With fewer than 17% of tech jobs in the UK held by women often we are left asking; “Where are all the women?”
Heidi Crook, a Front-end developer at our proud partner Mando Agency investigates…
I’ve been designing and building websites for nearly 20 years and have encountered precious few other female developers along the way. So when I had the opportunity to go to Generate conference 2017 I took it as an opportunity to see if I could find some like-minded women. Do they actually exist?
Seeing as my happy place is sitting behind a massive monitor with my noise-reductions headphones on busying myself with HTML and CSS; I think it’s fair to say I’m a massive introvert. Normally at conferences I enjoy the speakers but the social aspect of it fills me with dread. I am the awkward one, avoiding eye contact and staring at my phone. This time it would be different. I had my Wonder Woman socks on and I was ready to talk to people.
As I wandered around the rooms filled with delegates something struck me. All the men were in groups and almost all the women were standing on their own. As the room was male dominated it can be hugely intimidating for women, as a minority group in the room, to approach groups of men.
Seeing two women together I announce I’m writing a blog and looking for women in tech. The ladies I meet are Carol Mahoney and Alicia Wede and they are from GoDaddy.com. Carol (pictured right) is a Senior Web Designer and Alicia is on a work placement studying marketing. Carol, very much like myself, fell into this industry by chance. They are looking for volunteers for usability testing and ask me if I’d mind helping them out. I happily agreed and they record my actions of comparing VPS (Virtual private Server) options on a mobile device.
I spy my next target sitting on the floor tapping away on her laptop. She must be a coder!
Her name is Alex Cowling and she’s a Front-end Developer like me – I can’t describe how delighted I am. Alex is from South Africa and has been working in tech for 10 years starting at her Dad’s company. She now works for International Volunteer HQ in Auckland, New Zealand. We talk about diversity in tech and that she thinks that sometimes she’s hired just because she’s a woman. Alex says it’s important to her to feel like she has been hired on merit, not because of her gender.
During the next break, whilst seeking out a custard cream to go with my coffee, I see another “candidate” – she’s on her own. I ask her “do you code?”. She laughs and said well if you call writing HTML and CSS coding, then yes.
Karin Werner is a Web Designer but after talking to her about her day she seems to do a tremendous amount more than that, from User Experience to writing the code. I’m very impressed as that’s a lot of different roles to juggle. I ask her if she works with any other women. She’s been in this industry 14 years and she says it’s almost all men (currently 20) in her present office. It’s sad that my experience seems to be so common amongst my contemporaries.
And then as fast as the day started it’s over.
I exit the building to encounter Jason, the first male I met today, and he knows where the after party is. There’s also a group another of delegates looking at their phones trying to figure out where to go. With my new-found confidence I holler; “hey come with us, Jason knows where to go”. In this group there happen to be two more ladies:
Abby Rumsey is a UX Designer at CABI. Abby studied a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation but when entering the job market she was looking for something where she could get involved with the writing part of science editorial. She created her CV in WordPress to stand out and rest is kind of history.
Seren Davies is a Software Engineer at Elsevier. A bona-fide programmer! I ask her how she got into it. She says it all happened on a school project. They challenged to make an app and her fellow classmates were only interested with the design and how it looked. Seren got stuck in with the coding and the project ended up winning an award. She was inspired, hooked and off to university she went to study Software Engineering.
So now I have conference party buddies and it’s wonderful to chat with others in my field, I hardly recognise myself as the women that left Liverpool yesterday.
I’ve been inspired by the fine women I have met and can’t wait to meet more at the next conference.
Written by Heidi Crook