Four years ago, I conducted an interview that really stuck with me. It was with Dr Jessica Kirkpatrick, a data scientist who was working for the recruitment site Hired. She had just analysed the company’s UK data and found that, on average, women in tech jobs were paid 9% less than their male counterparts – the largest discrepancy of any country the business operated in.
Back then, the site I was writing for had comments enabled, and I remember getting into a debate with a man who dismissed the report, saying any wage difference was down to experience rather than sexism. This fallacy was dealt with in the piece (the model used years of employment rather than age so breaks for motherhood weren’t a factor), but that didn’t matter: the man in question thought that this trumped an expert data scientist’s analysis of over 10,000 job offers. This sentiment will probably be familiar to any women reading this – there’s a reason ‘mansplaining’ entered the dictionary in 2018 after all.
If you’re a man reading this, it’s easy to fall into the trap of defensiveness as this commenter did. But accepting that there’s a bias in your favour isn’t the same as denying your own talent, or suggesting you haven’t worked hard to be where you are. It’s just that for women in tech, it can feel like you’re playing the game on hard mode. Or even that you’re playing a different game altogether.
For that reason, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting some of the great organisations and nonprofits that raise the profile of and help women in the technology sector. While we know (and work with) many inspiring women in the tech world, it’s still a comparatively small pool, and these UK-based organisations are doing great things to make that pool both bigger and more welcoming for everyone.
Launched on Ada Lovelace day in 2013, and appropriately named after the author of the world’s first computer programming language, Ada’s List is a community of over 5,000 women who work in broadly tech-related fields.
The purpose is to elevate the profiles of women in an industry that has too often been a boy’s club – be that through networking, mentoring, events, or job listings. While the community is only open to those who identify as women, the newsletter is available to anyone, which is a good way for supportive men to show solidarity to an excellent initiative.
Since 2012, Code First: Girls has delivered over £6 million worth of free coding education to thousands of women across the UK. Free part-time coding courses are open to any woman aged between 18 and 23 across the UK and Ireland, with openings also available to current or recent students.
Paid courses are also available to those who don’t qualify for the free training, and the nonprofit also works with companies to improve things – both with education courses for staff members and training for businesses on how to improve their female representation across the board.
Now in its fourth year, the Women of Silicon Roundabout conference is the UK leg of a global set of events celebrating the success and innovations of women throughout the tech sector.
Speakers this year include CEOs, company directors, writers and even an Olympic champion. In all, the two-day event has nearly 300 sessions with over 200 speakers, plus all the networking opportunities you could wish for. And men are certainly welcome, as this blog post from the inaugural event explains.
Like CodeFirst: Girls, 23 Code Street offers coding classes for women both online and in person in Bethnal Green, London. The aim, ultimately, is to create a more diverse technology sector, because a more representative industry means better products for all.
While the courses are paid, and may be off-puttingly pricey for some, there is a benefit beyond your own personal development. For every paying student, the group subsidises the digital training of marginalised women in India.
What started as a simple tech blog for women in technology has grown into a community of over 15,000 women worldwide. With that community comes responsibility, and She Can Code meets this demand with tools and resources both for women already in the industry and those aspiring to enter it.
Networking, jobs and advice, She Can Code can be an invaluable resource for women looking to make a mark in the industry.
Founded 21 years ago, Everywoman is all about advancing women in business – something it seeks to achieve via personal development resources, networking opportunities, annual awards and events.
Rather than be a catch-all for women in every walk of life, Everywoman has an event and specific awards for the technology sector. I covered it myself back in 2017 and found it hugely welcoming to men, but you’ve just missed this year’s forum I’m afraid. Still, there’s always 2021.
Join the Hive
As well as recommending these fine organisations, there’s one other suggestion we have to women reading this: apply to work at Fat Beehive! We aim to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and especially welcome applications from women, disabled and BAME candidates to try, in our own small way, to redress some of the sector’s imbalances.
We’ve already had one woman making NatWest’s top 100 women in social enterprise – we’d love to have more.