CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap

Last night concluded our mini film series of CODE Girl and CODE: Debugging the gender gap.

My colleague, Sarah Plant and I decided to screen the films, as we’re strong advocates of women in tech and want to champion others to demand more from the industry when it comes to building a more inclusive and diverse industry.

We felt a short film series followed by discussion would start a number of good conversations on the subject.

Here’s what I’ve learnt

  • We have to be impatient about the issue of women in tech, it’s not going to fix itself
  • This issue is not just about women, it’s about all minority groups
  • There is an overall shortage of developers / people seeking a career in computer science which needs to change   
  • The government needs to make computer science a compulsory part of the curriculum at an earlier age.

“Only 10% of US high schools offer computer science classes”

  • Sponsoring a code course / providing grants for women to attend these is a great recruitment tool, Etsy managed to increase the number of women in their engineering team from 3% to over 30% in less than 3 years
  • Not having women involved in product development has detrimental effects
    • When airbags were first released, many women died because there were no female engineers involved in the making and testing of airbags. Therefore height, frame and weight differences weren’t considered.

“The bag was designed to protect the average man”

    • When voice recognition came out the system didn’t recognise a woman’s voice and as a result, on teleconferencing couldn’t pick up the image of a woman when she spoke.

These mistakes are going to keep happening whilst these teams are predominantly made up of white men.   

  • Just because you can’t see the problem, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there e.g. when Microsoft’s ‘Clippy’ character was tested, the overwhelming feedback approx. 90% of women felt the character was masculine and they didn’t engage with it, a board of nearly a dozen men couldn’t understand the feedback and largely disregarded it because “they couldn’t see it”
  • Don’t become a result of optimism bias, trust the facts
  • It’s not just a pipeline problem, companies need to think about how they’re going to retain women and work on creating environments where women feel respected and able to succeed as much as their male counterparts. 41% of women in tech will leave by the 10 year mark vs 17% for men. At that point, women feel their growth is stalling, whilst men feel they’re career is accelerating.

“Real substantial change in the industry has to come from there being women in leadership. You have to be impatient, this has to happen now we have to do what we can now, whatever it takes to move the number, we have to do that now”

Marc – Etsy

We have a culture problem in technology. We have to keep demanding and pushing because that’s how change happens.

For the technical revolution to really be great and to change this world, it’s got to be inclusive, it has to have women, people from colour, LGBT and from other marginalised communities. It can’t just be for a certain set of people.

I’m pleased that this mini film screening started some good conversations but I hope those conversations result in action in the workplace.

I’m proud to work for White October who has pledged to support diversity and equality in the workplace. Why not start by asking your employer to do the same.

We would really like to continue the film nights so if you have a film suggestion which relates to tech which you feel other people could learn from then please add your suggestions to this list http://bit.ly/code-oxford-films.

Thanks to all those who attended.

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