Girls in Tech: how Katie fell in love with coding

Katie is a creator of I’m Okay, which she designed with her team during the Apps for Good course at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School in the West Midlands. After winning the 2014 Apps for Good Awards, I’m Okay won the Tech for Good Awards and were finalists for the BBC Radio 1 Teen Hero Awards. Below, Katie shares how she’s become inspired by a future in computing.

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Girls in Tech: how Ellora made her idea a reality

Ellora is a creator of Envirocache, which she designed with her team during the Apps for Good course at Wick High School in Scotland. Since the course, Ellora has been working hard to transform her app idea into a reality. Ellora is a finalist for the 2017 FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards. Below, Ellora explains how she gained the confidence to pursue her idea.

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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.

Exploring ideas and tech careers at Elstree UTC

Apps for Good Expert Sian Davies is a Business Analyst in BI and data projects recently led an Idea Generation session at Elstree UTC. Here she tells us all about the session which saw Elstree’s students sharing their creative and innovative solutions. 

I would like to impose a 3-minute rule on all office meetings; if the problem or solution which gave rise to the meeting cannot be expressed adequately within that time, then the meeting should be cancelled immediately. That’s where we started from at UTC Elstree where the team from Apps for Good had invited me to facilitate an Ideas Generation Session and to give a short career talk on my tech industry experience to a group of students. A lot of seasoned professionals freak out when I give them a 3-minute countdown. The assembled brains at Elstree took it in their stride.

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Sian Davies speaking with students from Elstree UTC

Elstree UTC is a technical school focusing on media and the arts. Meeting the students, witnessing their ambition and fire, and touring the school to view their unique facilities were highlights of the visit. Knowing that they were staying late to meet us, we all tried to keep the sessions interactive and fun – but we needn’t have worried – each of the students were engaged and lively, coming up with fresh ideas and communicating them happily to the group.

Talking to them about my experience in the tech industry was trickier to plan; what to tell them, show them, how to get across the breadth of roles and opportunities they will run into when they have completed their education, the sorts of challenges they might encounter; all of this whilst harbouring suspicions that they probably already know more about new and emerging technologies than me!

But I instinctively knew what were the messages I needed to get across because they were the ones I wish I’d had; that evolving your career through your own decisions is ok – and knowing what you want to do in your mid-career when you are 16 is not compulsory. That it’s ok to be wrong – I gave them an example of my incorrectly interpreting a technology trend and publishing it. And that the industry requires lots of different skill sets, which can be learnt on the way.

 

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Students worked together to share their ideas 

 

Finally, by my appearing in front of them as a woman who has made their way in this industry, I feel I am contributing to a wider effort to shift perspectives. I hope to be followed into this school by more women in tech, and especially women of colour so that the female students present will see people who look more like them, presenting their chosen industry.

Celebrating diversity in tech

In our latest blog Arfah Farooq shares her experiences of working to improve diversity within the tech sect. Arfah leads on the various marketing campaigns to get people excited about Makers Academy, a 12 week coding course! She is passionate about changing lives and empowering more minorities and women into technology. She has set up MuslamicMakers a meetup for Muslims working in tech and is a Youth Trustee of charity Spark+Mettle.  You can follow her on Twitter to keep up to date with her work.

I am a British Muslim Pakistani woman who has been working in technology for 3 years. In this respect, I am unusual –  only 15% of the UK technology workforce are female, and even fewer are Muslim. For the last 2 years I’ve been working at Makers Academy where I’ve met an incredible diverse amount of women from a variety of backgrounds who have learnt to code.

My journey into technology was a bit of an accident and I often found myself suffering imposter syndrome where I feel like I don’t quite belong or I don’t deserve to be there because no one really looked like me or came from the same background. This is why it’s great that Apps for Good is pushing more women to take the role of expert to inspire more girls to consider a career in technology.  By encouraging women to become experts it helps women realise that they are an expert, but also it helps inspire the girls who can look up to these women are role models.

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Afrah Farooq is passionate about encouraging diversity in tech. 

 

Having role models is super important and it was one of the reasons my friend Murtaza and I, set up “Muslamic Makers” – a community for Muslims working in technology. A question we often get asked is why? There’s poor ethnic representation in the tech startup world, there are barriers such as traditional upbringing, lack of opportunity, education and resourcse.  There is also a huge gap in confidence especially as the technology world can be overwhelmingly white and middle class. Me and Murtaza however knew of a handful of Muslims working in and around technology so the mission was simple: to bring them together to create a community and create a safe space for guys & girls who wouldn’t attend the usual tech events due cultural barriers like not drinking alcohol. A simple space space to inspire, network and create future role models to contribute to a much more inclusive technology world.

 

 

Inspired by what I was doing and their own experiences in technology, two amazing Makers Academy graduates, Chuka Ebi and Adil Ali, decided to set up “Black Techies”, a community for black professionals working in technology. As Adil says “I came up with the idea of black techies when I realised that one of my only black role models in tech was Chuka. The first time I met him was at a party during my second week at Makers, and he was working at Fjord. He was someone that I could look up to, and aspire to be like, and he gave me a lot of great advice that night and thereafter.”

Adil continues, “Black Techies was created to make a community of black developers and hopeful developers, so that we could support, inspire, and collaborate with one another. It’s not hard to be different, nor is it a curse (as a lot of people seem to assume), but being alone is extremely difficult, and sometimes very disheartening. Black Techies was made so that black developers could have a place where they weren’t alone.”

My own passion for diversity in technology is continuing to grow stronger! I now curate a Snapchat account celebrating #DiversityInTech. My hope is that the account will be taken over by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, and anyone else who works in technology and wants to celebrate diversity. I’m excited about the Apps for Good’s fellows who will be taking it over at some point! If you’re interested in taking over just send me your details here and be sure to add the account!
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Girls in Tech: how did we get here?

We’re kicking off a series to accompany a new three-year project supported by Comic Relief, which aims to challenge sexism in the digital sector. Here Max Baczynski from the Apps for Good Business Development team examines the history of some of the issues facing girls in tech. Later blogs will focus on what we’re doing to try to improve diversity in the tech sector as part of the project, and, in true Apps for Good style, where we’re succeeding and where we’re failing.

We all know that women are terribly underrepresented in tech, with only 17% of positions in the UK tech industry filled by women. The real question is why? What happened to women in computer science?

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