Tech savvy or not, parents’ support is important to girls in tech

A few weeks ago, the latest cohort of girls graduated from the Liverpool Girl Geeks Academy. The girls, aged 13 to 17, had spent 8 weeks at after-school or after-college workshops that aim to encourage and inspire them to consider a career in tech. Co-op Digital sponsor Liverpool Girl Geeks and I was invited along as a representative to speak at the graduation ceremony.

Parents don’t have to be experts to show support  

As I was giving my congratulations speech, it struck me that the room was packed out with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. Seeing such strong family support in the audience made me think about the important role parents and the wider family have in helping girls to explore technology and coding.

I doubt everyone who was celebrating at the graduation was tech savvy. Chances are they might not have a clue what coding is, let alone how to do it. But that’s fine, they don’t need to. The important thing is that they’d recognised the importance of nurturing girls’ interest in this area, just like they might for children who show an interest or aptitude for playing sport or music.  

Carry on fighting the good fight

Liverpool Girl Geeks wants to decrease the gender imbalance in tech by teaching and inspiring women to consider a career in the sector. Co-op Digital partners with them as we feel strongly about increasing diversity too. Unfortunately, in February 2017, Manchester Digital released new research that showed the gender skills gap in the north west had increased since the previous year, particularly in technology roles. The report said that only 12% of technical roles belong to women.

So yes, programmes like Girl Geeks are invaluable when it comes to actually teaching skills and building confidence in young women. However, getting into workshops or onto courses in the first place is much more difficult without someone at home recognising an interest, supporting it, encouraging an application and, in the case of younger teens, physically getting them to a venue to learn.

Class of June 2017

Photograph of the latest graduates from the Girl Geek Academy smiling at the camera next to a poster that says 'The Future is Female'.

Each 8-week Academy course has a theme. The girls who graduated recently did workshops around code and music and learnt that knowing how to code can lead to a wide range of careers from engineering to fashion. On this course they learnt how to use code to make their own music using publishing platform Bandcamp.

Applications for the next Girl Geek Academy are open

The next Academy workshops are themed around wearable tech and are lined up to start in September 2017. If you know a girl between 13 and 17 with a creative and curious mind and an interest in technology, digital and design, encourage her to apply now.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Digital Business Architect

To find out more, watch a report about Liverpool Girl Geeks

Liverpool Geek Girl Academy awards

We’ve been sponsoring the Liverpool Geek Girl Academy. The Academy was created to inspire girls who may not have considered a career in technology before to experience what that might be like.

Picture from one of the Liverpool Geek Girl Academy sessions
Image courtesy of Liverpool Geek Girls

Last week they celebrated the end of the programme and showcased what the 15 girls had achieved.

A picture of all the attendees of Liverpool Geek Girl Academy
Image courtesy of Liverpool Geek Girls

Over 8 week 15 girls ages 11-15 coded, bonded and successfully built their own websites using WordPress. 

 Becky Arrowsmith who’s a developer at Co-op also stopped by during the Academy to give the girls a a special master class.

The winner received a one to one with Mike Little one of the founders of WordPress and he also presented the awards. The winner was Amelia Roberts, aged 13 who created a website to celebrate Tim Peake and space exploration.  You can hear from Amelia in the video below.

 

“I have really enjoyed Girl Geeks Academy. It has helped me realise how much I can do and achieve, and that tech isn’t just for the boys anymore!”

Amelia Roberts

It was a pleasure to be at the awards ceremony and see the change in the girls since I first met them on their first day. I saw girls with more confidence and with a new found curiosity in technology. This is so important as studies suggest that only 1% of the tech workforce will be female by 2040 if we don’t try and redress the balance. Providing opportunities like this to show what a career in tech is like will hopefully encourage more girls to take that step.

The Co-op is committed to education and diversity which is why we were delighted to have sponsored this event.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Business Architect

Judging Hack Manchester

This weekend, Hack Manchester took centre stage at the Manchester Science Festival, hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). 350 participants competed in the annual 24 hour event. It was actually a 25 hour event, as the clocks went back mid-hack. We sponsored the event as a challenge setter, alongside GCHQ, GMP & Ladbible, Cancer Research, Clockwork, Sky, Evestor and Valtech.

