015 to 44% in 2016, with the aim of getting to 50% by 2018. This is important as 50% of our students are girls aged between 10-18 and it is vital for these girls (and the boys in their classes) to see examples of women working in the tech sector so that they can understand there is a place for them in the industry.

“It was lovely for the girls in our school to meet a female role model who is working in the industry.” – Rhona Winterburn (teacher), The Abbey School

One of our most engaged female Experts, Sian Davies recently led a workshop at Elstree UTC where she spoke about her own journey into tech and explored tech careers more broadly with both boys and girls.

 

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Sian Davies discusses tech careers with students at Elstree UTC

 

Although increasing visibility is important, we’re also keen for students to have hands-on experience within the world of work.  Fellow Tasneem and a number of other students spent a day at SAP, where they had the opportunity to try real-world tools and look at skills building for the future. In the new year, Spotify will be hosting a female Fellows takeover, where Fellows will get to shadow senior members of the team, network with Spotify employees and gain some insights into the future of digital music.

Wider diversity

As we approach 2017, our aim is to move beyond gender diversity to also focus on inclusion and wider diversity within STEM. We have been hearing from other groups within tech, including Arfah Farooq from Muslamic Makers, on the importance of celebrating wider diversity in tech and want to hear from other communities. We will be running a Diversity panel in February bringing Fellows, Experts and thought leaders together to look at how our course and programme can be more inclusive, and what steps the wider industry needs to take to become more inclusive.

As our campaign continues, we’re looking forward to continuing our work with students, Experts and partners to identify the skills and support young people need to move towards a career in tech and explore how we can be as inclusive as possible. By doing this we hope to inspire and excite both girls and boys about the opportunities available to them in the world of work and beyond.