Wanted to keep a note of a bunch of articles and books that I found recently around studies about gender diversity on teams. Prompted by a discussion with a programme manager at an investment bank and then subsequently with my fellow ThoughtWorks colleague Nic Ferrier
I found these often quoted “facts” and was trying to hunt down their sources…..
Tech companies with the highest representation of women in their management teams have a 34% higher return on investment than those with few or no women
I wanted to share with you a campaign that has been gaining traction in the UK recently.
There has been a lot more media coverage of the lack of women in IT due to the launch of a new book. The ladies of Lady Geek have launched a campaign through their social arm to inspire young girls to become the next pioneers in technology, and to get the attention of the British Government. The founder of Lady Geek, Belinda Parmar has written a book called Little Miss Geek, to go alongside this campaign.
Whats the book about? (From the book description on Amazon)
Belinda Parmar charts the rise of the Little Miss Geek as she fights her way from childhood, through school and into the heart of the technology industry. Along the way the book outlines practical steps that will bridge the gap between women and technology, and help inspire girls everywhere to be tech pioneers.
My copy of the book is currently winging it’s way to me, so once I’ve read it I will report back. Some parts of the campaign make me cringe slightly, there’s a lack of celebration of the achievements that women have had in technology, but their intentions are all good. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and speaking on a panel with some of the ladies from Lady Geek, and they are full of energy and drive for making a difference in this space. They also do a great job of addressing how the stereotypes around a “typical IT worker” can be so damaging when attracting people into our field, which we know is something thats always bothered me!
“What I like about the Little Miss Geek campaign is that it is practical. It goes beyond merely moaning about the data; it outlines simple techniques that companies and schools can employ to address the issue. As Parmar says, the plan is to address gender imbalance in tech in the same way that Jamie Olivertackled childhood obesity. There is a manifesto that companies can adopt to attract more women to the workplace — with initiatives such as apprenticeships, mentorship schemes, and “female heroes” programmes. Lady Geek also plans to run after-school coding clubs for girls and has started carrying out workshops in primary and secondary schools exploring boys’ and girls’ perceptions of the tech industry and attitudes towards the ICT curriculum.”
Women only make up 17% of the UK’s tech workforce and this has been falling by0.5% each year = we need to encourage more women to want to work in the tech industry.
There was only 1 girl for every 11 boys in the average UK A-Level computing class in2011. Girls account for 56% of high education applicants but only make up 14% of Computer Science and I.T. subjects = we need to excite girls to want to study computing, so they are more knowledgeable about tech.
80% of women want creative independent job roles. Only 30% of women believe that tech jobs can provide such an opportunity = we need to change the negative perception women have about the tech industry.
4 out of 10 gadgets are now bought by women but only 3% of women are creative directors in this industry = we need women to become creators of tech and not just consumers.
What we aim to achieve:
We hope to gain national Government awareness and backing, so the issue is taken seriously and initiatives are put into place to help get more females into the industry.
We won’t rest until women make up 50% of the UK’s tech workforce.
On Sunday I attended the first Geek Girl Meetup in London. see here
It was a great event, lovely to see such a vibrant and varied tech scene in London. There was a total cross section of people there too, from startup entrepreneurs to low latency Java devs to web developers.
I did a short version of my Altering the perception of the Software Developer talk and was also on a panel discussing whether or not, but having female only technical events are we creating a “girl ghetto”.
After the panel I was asked to be interviewed for a BBC 5 live podcast where I talked about why I became a software developer and about being a female in the tech industry.
Over the last year, while researching and preparing for my talk on “What if we could alter the perception of the Software Developer?”, I came across, and people sent me, dozens of links to great articles. I’ve tried to categorize them into a few posts (more to come soon) so that it’s easier to find stuff. The ones below are mostly about the stereotypical developer, how it may not always be true, and also how once upon a time (in the 60s), females where the stereotypical developers.
