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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UX for Change: Taking the plunge as an Apps for Good Dragon!

Claire Unwin, Systems Analyst at Atos, shares her experience of taking the plunge and becoming an Apps for Good Expert. 

On the upper floor of a lively pub near Moorgate, I attended the inaugural Meetup of UX for Change. Sandra Gonzalez, who I’d met through the Axure London Meetups, had a vision to shape the next generation of UX Designers. We’d all heard about the government initiatives to get children coding, but what about getting children learning thoughtful, user centred design skills?

It was an enthralling and energising evening for me. Sandra had assembled a fantastic group of UX panellists, able to share their experience of the industry and their vision for the future. One key speaker, Debbie Forster, CEO of Apps for Good told the story of how the initiative “Where young people learn to create apps that change their world” had grown 400% in the last 2 years. Supported by a network of ‘experts’ in the field and industry, schools sign up to a program of taking a mobile app from concept to coding to launch. I have over 20 years’ experience in software delivery including mobile but always in a commercial, profit driven environment. Here was my chance to share experience and be part of something really good!

So the next day, I checked out the Apps for Good website, read anecdotes from other industry experts, watched the videos of their experience giving Skype calls with school groups for Ideas Screening or UX Design modules and then eventually, (yes I know – far too cautious!), I took the plunge.

Registered as an ‘expert’, I chose the modules where I felt I could add value and waited to see what happened. An email arrived inviting volunteers to support Skype sessions with schools. I booked a session with a primary school for the following Thursday, in my lunch hour. When Thursday came, I booked a meeting room at work and then sat nervously waiting for the school to contact me on Skype. The children were great – very engaged, equally nervous and despite the technology failing a couple of times in the 40 minutes, the teacher was on hand to get us re-connected, as he put one group in front of the camera at a time.

Nerves out of the way, I now try and do a session a month to fit in with the day job and I was thrilled to be asked to be a ‘Dragon’ at an in school pitch event being run at Denbigh High  in Luton last month.

Claire@Denbigh

‘I was thrilled to be asked to be a ‘Dragon’ at an in school pitch event’ 

Keeping up the UX for Change momentum, I most recently supported the initiative to design Lean Personas for a Humanitarian cause which tested our ability to imagine what needs, fears and motivations a young, vulnerable, pregnant refugee may have for a mobile app.  For me, in exchange for a small amount of time or the crowdfunding donation of the Meetup ticket, UX for Change and Apps for Good provide an opportunity to grow and learn. So I’m very glad I went to that noisy pub in Moorgate last year.

International Women’s Day: Don’t be afraid to discover new things

Katie is a member of the Apps for Good Fellowship and co-creator of Apps for Good Awards winning app, I’m Okay. Ahead of International Women’s Day Katie, and other girls from the Apps for Good Fellowship,  joined us for a Discover Careers in Tech session with Apps for Good Expert Jenny Fallover.  

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to join an online session with the Fellowship and Jenny Fallover from Thomson Reuters to learn what it is like to work in tech, what skills we need to be successful and how to get into the tech industry. Here are my key takeaways from the session:

Nobody should feel they cannot do something because of who they are
I quickly learnt that Jenny didn’t initially plan to work in the tech industry and saw computing as a hobby, mainly because it was seen as a male dominated profession and, arguably, still is. Jenny made it very clear that there is no such thing as a male or female job and consolidated the idea that nobody should feel that they cannot do something because of who they are.

Discover what is out there and what you enjoy doing

There are many different kinds of career opportunities in tech, ranging from project manager to technical writer or software engineer. Jenny advised us to research and try out different opportunities, writing down what we like doing, what we would like in a future job and what our strengths are. 

Jenny reinforced the idea that we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves and I really agree with her; the tech industry is always changing and there are so many different opportunities in tech that we should try to not pass up an offer that could spark a path for our future. Jenny also suggested we seek opportunities to work with diverse teams, which can spark a variety of different ideas and inspire us to be creative!

I'm Okay

Katie with her I’m Okay teammates.

When seeking opportunities, it never hurts to ask!

When giving advice about finding work experience, Jenny emphasised that we should never be afraid to ask. Effective ways to gain work experience include sending letters and emails or walking into an office to ask. Employers are desperate for people in tech; Jenny recalled having three interviews and being offered a job in all three!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

When I asked which programming language would be the most useful to learn for a job, Jenny replied that it mostly depended on the type of job. However Java, python and HTML are very widely used.

I also learned that if you do have an idea don’t be afraid to use open source code or to ask for help, as there are many people who will be happy to review your code or check for bugs. GitHub is one website where you can easily find inspiration and collaborate on projects.

I really enjoyed this Fellows hangout session, it felt great to celebrate International Women’s Day by discussing the tech world with other girls and getting such great insights from Jenny.

Do you want to join in our next Fellows Hangout? Apps for Good students can join The Fellowship to discover future hangouts and many more opportunities.

