Are young women the game changer for male industries?

By Barry Lord   @Bazneto

It could be a real game changer for young women – as tech and engineering firms search for that female touch.

Engineering and technology jobs have traditionally been very male dominated but as Irish society increasingly breaks down gender barriers, it appears young women could be the future in these industries.

Dogpatch Labs in Dublin’s CHQ Building are hosting the Coder Girl Hack Day – an event that seeks to introduce girls and their families to the possibilities of technology and engineering careers through free learning sessions that include wearable electronics and web development workshops.

Movidius, which specialises in the development of low-power processor computer chips, have recognised that young women’s participation in technology and engineering activities is gaining momentum and community and corporate organisations are now striving to see this change reflected in the workplace.

Mary Finegan, Vice President of program management at Movidius, is keen to see more opportunities for girls in this field and to challenge a long held perception of the computer programmer as “nerdy” and lacking social graces.

“Today, computer programmers are expected to be male, nerdy and antisocial,” Mary said.  “It’s an odd, and self-fulfilling prophesy that forgets the women that the entire field was built upon.”

“We in Movidius feel that Coder Girls Hack Day is an excellent initiative to encourage more balance in this very ‘male’ leaning industry.”

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Mary believes that exposure to the intricacies of computer programming, such as understanding code, will lead to girls who may have taken traditionally more female routes, gaining an interest in the more male dominated fields.

“It is our hope that the day will give girls insights into the profession, remove the mystery and ‘nerdy’ undertones and showcase a sector that is highly creative, dynamic and offers excellent career opportunities and satisfaction,” she said.

Coder Girl Hack Day Co-Founder Niambh Scullion, also welcomes diversity in the tech and engineering industries and cited CoderDojo – the volunteer-led programming club – as an example.

“CoderDojo is passionate about gender equality,” Niambh said.  “Over the past few years the movement has striven to increase the participation of girls in the CoderDojo community.

“Success has been seen through the Coolest Projects Awards, where the percentage of young girls participating reached 33% in 2016 rising from 30% in 2015.”

Niambh said: “Studies have indicated that parents are a major influence on a child’s decision to pursue STEM courses and careers.

Coder Girl Hack Day also draws the girls’ parents into the learning in order to perpetuate interest in technology and engineering into the home.”

Fellow Coder Girl Hack Day organisers Vicky Twomey-Lee, who is a co-founder of Coding Grace – a developers’ group – and Jeffrey Roe, who is the CEO of Dublin-based Tog Hackerspace, identify this parent element as being in keeping with their organisations’ remits to bring knowledge to the whole family.

Coder Girl Hack Day takes place on Saturday October 15 at 10am at Dublin’s CHQ building.

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