SUW CHARMAN-ANDERSON: WHY I FOUNDED ADA LOVELACE DAY

Ada Lovelace Day on 11 October is a day to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM, and shine a light on inspiring role models in an industry long dominated by men. As the date approaches, we caught up with founder Suw Charman-Anderson to learn how it came about.

She tells Project Ada she founded the day in 2009, “fed up” of going to tech conferences and seeing few women on the speaker lists – or even none.

“I knew loads of women in the industry, but so few of them seemed to get conference speaking slots,” she said.

Suw, who was working in the tech industry at the time, recalls the women in tech community online discussing the issue, in blogs, social media and comment sections:

“People would name women who they thought should be on stage, but that never seemed to move the dial.”

“No one else had that imagination”

It was this frustration that gave birth to the idea of a specific day for raising awareness of female tech role models, spearheaded by computing pioneer (and this website’s namesake) Ada Lovelace.

The 19th century mathematician and STEM trailblazer seems like a natural choice as a role model. Often described as the world’s first ever computer programmer, Lovelace is best known for her work on Charles Babbage’s mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine and was the first person to realise the machine’s potential, far beyond number-crunching, to create music and art:

“She envisioned computer science as we now understand it, and saw how useful a computer would be to future mathematicians and scientists,” said Suw, adding:

No one else at that time, in the mid-1800s, had that kind of imagination or foresight.

Success stories “hugely important”

Ada Lovelace Day is all about celebrating those who inspire us. Suw says role models are “hugely important”, and she’s backed up on this by research showing that women actually need role models and success stories more than men do.

The stories that we tell about other women inform the stories we tell ourselves about our own capabilities and futures.

In 2009, thousands took part in the first ever Ada Lovelace Day by blogging about a woman they admire. Seven years on, the day has grown into a fully fledged science cabaret evening: Ada Lovelace Day Live in London.

This year, speakers include design engineer Yewande Akinola, planetary physicist Dr Sheila Kanani, science writer Dr Kat Arney, developer Jenny Duckett, mathematician Dr Sara Santos, computational biologist Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, and climate scientist Dr Anna Jones.

“Essential for girls to see”

“It’s an amazing opportunity to see the breadth of work that’s happening in the UK, something I think is often hidden away because the media are only interested in certainly types of STEM news stories,” said Suw.

The cabaret takes place in London, but Ada Lovelace Day events are being held worldwide. If you’re not close to one, Suw encourages women in STEM to celebrate simply by talking to their daughters, granddaughters or nieces:

It’s essential for girls to see that they have a future in STEM, and for women to see that they can progress in STEM careers all the way to the top.

Read More

WHY GENDER DIVERSITY ISN’T ENOUGH IN TECH

Diversity in tech usually focuses on gender equality, but to be truly inclusive, the industry’s efforts can’t stop there.

Lola Odelola, founder of the Black Girl.Tech community, talked to Project Ada about why looking at gender is not enough:

Race and gender are not separate. I am both black and a woman and there aren’t days where I can choose to be one over the other.

Intersectionality is the concept that different identity categories like race, gender, sexuality or class are interrelated, not layers that can be peeled away one by one and looked at separately.

Colorless diversity

Silicon Valley giants have been racing each other recently to lead diversity campaigns and release workforce diversity figures, but critics say tech diversity focuses on just one identity. Slack engineer Erica Baker coined the term “colorless diversity” in a Medium post, pointing out that the Grace Hopper conference for women in tech had no black women at all as headline speakers – but managed to make room for two white men.

Lola agrees it’s important to be more specific about diversity. When the conversation is largely about gender, she says, it “can only really go so far”.

“The conversation is led by people who don’t have to think about race. In that sense, they’re privileged and when you’re privileged, it’s very easy to miss the effects of your privilege on others,” she says.

