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.
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.