The entries across all the challenges were amazing, and I was especially proud of the care and attention that teams gave to our challenge, which was making something to help people experiencing loneliness. We had the most entries to our challenge: 19 in total. For some teams, the reasons for entering our challenge were very personal. Some had been or were lonely themselves, or had a close relative who was lonely.

As our head judge, it was quite the task getting round to all the teams to see what they’d come up with and how they were progressing. Luckily, I was supported by my co-judges Rob Bowley and Emer Coleman. Stephen Foreshew-Cain also stopped by to take a look around.

“Call James” won on the night

Our winners, on the night were The Lovely Lads with their hack, Call James.

Picture of the team from Northcoders who won our challenge at HackManchester
The winning team, photo – HackManchester Blog

They developed an app that uses a supercomputer to connect older people with groups that share their interests. They used technology to solve problems for technologically disconnected people, with a prototype where customers would find a message on the bottom of their Co-op receipt saying, “Interested in meeting some new people? Call James on +44 115 824 4806.” 

We chose this as our winner because the idea really answered our brief. They got their idea to actually work while using some really challenging technology. Also, the team, that came from local tech company NorthCoders had only learned to code just 4 months ago – an amazing achievement.

Runners up

Our runners up were the Nuts Hack for their entry Paltopia and the HackStreet Boys for their Co-op Community Hub. Paltopia is a multiplayer app for lonely children, who are matched up with someone and take care of each other. It’s a safe way for them to interact with someone else, thanks to features like using emojis for chat, and is built around routines, interaction and companionship. 

The Co-op Community Hub caught our attention because it turns the idea of an events website on its head. Instead, it automatically creates events based on the interests of people in a local area. 

Bleating Baskets won Best in Show

The Best in Show prize went to another of the entries responding to our brief.  The Basket Cases won for their Bleating Baskets, which were talking shopping baskets. When customers with baskets walk past each, other the baskets “talk” to each other, making them an ice breaker between the customers, and hopefully starting a conversation between them. 

There were some great ideas on how use digital technologies to make people less lonely, and the hackers came up with some really diverse solutions. Hack Manchester and all the teams did the North proud this weekend and showcased the abundance of digital talent here. 

You can watch the awards show and see more pictures of the day.

Thank you to the team at HackManchester and to everyone that took part.

We’re hiring now

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson

Hack Manchester Junior

This week the most brilliant young minds met for Hack Manchester Junior, at the Museum of Science and Industry as part of the Manchester Science Festival.

Hack Manchester is a 24-hour coding competition where teams of four people turn up to create a product that meets a brief, and present it, in just a day. A junior version runs over two days and is open to young people up to 18.

The junior event this week had over 110 entrants take part in hacking challenges. Coop Digital was joined by our fellow junior challenge setters Siemens, Thales UK, Greater Manchester Police, Cancer Research UK, Clockwork, GCHQ and Web Applications UK.

Our challenge was: “Make something to help people experiencing loneliness’. Tom and I had the tough task of judging the winner of the challenge. We decided that HackHorrors, who were one of the youngest teams to take part, deserved to win. They created a website that allows people who can’t get out of their house to ask neighbours to pick up provisions for them – they wanted to ‘Create a Community on your Street”.

We were happy to see two of our other entrants win prizes too. Team GCHQ>NSA, who created a game for lonely children to play, won the best school/college team challenge. Team Not Yet made an interactive robot you can speak to, for scheduling events. They won Best In Show.

For me, one stand-out team was Null Is Not Defined – four girls from Loreto College who took the Thales challenge to ‘Protect the bank’. They team created working facial recognition software in just two days and won their category.

This weekend it’s the seniors’ turn as Hack Manchester returns on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 October. Around 350 people will be taking part in the 24-hour hackathon (which actually runs over 25 hours because the clocks go back this weekend). Emer Coleman and I will be judging Co-op’s category. I’m really excited to see what the seniors come up with, the juniors are quite an act to follow.

You can buy tickets to Sunday’s awards show.

You can see the full coverage of the Hack Junior event day 1 and day 2.

Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. It’s an international celebration day of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). 

Events in Manchester celebrating Ada

Emer Coleman, Gemma Cameron and myself are taking part in a number of events in Manchester over the next couple of weeks to celebrate Ada, everyone is welcome to join us.