Black Girl.Tech is a community looking to take that conversation further. Describing itself as “a space for black girls and women to explore and learn”, BGT is now nearing its second birthday. Lola, who taught herself to code after attending a bootcamp, started it to address what she discovered when she began looking for a job in tech:

I heard the word ‘diversity’ being used a lot, however black women were missing from the conversation and from the teams I was seeing.

Black women entering the tech industry face specific challenges, according to Lola. Finding a job is the first hurdle. She has also experienced microaggressions in the workplace, as well as getting treated differently from other employees.

Better hiring practices

“People’s implicit bias comes into play a lot,” she says.

“The difficulty is knowing if this is due to racial bias, gender bias, being a junior or all three.”

To combat this, Lola wants to see tech companies improving their hiring practices. Introducing practices like blind hiring has proved effective to improve diversity in tech. Lola adds that being intentional about diverse hiring is important, to avoid racist undertones about applicants with minority backgrounds lowering standards:

Many people say they ‘hire the best person for the job’, but that implies that by actively seeking out black women or people from other minorities the bar is somehow being lowered, which implies that those people are not as qualified or intelligent.

Read More

WOMEN MAKE UP JUST 10% OF THE CYBERSECURITY WORKFORCE

Cybersecurity is booming, but women (still) make up just 10% of the cybersecurity workforce.

Indeed, despite the industry facing a massive skills shortage, depressingly little is changing. That 1 in 10 figure is unchanged over the past three years, new figures from the Global Information Security Workforce Study by (ISC)² show.

With less than one in four roles filled by women, the tech industry as a whole remains male-dominated – but this report shows certain sectors are falling even further behind.

The CREST report “Closing the Gender Gap in Cybersecurity” explores barriers to a more diverse workforce, and suggests that women are currently shying away from the cyber industry:

There are very few female applicants to the industry, thus leading workshop attendees to conclude that the marketing and perception of the industry is the main problem.

The cybersecurity industry is growing explosively, as hacking becomes a bigger topic, both in newspaper headlines, company budgets and government initiatives.

Recruiters are clamouring for new people, but according to the CREST report, the number of female applicants in the field is “incredibly” low.

The main reasons for this dearth? Cybersecurity professionals themselves suggest misperceptions of the industry and what skills are required are a big barrier.

“The marketing of the cybersecurity industry needs a lot of further consideration, particularly relating to ensuring its messaging is gender-neutral and thus attracting both sexes,” states the CREST report.

The report also emphasizes the importance of earlier initiatives to encourage girls to take STEM subjects:

Influencing children early in their education is a key to encouraging more girls into STEM.

Read More

IS BLIND HIRING THE SOLUTION TO TECH’S DIVERSITY PROBLEM?

Researchers have found a great way to multiply female interviewees for tech roles tenfold in one fell swoop: just keep their gender a secret. (Sadly, this is not a joke.)

Tech recruiter Speak With A Geek did an experiment with blind hiring, and got some striking results.

Blind job auditions mean any identifying details – such as the candidate’s gender – are stripped away, leaving employers to make their decision on qualifications alone, rather than a snap judgment based on implicit bias.

SWAG put forward 5,000 candidates to employers, in two different ways. The traditional applications, with names, backgrounds and genders included led to recruiters selecting just five per cent female interviewees.

What about the blind audition? You’ve probably guessed it.

When SWAG resubmitted the applications without any identifying details, the percentage of women selected jumped by a factor of ten.

With this method, over half, or 54%, of interviewees for tech roles were women.

SWAG isn’t the only organisation putting forward blind hiring as a way of increasing the stubborn lack of diversity in tech. Recruiters Gapjumpers actively help companies work with blind hiring, removing names and backgrounds from applications, and say:

While many believe the lack of women in technology companies is due to low application numbers, we find that women are taking blind auditions at a rate comparable to their representation in the US general population.

This bias is not a new phenomenon. Several past studies have shown both ethnic and gender bias, as recruiters routinely pass up job applications from qualified women, or applicants with foreign-sounding names.

