female coder, coding, National Coding Week

Why National Coding Week is for the women

female coder, coding, National Coding Week

In today’s digital age, coding is becoming less of a rare skill, and more of a basic literary skill. If you think about it, without code, there is no software, and without software, there are no computers. 

But as with seemingly every STEM subject and industry, there is an underwhelming percentage of women making up the amount of coders out there. This is surprising considering the first coder in the early 20th century was a woman! Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Annie Easley are just three examples of great women who knew how to code.

So why is there still such a tiresome gender gap? WeAreTechWomen spoke to five women in STEM – all at different stages of their careers – to hear their thoughts, reasonings and advice as to why coding isn’t just for the boys.

Starting at school

Sam Humphries HeadshotAs Sam Humphries, Security Strategist at Exabeam explains, “The technology industry has transformed considerably over the last few years, and with it brings the emergence of a new standard of employee: modern-day technologists who must possess creativity, innovation, and be talented technical problem solvers. Coders encompass these skills, responsible for both constructing complex solutions from scratch, and navigating any obstacles that come their way. Their unique skillset means employees with coding abilities are now integral personnel in the modern workforce.”

Being able to code is a skill that will only heighten in value. As Humphries goes on to confirm, “access to digital skills is a crucial enabler of digital transformation, fuelling increased demand for people with the skills to manage evolving technologies such as AI and cloud. However, despite digital skills becoming ever more important in today’s economy, according to the CBI, two thirds of businesses already have unfilled digital skills vacancies and 58 per cent say they’ll need significantly more digital skills in the next five years.

“National Coding Week serves as a great way to promote the importance of coding skills for our current and emerging business landscape. It also contributes a fun solution to help encourage young people, especially young women, to pursue a career in technology. Women represent a small percentage of the technology workforce, which makes looking for skills in an all-but untapped female talent pool an obvious solution. By encouraging women and girls with the possibilities of an education and career in technology, we can help address the skills shortage by introducing new perspectives and problem-solving skills to the industry.”

Building a career

Hannah AlexanderThe ability to code is a skill that is beneficial in many different organisations, and can open many different doors. Hannah Alexander, Graduate Data Scientist at Mango Solutions shares her reasons for choosing data science as her first role after university: “Data science is such a rapidly developing field that it is easy to feel at the forefront of innovation. It is applicable in a vast variety of areas, so there is always something exciting developing and to contribute towards.

“Code underpins our everyday lives, from taking the train to work to flicking through Instagram,” Alexander continues. “However, very few people understand how this works. By learning how to code, you get a better understanding of the modern world! Code can be applied to any workplace. Menial tasks can be automated, tasks can be undertaken more efficiently, and you can become a more valuable member of the workforce.

“Unfortunately, I think there is a misconception amongst the younger generation that working with code or in STEM is dull, when in reality it’s anything but. The boring office worker stereotype should be broken by showcasing the exciting opportunities these jobs can provide, such as travel, global events and the opportunity to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”

Isabel HutchingsThis idea around STEM being dull for girls is something that Isabel Hutchings, Applications Engineer at Content Guru agrees with. Hutchings explains:

“As a woman working in a technical role, National Coding Week is a time for myself and probably many of my fellow female colleagues to reflect on the lack of women in the industry. It’s an issue as obvious in 2020 as it has been for many years and one that shows no signs of changing soon. Indeed, recent A-level and GCSE results showed a continued gender divide in students taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. Today’s students are the foundation of tomorrow’s workforce and when it comes to encouraging girls into careers in coding and other technical job roles, the gender divide in most of these key subjects is still a telling reflection of a grass-roots issue we need to solve.

“Being an engineering graduate and now working as an applications engineer, I know first-hand how hard it can be for girls to make the decision to pursue a career in things like coding and engineering. The education system as a whole needs to do more to build not only awareness and knowledge about what coding can be as a career – but passion in the subjects more generally. Young girls are at a particularly impressionable age at school, with relatively fluid perceptions of what they want to do in the future, so it’s important to capture students’ imaginations. Unfortunately, we’re not yet getting this right. Until we expand the perception of coding in young people – particularly girls – and unlock the hidden passion in students to pursue the many opportunities this area offers, we can expect to see the same stark statistics year after year.”

Elizabeth BrownElizabeth Brown, Professional Placement Student, Data Science at Mango Solutions, is someone who is currently making this decision. Brown explains: “I chose to do a work placement with Mango because in a world where data is abundant, it is vital that we stay data driven - and data science allows us to do this. I ultimately wanted a job in coding as I really enjoy it! Coding is an important skill to learn as we are constantly surrounded by computers and what they produce, and so being able to write code is a great advantage. The idea of coding and where to start with it can be daunting sometimes and so making it easier and more comfortable for people to start learning to code would help encourage the younger generation into it."