Manchester Digital  Ada Lovelace Day – Fireside Chats
Tuesday 11th October

Ladies of Code at Autotrader – Mob programming with Clare Sudbery
Tuesday 18th October

Ada: The Empowered Technologist at ThoughtWorks
Thursday 20th October

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada was a writer and mathematician and is most famously noted for her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

Babbage worked on the design of the engine itself (the hardware) and Ada on paper explaining what the engine did. Ada’s notes on the engine include what is now recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine –  what we now call software. Ada is often regarded as the first computer programmer.

Babbage had kept his thinking on his analytical engine to the analysis and output of numbers. Lovelace had expanded that thinking to the analysis and output of symbols. This meant that the machine could analyse and output words, music and pretty much anything and everything – the modern notion of universal computation.

Whilst neither lived to see their work become a the reality we know today, they had 100 years earlier anticipated the implications of modern computing.

Picture of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage
Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage

An opportunity to celebrate diversity & teamwork

I also see the day as an opportunity to celebrate what can be achieved when individuals from very different backgrounds, generations and sexes come together and work as a team. Lovelace and Babbage are a great example of that.

As you celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this year, celebrate the achievements of women in STEM, but also celebrate what amazing things diverse teams can achieve when they work together.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Business Architecture & Analysis

 

Charlotte King joins the team

I’m delighted to welcome Charlotte King to the team. Charlotte joins us as an agile business analyst. She’ll be a key part of the Membership product team, focusing on the Membership website, where the team will be working hard to respond to member feedback and iterate the experience to meet our members needs.

Picture of Charlotte King

Charlotte isn’t new to the Co-op, she’s spent the last 3 years on the graduate scheme in our Food business and the last 2 in the team delivering Membership. Most recently Charlotte has been working on how we give our Member’s more of a voice.

I’ve known Charlotte throughout her time working on Membership and have seen the outstanding contribution she’s made in business analysis, delivery and business change. This is why I’m so pleased to be able to add Charlotte’s skills and experience to our growing agile business analysis practice.

Welcome Charlotte.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Business Architecture & Analysis 

Hello to Liam Cross

I’m really pleased to welcome Liam Cross who’s joined the digital team as an agile business analyst. We’re working hard to build up our own community of practice in agile business analysis and Liam is the first to join this newly formed team.

Picture of Liam Cross

Liam joins us from Reckitt Benckiser, where he’s spent the last few years working on their global digital product catalogue. Liam will be joining the Membership product team and will be supporting them in reviewing user feedback and writing user stories for the next iterations of the product.

I’m excited to be bringing his skills and experience to the team. You’ll hear more from Liam and about the community of practice we’re building in the coming months on the blog.

Welcome Liam.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Business Architecture & Analysis 

RailsGirls workshop

I was asked to speak at the first RailsGirls workshop in Manchester, an event with the aim to help women to understand technology and to build their ideas.

Picture of attendees at RailsGirls Manchester Event

Here’s an edit of my talk:

So I hope most of you know a little bit about the Co-op, I hope you’ve at least visited one, we have a store in every postcode so we are hard to miss. We’ve just launched a new brand and we’re over 170 years old, with our origins only a few miles up the M60 in Rochdale. The Co-op was a movement, created by a group of people who wanted to do good for their community and was founded on some amazing values and principles. One such value remains pertinent to us today, helping people to help themselves.

At CoopDigital we are open and agile, we’re blogging about the things we’re doing, please do take a look. One of our aims is to be at the heart of the digital community in Manchester as well as hiring digital talent aligned with our values. CoopDigital has a team of leaders committed to diversity aiming to ensure your gender is not a barrier to you succeeding, this runs right through the team and diverse teams are better – more on that in a moment.

So the Co-op is here because it believes in its members, education, diversity and the tech community here in Manchester – so why me?

Since I had my daughter two and a half years ago, I decided to take a more active role in promoting diversity in tech. My own personal experiences made me think about the sort of challenges my daughter might face when she’s thinking about a career. I want her to do what she loves most and not face the barriers I faced. I have now, after 16 years in the workforce, found a job I love in an amazing environment with wonderful people.

So enough about me – this next bit is about you and why you being here is really really important. So, I’m going to leave you with 3 things to think about today

According to McKinsey:

“Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

So, companies with more women in them perform better.

According to the Harvard Business Review and Carnegie Mellon University:

“There’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.”

So, teams with more women in them are smarter.

We’re likely to have 1 million vacancies in the tech sector by 2020. Let’s make sure more than half of them are filled by women.