Both anonymised applications and blind hiring have really become buzzwords in the last couple of years, with more and more tech companies turning to it in an attempt to get better at hiring by ability, rather than background.

And the figures show they need some help. SWAG, who keep a detailed tally of gender and ethnic diversity within US tech roles at major tech companies, say:

Diversity promotes innovative thinking, creative problem solving, and allows your company to remain competitive.

It seems tech firms struggling to improve diversity could benefit from this simple hiring trick. As SWAG suggests on their website: “Your user base is diverse, shouldn’t your tech team be?”

Read More

LACK OF WOMEN IN TECH GETTING WORSE, NOT BETTER

It’s a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in tech workplaces, but despite industry initiatives to change this, representation is actually getting worse.

Worryingly, the number of all-male boards is on the rise, according to SvB’s “Startup Outlook” report, which suggests companies’ focus on diversity initiatives may be mere lip service:

For all the work being done to change this ratio in the U.S., this year’s survey respondents report there is no progress in the aggregate.

The bank surveyed 941 startups and found that 70% didn’t have a single female board member in 2017. This is up from an already unimpressive 66% last year.

 

Similarly, more than half of firms, 54%, reporting no female executives, up from 46% in 2016 to 54% in 2017.

This isn’t just a diversity issue, but a financial one too, as research has found that more diverse boards actually perform better than their more homogenous counterparts. A Grant Thornton study found that UK, US and India firms with at least one woman on board beat male-only boards by £430bn in 2014.

Grant Thornton’s Francesca Lagerberg compared diversity to a shift towards renewables when presenting the study:

We know it’s the right thing to do – both in terms of fairness and for sustainable future growth – but collectively society is dragging its heels.

One quarter of firms surveyed state they have “programs

Read More

ARE YOU MAKING THESE 10 COMMON CODING MISTAKES?

It’s easy for coders to fall into pitfalls, if they’re unaware of the right points to follow. Simple yet powerful coding mistakes can make you fall deep in a mess, from where it’s hard to come back.

But if the coders are well aware of common mistakes beforehand, then half of their work is done. They won’t risk making those mistakes, once they are aware of the negative consequences.

It’s time to learn a bit more about the top 10 coding mistakes:

Billers, coders and other practice managers are cordially invited to take a quick look at the coding mistakes, which many of us make unknowingly.

1. Don’t play it fast

Remember that failing to learn the basics can undercut your code instantly. Most of the time, people overlook the arbitrary behavior of the user, which can otherwise affect your programming session.

2. Using reference like value

Coders try to control the values; they are assigned to or focus entirely on the reference of the exiting objects. Now this decision can only be take place by the programmer, known for writing this object and not by those, initialing and assigning it to the chosen variable.

3. Don’t trust your client blindly

Some of the worst security bugs will take place when the developers assume their client’s device will do the proper thing. And trusting clients blindly can be a foolish idea.

4. Neglecting the present libraries

This is a great mistake, especially common with Java coders. They do not have the right to just ignore the multiple numbers of libraries, as written in the Java sector.

5. Forgetting to free up resources

Whenever any program opens a new file, it is duty of the coder to free some resources. And that needs to be one, when they are through with the program.

6. Misunderstanding the default value

In some programming section, value types cannot be null. These are uninitialized variables with a value to it, termed as default value. And the coders must understand this default value for some variables, too.

7. Missing the “break” keyword

Java issues can be quite embarrassing and can remain undiscovered unless those are run in production. Therefore, coders must work on the “break” keyword, for a promising switch case block.

8. Working too much on frameworks

Coders have a tendency to function more towards frameworks and dedicate most of their time on that. This can be an easy mistake to overcome.

9. Control simplification

Coders, avoid those complicated controlling codes. Simplifications can go a long way.

10. Don’t sweat the details

Do not try to infuse more towards details. That will take some unnecessary time and devoid you from performing on next codes.

Following these 10 points is crucial if you want to avoid mistakes in near future.

Read More