How can we boost gender diversity in technology?

'There has never been a more important time to diversify the creators in this space'

How can we boost gender diversity in technology?

When Ally Watson was working as a software engineer she would look around the office, meeting room or classroom and notice one thing – she was often the only woman in the room.

But it wasn’t until the age of 25, when Watson moved to Australia from Scotland, that this feeling of isolation would inspire her to take action.

“I wanted to find female friendships in my career and talk to women about things like programming languages, products and platforms,” she told participants of Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2020 event.

“I started Code Like a Girl because I realised how much better everything would be if more women joined the technology workforce.”

Indeed, Watson has been the Founder and CEO of Code Like a Girl for more than five years and the organisation’s goal is to “empower and enable women and girls to be equal creators in building the future”.

“It’s not just women that benefit from having more women in the industry. It’s our world, our economy and our innovation because we have a global shortage of technologists and women are a massively untapped resource,” added Watson.

“As businesses have been racing to digitise and automate, this has raised a huge demand for technologists over the years and that will continue to increase.”

According to Watson, technology needs to be designed and built by everybody and until that point it will fail to meet the needs of society equally.

She cited the statistic that there are more men named Andrew running ASX 200 companies than there are women. The reality we face today in our society and world is that it has largely been designed by and for men. Whether it is statues, banknotes or emojis, the representation of gender always skews towards men, she said.

This also applies to data and all of the information that is used to inform the design of our world. When there is missing data on females and not enough women on the team there will be blind spots that could have detrimental implications for women’s health and livelihoods.

“There has never been a more important time to diversify the creators in this space. It’s not just about women in tech, it’s about them building tech, coding tech and having those skills to contribute their ideas and perspectives into the solutions of the problems of the world.”

Indeed, there is a lot of research which indicates that some of the causes of the imbalance can be traced to influences surrounding the experiences and decisions made in childhood and early high school.

“It wasn’t until later in life I realised that Barbie and the Spice Girls had really betrayed me,” said Watson.

“We should expose all children to problem-solving toys, not to mention examples of non-traditional careers and non-stereotypical role models.

“It is really important to show them examples of different people in different roles, so that they can remain open-minded about their options and not limit themselves so quickly.”

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