1. Your contribution to this industry is not only valuable, it’s vital

About a month ago I listened to a Ted Talk by Reshma Saujani founder of Women Who Code called – Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.

It’s a great talk I encourage you to seek it out. I wanted to share some snippets of her talk with you today:

How many of you look at a job ad and don’t feel you can apply unless you meet 100% of the requirements? (Many hands were raised at the RailsGirls event)

Reshma talked about psychologist Carol Dweck who in the 1980s looked at how bright fifth graders handled a difficult assignment, Reshma said of the findings Carol observed,

“bright girls were quick to give up. The higher the IQ, the more likely they were to give up. Bright boys, on the other hand, found the difficult material to be a challenge. They found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts. In short if were were socialized to be brave instead of socialized to be perfect”

You’re here to learn to code and coding in itself is an endless process of trial and error, It requires perseverance. It requires imperfection and being comfortable with that

2. Be comfortable with imperfection not getting it right first time is what coding is – and that’s ok.

Reshma also observed this in her program, she says,

“Every Girls Who Code teacher tells me the same story. During the first week, when the girls are learning how to code, a student will call her over and she’ll say, “I don’t know what code to write.” The teacher will look at her screen, and she’ll see a blank text editor. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think that her student spent the past 20 minutes just staring at the screen. But if she presses undo a few times, she’ll see that her student wrote code and then deleted it. She tried, she came close, but she didn’t get it exactly right. Instead of showing the progress that she made, she’d rather show nothing at all. Perfection or bust.”

It’s rooted in how we perceive ourselves and our output, a professor friend of Reshma’s at the University of Columbia who teaches an Intro to Java told her when the guys are struggling with an assignment, they’ll come in and they’ll say, “Professor, there’s something wrong with my code.” The girls will come in and say, “Professor, there’s something wrong with me.”

3. If it doesn’t work there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just your code

Whilst you’re here today if your code doesn’t work ask for help and please don’t delete your work or you’ll never know how close you came.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Architect

Gemma Cameron joins CoopDigital

Hi, I’m Danielle and I’m delighted to welcome Gemma Cameron to the Co-op digital team. Gemma joins as a senior developer. She’s here to help Co-op to build great digital products and also to build our relationships with the tech community in Manchester and the north west.
 Gemma-Cameron

Gemma runs Tech North West, a community of digital event organisers. She is also a member of Manchester Digital’s elected council, the independent body which represents the Mancunian tech sector and on the board of Manchester Digital Laboratory (MadLab).

BqxYZEL3

So, it’s safe to say, she’s connected. She’s the best person to help Co-op’s digital team to reach out to existing tech groups and foster new communities as we seek to build our team in Manchester.

Find out more about Gemma in this post on We Are Tech North.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson
Architect

CoopDigital sponsors the first Girl Geek Academy

CoopDigital are sponsoring the first Girl Geek Academy run by Liverpool Geek Girls. It’s an 8 week project based programme for girls between the ages of 11-16 to immerse themselves into the technology sector. The key focus will be building a website with code but will also look at female role models and confidence, something that we’ve recognised are incredibly important skills to have within the sector.

Both Liverpool Girl Geeks and the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) are introducing this as a pilot with the hope for it to be a continuous course. Due to the location of the academy we’re also able to offer extra insight into the tech sector by giving them the opportunity to use 3D printers and robotics as well showcase the great spaces and modern technologies that the industry has to offer.

Picture of girls at Liverpool Geek Girls

Why is this important?

We’re committed to supporting gender diversity in the digital sector, only yesterday we talked about our support for gender diverse panels. One of the ways to tackle the gender imbalance in this sector is to educate girls and young women to show them the possibilities of working in technology.

What will they learn?

Lauren Williams one of the tutors will be facilitating the 8 weeks by teaching the 15 girls how to build their own websites. We want them to learn some basic HTML & Javascript skills as well as build on their self esteem. We want them to speak about their passions, show off their skills. Our own Co-op engineers will join the academy during half-term which is 24 October to 28 October, to do more in depth sessions on code and other skills.

The academy will run from 27 September to 15 November, every Tuesday 6.30 to 8.30pm at FACT in Liverpool. If you want to find out more or apply for a place visit the Liverpool Geek Girl Academy website.

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson  & Chelsea Slater