It’s a common misconception that women don’t understand tech and would rather upskill in other areas like arts. The stereotype that women aren’t interested in tech starts young, despite the fact that, according to Girls Who Code, 74 percent of girls express interest in STEM while in middle school. A range of factors see these numbers plummet as they grow older, with just 0.4 percent of high school girls choosing computer science when selecting their college major. Furthermore, while 57 percent of Bachelor’s degrees are earned by women, just 12 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to women.
As these stats and stories of what impact a lack of gender diversity in tech-based industries can have, have emerged, companies have started to look at how they can implement diversity programs to address the gender imbalance in their workforce while dozens of organisations have also launched to help up the number of women in tech.
One such program looking to combat these woeful statistics is coding program and workshop Django Girls, an initiative that began in Europe and has now touched down in Brisbane.
Django Girls is a free programming workshop for women, teaching them skills in coding and technology that can apply to whatever industry they may be working in. The first Australian workshop took place in Brisbane this past weekend at River City Labs, teaching women how to build their own website right from the beginning.
Liz Kennedy, organiser of the workshop in Australia, said that she organised a Django Girls workshop in Brisbane to give women exposure to languages including HTML, CSS, Python, and also the Django web application.
Kennedy doesn’t work in the tech space, but said that even though her career in human resource management doesn’t require in depth tech skills, those skills are important to understand more of the technical side of the business.
“I think it’s going to become or it already has become a skill that is just critical to have in the future,” she said.
“Particularly for women to learn to code, it’s very important. Technology overwhelmingly has been built by men, historically, and for women to have more of a say and to build things that also suit our own needs and desires – and also to improve upon how things have been built, I believe that by having these skills we can have more of a say in what’s created or what the outcome is for technology.”
The workshop is aimed at complete beginners, looking to help women learn tech skill sets for themselves and also take them back to their community to teach others. Django Girls provided the 75 attendees with 25 mentors who have programming experience and also gave the women access to a tailor-made tutorial online to help them build their website.
Applications were open to women from all career backgrounds with little to no experience in programming. Django Girls accepted women from city and regional areas to help expand tech skill sets to areas with limited access to these kinds of teachings.
Django Girls is, of course, just one of a growing number of initiatives looking to help women and girls learn how to code as programming skills become more valuable. As well as the likes of Code Club Australia, Code Like A Girl, and Tech Girls Movement, government is also playing a role. Bill Shorten promised a $4.5 million funding program to get girls coding in schools Australia-wide if Labor was elected, with grants of up to $150,000 to be made available to educational organisations.
Image: Liz Kennedy. Source: Supplied.