It’s never too late to learn to code

Although encouraging the younger generation into choosing STEM at schools is a great way to help close the gender gap, you don’t have to be a teenager to be able to begin to learn to code. Essentially, learning to code is learning a new skill – something you’re never too old to do!

Svenja de Vos LeasewebSvenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb Global explains that, “Coding is and will remain a skill for everyone to learn, it’s not just for the male part of our population. In fact, Ada Lovelace is still remembered today as the world’s first computer programmer. When it comes to coding and programming, technical accuracy and creativity marry well together. Coders support organisations across various industries from healthcare and manufacturing to cybersecurity. With a notable rise in cyber attacks, exacerbated by the global pandemic, the latter is absolutely vital. Those able to analyse their company’s IT infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities due to their skillset, will be in high demand.”

De Vos rounds things off nicely by additionally sharing the following advice: “National Coding Week is an opportunity to shine a light on how important, and how much fun, it is to learn to code and take an interest in technology as the world around us constantly evolves. With various coding platforms and language courses available for both younger and older learners, you can start learning to code at any age.

“With the digital skills gap growing, it’s crucial that schools and universities support their students in learning to code to help widen future pools of developers."


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National Coding Week 2021 | Bringing women into tech and closing the digital skills gap

Back behind view photo of programmer lady look big monitor check id-address work overtime check debugging system wear specs casual shirt sit table late night office indoors, coding, women in tech

With the swift technological changes we are experiencing today,  there has never been a better time to invest in the digital skills of both children and adults.

This National Coding Week provides the perfect opportunity to draw attention to the importance of developing coding as a skill set and to consider what more we can be doing to actively encourage the younger generation, especially young girls, to engage with coding and STEM.

Svenja de Vos, LeasewebSvenja de Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global elaborates, “every year National Coding Week provides an opportunity for tech companies to do more to showcase the benefits of a career in software development. You’re never too young or too old to code, and it is important to widen future pools of developers in order to help close the tech skills gap.

“The world needs talented coders and software professionals now more than ever. Especially in the last year and a half, coding has become essential to daily life by allowing organizations to continue business operations in the face of the pandemic. Every single day, software developers come up with innovative apps that are helping to revolutionize a variety of industries. Dedicating a full week to promoting coding will hopefully influence many to further develop their skill”.

The digital skills gap 

One of the pressing reasons to encourage more people to widen their technical skills is the widening digital skills gap facing the UK. In fact, “less than half of UK employers believe new entrants to the workforce have the digital-skills required”, explains Ian Rawlings, Regional VP at SumTotal Systems. He continues, “this needs to change if the UK is to plug the existing skills gap and become a leader in technology. From mandatory coding teaching in schools, to initiatives such as Code First and the Institute of Coding, there are so many ways to develop digital skills early on and show candidates all the benefits that coding has to offer.

“Building and developing digital skills within the current workforce will also be key as the pandemic continues to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. This National Coding Week, with coding fluency growing in both value and necessity, lifelong learning remains integral in future-proofing the workforce and closing the skills gap”.

Simon Gould, Chief Product Officer, Totalmobile shares this sentiment, pointing out that “it’s important to reflect on how we can encourage both experienced employees and the younger generation to broaden their skillsets, simultaneously enhancing their own employability and closing the digital skills gap. It’s an area that resonates strongly given the interesting and varied career that has evolved since that first development role.

“Organisations, in particular, should consider what they can do to encourage the whole spectrum of gender, ethnicity and social demographic backgrounds. Many businesses can set examples by engaging in initiatives in schools and places of work to show a wide range of students what a career in tech could look like, such as Women Who Code, which a number of our staff are passionately involved in. Getting female developers, engineers and senior leaders to talk to young women and girls about their jobs and highlighting that tech can be exciting and engaging is hugely powerful. It’s an approach I see first-hand, with my daughter studying computer science at GCSE. That small acorn that grows into a passion”.

Bringing women into the tech world 

In spite of the concern surrounding the digital skills gap, there is much to be optimistic about for the future of tech. In particular, as Gould highlighted, there are many organisations placing a much-needed emphasis on inspiring young women to get involved in coding and other digital skills.

Debra Danielson_, Digital Guardian“Currently, only 14% of programmers and software developers in the UK are women, a daunting statistic that must change if we are to move forward as an industry”, Debra Danielson, CTO and SVP Engineering at Digital Guardian notes.

“Increased mentorship is one way forward for diversity. As a woman working in technology, I can say that, outside of my own dogged stubbornness, my opportunities have stemmed from having a single person willing to advocate for me. That helped me break through some of the lazy stereotypes about women in STEM… being perceived to be less technical, less mathematical than men. Our allies, supporters and advocates can help open the door, and we need vocal colleagues and managers willing to give women chances and support us on our journeys.