Want to hear Jenny’s take on the session click here to read her blog.

International Women’s Day: celebrate what makes you unique for a career in tech

Jenny Fallover is Project Manager at Thomson Reuters and is a member of our Expert Community.  Ahead of International Women’s Day 2016 Jenny shared her expertise with a group of  girls from the Apps for Good Fellowship for our Discover Careers in Tech session.

I became an Apps for Good Expert, and haven’t looked back since.

I first got involved with Apps for Good when the wonderful Bob Schukai MBE, Head of Applied Innovation at Thomson Reuters asked me if I wanted to co-mentor the award winning app I’m Okay, which supports LGBTQI young people and is available on the Google Play store.

I jumped at the chance and enjoyed the experience so much that I became regular Apps for Good Expert and haven’t looked back since. One of the things that struck me about Apps for Good was the equal participation of male and female pupils. Having worked in technology since the 1990’s I have always felt like a minority in the industry and unfortunately the number of females in technology seems to be dropping. Encouraging young females into careers in STEM starts at school, and Apps for Good does such a fantastic job of harnessing their creativity and enthusiasm and teaching them real world business and technology skills.

The team behind I'm Okay

I’m Okay were the first Apps for Good team that Jenny worked with

My career path could have been very different.

During the online session with the girls, I spoke about my journey into technology and how it was a hobby for me from a young age. I never imagined it could be a career for me until a male manager spotted me giving colleagues technical help and proposed that I was sent on a day release to study business information technology. If it hadn’t been for him my career path could have been very different.

Technology changes rapidly, so it’s important to listen and learn.

We discussed my experience of how the technology landscape has changed over the years, what skills are core to any role in the field (for example, being a strong communicator, creative and open-minded, and a good problem solver). We discussed how young people can think about what their strengths are, and do their research to find a role that makes the most of these. We also talked about sticking to a five year plan, since technology changes so rapidly and so do the roles. It’s important to develop your listening and learning skills.

Celebrate what makes you unique.

One of the other key topics we spoke about was how diversity is good for business. Many case studies have shown that when people collaborate in teams across different backgrounds, it makes for a more creative and successful workforce. I encouraged the Fellows to embrace and celebrate any differences they have, rather than hide them, as by being different they are bringing something special to the table.

We also discussed not pigeon-holing yourself and never assuming a role has a gender. If you are capable and are excited to pursue something then stay determined, never give up and never be afraid to ask for help to reach your goals.

Creating opportunities to support young technologists.

Finally, we spoke about work experience and internships.  The fellows expressed that finding these positions at companies was challenging.  This is where Apps for Good and companies that are interested in the next generation of tech talent can help.  If your company isn’t partnering with organisations like Apps for Good to provide positions to students like the Fellows, then they should be- as they are missing out on a very keen and talented pipeline.

I look forward to being involved in further events like this, as it’s exciting to think that the future of technology is in the hands of these bright and talented individuals, thanks to Apps for Good.

Are you a woman in tech? Would you like to help inspire girls and boys about the role women can play in the tech industry? Join the TechFuture Women’s Network now to become an Apps for Good Expert and to avail of other mentoring opportunities. 

Click here to see what Katie, one of our Apps for Good Fellows, thought of the session. 

Women in tech! Help us inspire the next generation

On Ada Lovelace Apps for Good, Capgemini and Tech Partnership are teaming up to launch the TechFuture Women’s Network. In this blog Apps for Good’s co-CEO Debbie Forster  explains how the Network seeks to tackle the gender imbalance in the technology industry.

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and for us it’s the perfect time to look towards the next generation of women in STEM. We are proud to team up with Capgemini and the Tech Partnership today to launch the TechFuture Women’s Network, an initiative which will use the energy of female role models to alter perceptions of the industry, and help to build a more diverse and tech savvy workforce.

We’re asking women working in the digital and technology sector to join the TechFuture Women’s Network, a community of professionals taking part in programmes that promote technology in schools.

We’re delighted that the first opportunity available to members of the TechFuture Women’s Network is to join our Apps for Good Expert Community. Members of our Expert Community share their skills and knowledge with our student teams as they develop ideas for apps – getting loads of energy, inspiration and new perspectives in return.

Help us inspire a generation of girls in tech like the I'm Okay team

Help us inspire a generation of girls in tech like the I’m Okay team

Industry role models can be an important part of careers advice and this is especially true for technology. The technology sector is complex and constantly in flux, so it can be difficult to get beyond job titles. Having someone visit the classroom or connect online and speak about their day-to-day job or how their company works can widen students’ perspectives. This is especially important for your female students. Although uptake of computing A-levels by girls has increased this year by around 45 per cent, they lag far behind boys, making up just 8% of this year’s A-levels (that’s only 456 girls or 0.1 per cent of the entire A-level cohort). Part of the problem is that girls still see computing as ‘geeky’ and ‘male’, but you can help counter these stereotypes by establishing female role models for both your male and female students. This will contribute towards a new “norm” in the eyes of both genders and help the girls who then make these choices feel more accepted. We hope that the increasing number of women who join our Expert Community via the TechFuture Women’s Network will help us establish this new norm.