As a first time conference speaker, I was honored that they accepted my proposal for a birds of a feather session “What if… we could alter the perception of the “Software Developer”?”. More on how I submitted in a later blogpost. I found out that I had been accepted back in May, actually on my birthday! When I read the “Congratulations, you have been accepted…” email, I was so excited and proud of myself, I was literally jumping around my hotel room, whilst my boyfriend watched on waiting for my to realize what I had signed myself up for. Sure enough within minutes I was succumbed by dread. Now I have to actually write this thing, stand up in front of hundreds of people and not make an idiot of myself, I thought out loud.
What definitely helped was the couple of practice runs I did beforehand. The first one I did on my client site, I was pretty nervous. The audience was mixed, some developers as well as other members of the team. I thought it went well. Got a couple of good pieces of useful feedback like “Anne that whole section where you talk about yourself breaks up the flow of the talk”. Noted. Swiftly removed.
Two weeks before GHC I then did another practice talk but this time in my home ThoughtWorks office in Chicago. We had a bunch of candidates in that day and it was a Friday so there was a pretty large crowd. I knew they would be a supportive crowd so I definitely had a little less of the nerves. The new format worked well and it was the first time I got to really practice the fishbowl section of my talk.
The format of my talk was 15min of me introducing the topic and then 35-40mins of facilitated brainstorming. I invited members of the audience to come out to the front to discuss and share, always leaving 1 of the 6 chairs open so that someone else could join the conversation, causing someone else then to leave. My aim was for this to be a “safer” environment than just asking question at the microphone, also for an ever-changing panel.
I got some great feedback that the talk was fun, and interesting and also that I should remember to breathe. What normally took me 15mins to talk though I was done in under 10. Noted. Get one of the TWers in the audience to give me a secret signal when I’m going to fast.
I won’t lie I was nervous and very quiet (very unusual for me) for the whole of GHC leading up to my talk, which was the last session of the whole thing. Thoughts of “Does anyone even feel the same way?”, “Am I imagining that this is a topic that people are interested in”, “What if no one gets up to talk?”, “What if no one comes?” “What if thousands of people come?!” were definitely rattling round in my head.
While I was telling people about my talk whilst in Portland, I was amazed that people responded with “Ah yes, I had that one circled to go to!”. Blimy.
I was even freaking out about what to wear. (Such a girl…) Advice….Power dress.
Time for my session. I left the previous one where our CTO Rebecca was talking. She always does such a great job. Always blown away by how what she says makes complete and utter sense. At this point I won’t lie, I was petrified.
I have to mention the amazing support I had from my co-workers. In particular Cassie, a great friend of mine. She visited the room I would be speaking in earlier in the week with me. My co-workers were prepared to get up on the stage and get the conversation started, they were trying to keep my calm… they had great words of encouragement and were smiling up at me as I got onto the stage.
At this point something weird happened. I was overcome by a sense of complete calmness, no shaking, no nerves, nothing. I’m guessing my years at school in choirs and in drama on stage helped. I looked out at the 112 people watching me. Here goes I thought.
I was blown away by the response to my talk. You know how they say, you should find someone in the audience who you can keep looking back to for reassurance, well there was a lovely lady that I didn’t know sat a few rows back that was that person for me. As I looked out at the crowd they were laughing, they were leaning forward in their chairs, engaged and enthusiastic. No one left…. In my head I was thinking “Oh wow this is working….”. When time came for audience participation people were literally running to get up on stage. Amazing.
I wish I could put into words the feeling I had after getting down of that stage. People were waiting to talk to me. To tell me that I had inspired them, that I was a great speaker and it was great topic. I had a strange moment where I was hugging everyone who came up to talk to me. I was inundated with Twitter messages from people I had never met. My normal self-deprecating self was gone for a good few hours, infact it may still be gone. It was a HUGE adrenalin rush, and I’m so glad I did it. My friends I think were just as relieved as I was about how well it went.
So. I tell you this ‘warts and all’ story, and no doubt am revealing too many trade secrets, in a hope that next year, you too are brave enough to submit something and hopefully get accepted to GHC 2012. The experience was unforgettable.