“Recognising the dearth of diversity in the industry, I’m passionate about increasing the participation and impact of both women and underrepresented communities in technology. I volunteer at many levels, from Tech Girls Rock (secondary school girls learning to code) to coaching and mentoring tech founders on how to access capital. We must create more space for women within the industry. National Coding Week is the perfect opportunity for leaders to connect with their teams and help women boost their skills and advance their careers.”

Angela Garland_Content GuruAngela Garland, Escalations Engineer at Content Guru, seconds this statement, “science has always made sense to me – I like the certainty of it – and I knew that’s what I wanted to do from an early age. I was raised in an engineering household and lucky enough to go to a school that encouraged girls to take GCSE and A-Level science – but then again, it was an all-girls school! We had plenty of female science teachers and role models supporting us. Sadly, I don’t think this is typical of the education system. By the time I reached university, our mechanical engineering bachelors was just 10% female. This has to change.

“We need to do much more to encourage young girls with a passion for science, coding and technology to study STEM courses – both at younger school ages and further on into higher education – and to pursue careers in these exciting and rewarding fields. The stark gender divide means it’s often challenging for women working as engineers – from application engineers to mechanical engineers and cybersecurity engineers, women are almost always in the minority.

“My advice to women embarking on a career in technology is to keep pushing and challenging at every opportunity. The most important thing is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, speak up in large groups of men and put your ideas out there. Find an organisation that puts everyone – regardless of gender – on an equal playing field and pushes you into a role where you challenge yourself and those around you”.

National Coding Week is vitally important for anyone working in or around the tech scene. Not only does it open the conversation about topics such as the digital skills gap, or women in tech, but coding is such an essential skill in today’s age it is always a good idea to reiterate its importance.

Jeff KeyesJeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy, Plutora concludes, “Written code has become the foundation of every organisation, no matter the size, in a rapidly and constantly changing software landscape. A skilled team of coders is imperative to not only building that foundation, but also to put businesses in the best possible position to thrive. Coding has become much more than just the developer language of tech. It’s the language of business and in turn, the language of success.”


female coder, coding, National Coding Week

National Coding Week 2021 | Opening up digital skills for all

female coder, coding, National Coding Week

Monday 13th September marks the beginning of this year’s National Coding Week.

This week provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on the importance of digital skills and how coding can offer up a world of career opportunities for people from all backgrounds. It’s never been more important – according to latest research from World Skills UK, 76% of businesses think that a lack of digital skills will damage their bottom lines, while 88% of young people understand that they will be essential for their careers.  

But while this years’ A-Level results saw a record number of students taking up Computer Science, the subject is still far more popular with boys than girls, suggesting the technology industry has more to do to open up routes for all.  

We talked to some of the industry’s leading experts and asked them to share their thoughts:  

Firstly, coding is a valuable skill  

Kara SpragueCoding is still a highly sought-after skill in the tech industry. According to Kara Sprague, EVP and GM of BIG-IP at F5, “the influence of coding continues to disrupt and transform all industries.”  

And while new innovations will also impact how developers work in future, this will not diminish the importance of digital skills and ability to code. 

Sean FarringtonAs Sean Farrington, EVP EMEA, Pluralsight comments, “despite the rise of low and no-code application development in recent years, coding skills remain critical for businesses…”

“Even legacy languages which may be deemed out of date by many are still useful to learn.”  

James McLeod FaethmJames McLeod, VP EMEA at Faethm adds, “AI won’t ever become a direct replacement for coders – after all, we’ll still need programmers to write the very programmes that will then write code! That said, businesses should recognise where it can streamline their operations, and look to proactively transition coders and programmers into roles where human elements will be needed in the future. Coding might be changing, but through targeted skills development there’ll still be plenty of opportunities for coders in future.”  

Andrea Nagel TanzuInterestingly, the importance of digital skills goes beyond the most technical roles too. Andrea Nagel, Manager, Application Services at VMware Tanzu highlights, “There are many varied roles in tech these days that don’t require coding skills. However, gaining an exposure to coding, even at a basic or foundational level, is really useful for anyone working in software or product, even if you’re not directly coding yourself.”  

For those just starting out, Jane Saunders, Head of Model Pipeline Engineering at Secondmind advises, “My advice for anyone looking to get into coding is to just give it a go. Start with a toy problem, and then quickly move onto a personal project, giving yourself plenty of small goals along the way. Remember with coding you’re mostly talking to your future self or others who will be reading your code, rather than the computers who are executing it.”  

But there’s a talent shortage when it comes to digital skills  

Ursula MorgensternHowever, the continued demand for digital skills reflects an ongoing talent shortage in the sector too. Ursula Morgenstern, President, Global Growth Markets at Cognizant, is an advocate for tackling this, commenting, “as businesses accelerate recruitment to drive growth in the wake of the pandemic, a war for talent has arisen, with skilled individuals highly sought after but with far too few qualified personnel to fill the vacancies. You need only Google ‘software engineer’ or ‘developer’ to see thousands of roles available and unfilled in the UK. 