Over the next few months the Network will grow to include more opportunities for TechFuture Women to mentor and inspire young people by showing them the range of opportunities within the technology sector. By joining the Network here you will automatically become an Apps for Good Expert as well as receive updates and invitations to future initiatives. We look forward to working with you to inspire the next generation of women in tech!

Press Release: Woman in Technology? Inspire a new generation now!

London, 13 October 2015 – Women working in technology are now being offered an opportunity to inspire a new generation, via the TechFuture Women’s Network. The network is being launched today by education movement Apps for Good, employer organisation the Tech Partnership, and the consulting, technology and outsourcing services provider Capgemini, to address the gender imbalance within the technology sector. With new research[1] confirming that women continue to be significantly under-represented in technology, the initiative is designed to harness the energy of female role models to alter perceptions of the industry, and to help advance the process of building a more diverse and tech savvy workforce.

As part of the initiative, women working in the digital and technology roles at all levels are being asked to sign up to the TechFuture Women’s Network, a community of professionals taking part in programmes that promote technology in schools. The aim is to change the way that young people learn about technology, and ensure they see the range and excitement of tech careers open to them.

Michelle Perkins, Director, Schools Outreach Programme at Capgemini, outlines the thinking behind the TechFuture Women’s Network: “If we’re to attract talented young people into tech careers, we need to start early, so working with school age children is vital. We know that nothing is more powerful for young people than seeing real-life success – people who are clearly having enjoyable and worthwhile careers – so we hope that female tech specialists will jump at the chance to act as role models. Both boys and girls need to hear and be influenced by women already working in the industry.”

Debbie Forster, co-CEO of Apps for Good, adds: “School students really value their interaction with business people, and the positive modelling they provide adds an extra dimension to the Apps for Good programme. We’re delighted to be working with Capgemini, and the other employers of the Tech Partnership, to encourage mentors to join us in schools.”

The first of opportunities available to the TechFuture Women’s Network is to join the Apps for Good Expert Community. Apps for Good Experts share their skills and knowledge with enthusiastic student teams as they develop ideas for apps – getting loads of energy, inspiration and new perspectives in return.  In the last academic year, more than 25,000 students took part.

There are also openings to mentor young women in TechFuture Girls clubs, after school or lunchtime clubs aimed at girls aged 10 – 14. Since its launch in 2005, more than 150,000 girls have benefited from its mix of activities, games and projects, all designed to build their skills and confidence in technology.  Mentors visit the clubs regularly to support the girls and provide new perspectives on the learning.

Register here for full details of TechFuture Women’s Network, and to receive updates and invitations.

 More about the partners behind the TechFuture Women’s Network

About The Tech Partnership

The Tech Partnership is a growing network of employers creating the skills for the digital economy. We work to inspire young people about technology, accelerate the flow of talented people from all backgrounds into technology careers, and help companies develop the technology skills they need for the future.

About Capgemini

Now with 180,000 people in over 40 countries, Capgemini is one of the world’s foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services. The Group reported 2014 global revenues of EUR 10.573 billion. Together with its clients, Capgemini creates and delivers business, technology and digital solutions that fit their needs, enabling them to achieve innovation and competitiveness. A deeply multicultural organization, Capgemini has developed its own way of working, the Collaborative Business ExperienceTM, and draws on Rightshore®, its worldwide delivery model.

Learn more about us at www.capgemini.com.

Rightshore® is a trademark belonging to Capgemini

About Apps for Good

Apps for Good is an education technology movement that is transforming the way technology is taught in schools, turning young tech consumers into tech creators.

Working alongside educators Apps for Good has developed a free flexible course framework that infuses digital learning with teamwork, creativity and entrepreneurship. Students find a problem they want to solve and apply new skills to making a real life app, exploring the full product development cycle from concept to coding to launch in a way that brings the classroom to life.

Apps for Good partners with educators in schools and learning centres to deliver its app development course to young people 10-18 years of age. In the 2014/15 academic year, the programme has been delivered to over 25,000 students within more than 500 Education Partners across the whole of the UK.

Apps for Good is currently recruiting schools to join as Education Partners for 2015/2016 visit appsforgood.org to find out more

For further information please contact:

Lalage Clay, Head of Communications, the Tech Partnership lalage.clay@thetechpartnership.com 07908 229625

Noreen Aldworth, Communications & Events Manager, Apps for Good noreen.aldworth@appsforgood.org 02081506908

Magda Bulska, PR Manager, Capgemini, magda.bulska@capgemini.com, 0789 1156 339

[1] Tech Partnership / BCS Women in IT Scorecard 2015 https://www.thetechpartnership.com/resources/