“This talent shortage will continue to create challenges for organisations, but also opportunities to think differently about how they manage, recruit and retain staff. Coding is the crucial baseline for many of these jobs, which should in theory broaden talent pools given its accessibility.” 

David Huntley DistributedDavid Huntley, Technical Lead at Distributed points to the rise in freelance developers who could be vital in filling this gap. “Alternatively, many developers are turning to freelance work to learn new skills, given the range of projects this working model gives them access to and the opportunity to work with other professionals in the space to cross-pollinate expertise. Another major advantage of this flexible approach to developer work is that individuals can more easily find projects that fit their current skillset, meaning they have access to well-paid work while learning on the job.” 

Could improving diversity in coding help solve the skills deficiency?  

The industry talent gap also reflects a need to open up the industry to people from diverse backgrounds too – and particularly women and young people.  

Geoff SmithGeoff Smith, CEO at emerging talent management consultancy Grayce comments, “Worryingly, figures show that just 26% of UK graduates with core STEM degrees are female. This has been a huge motivation for us to fund two women to enrol on Code Nation’s 12-week Coding Bootcamp this year in our bid to inspire more females to join the industry. It’s so important that we continue to improve diversity in tech and encouraging more people to build on their skills sets and learn to code is a huge part of this – these individuals have limitless potential to add masses of value to the UK workforce.” 

F5’s Kara Sprague also adds, “It is vital that everyone is given the opportunity to learn coding. To secure a more equitable future, we must nurture a diverse pipeline of talent that can build and excel within technology organisations. I am increasingly encouraged by how some countries have adopted requirements in their core curriculums for kids to learn coding. This bodes well for their technology sectors and job-creation abilities moving forward. Outside of formal curriculum requirements, there is also a lot of work taking place across the technology industry and non-profit sector to upskill young people, with a focus on under-represented groups.” 

Ursula MorgensternCognizant’s Ursula Morgenstern concludes, “If underserved communities are provided with the right digital and coding training from businesses, their economic mobility and wider educational opportunities in turn could significantly increase. As such, this is where businesses should be looking to invest a large proportion of their recruiting budget – looking at the long game and recognising the need and opportunity to broaden and deepen the talent pool.”  


Aussies add computer coding to national curriculum

Australia has scrapped history and geography as core national curriculum subjects and has replaced them with computer coding.

According to news site the Australian, the announcement was made by one of the country’s education ministers, Christopher Pyne, who revealed that children as young as Year 5 will learn to code and from Year 7 students will learn to program.child-internet

The UK introduced coding into primary schools last year, following successful programmes in the US such a Code.org and Hour of Code.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has pushed for a greater focus on coding and science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects in schools from primary level as part of his drive for more focus on innovation and preparing for jobs of the forte.

As part of the announcement the government has pledged to invest $12 million into four Stem initiatives; an innovative maths curriculum, adding computer coding to the curriculum, a P-TECH-style school pilot site and funding for summer schools for underrepresented Stem students.

In a statement Pyne said: “High quality school STEM education is critically important for Australia’s productivity and economy wellbeing, both now and into the future.

“We are restoring the focus on STEM subjects in schools and making sure our teachers get more instruction on STEM during initial teacher training.”

Pyne became the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science yesterday as Turnbull revealed his new team. New South Wales senator Marise Payne also become Australia’s first female defence minister.

National coding week in UK

Australia’s news comes as the UK kicks of National Coding Week. Running from September 21-27 the campaign aims to encourage adults to learn coding and potentially create new career opportunities.

Free sessions will run throughout the week, which will teach the basics of coding alongside other beginners.

Richard Rolfe, co-founder of National Coding Week, said: "The key aims of National Coding Week are to encourage adults of any age to learn an element of computer coding, to encourage digital experts to share their skills, and to collaborate, share, learn and have fun! If I can learn to code at age 51 then anyone can!"

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is supporting the event for the second year: "Coding is a language that is increasingly important for both young people and adults to understand, but it can be an intimidating prospect. National Coding Week will help to make whole generations of Brits more comfortable with coding, allowing them to embrace the business opportunities of the future."

Organisations supporting the 2015 campaign include Decoded, Women Who Code, We Got Coders, Codeclan, Incubus London and International tech conference organisers Future Insights. This year's event is sponsored by JT Group Global.

Results of an Accenture survey last week found that more than half of 12-year old girls in the UK and Ireland find Stem subjects too hard.

60% said Stem subjects are too difficult and 47% of the girls questions claimed such disciplines better suited their male counterparts.