People that work in technology, particularly developers, tend to be fixers.
They see problems and want to craft solutions. They look for how they can creatively hack away at a challenge, working with their peers, to build to a better outcome.
As an industry, they’re working on a big problem. The lack of women entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines (widely held to be the most critical sectors of the coming century), and the systemic issues in tech that see gifted female players withdraw.
There’s a gap, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Melbourne creator and coder Ally Watson has been minding that gap, and launched a new project to help close it.
Code Like a Girl seeks to connect girls and women involved in the tech industry or who enjoy coding.
Envato Senior Developer Shevaun Coker is taking to the stage to share her story to help kick it off.
Here’s a sneak peek at that story, and a chance to meet one of our talented team members.
Shevaun Coker, Envato Senior Developer
When – and why – did you decide to go into IT?
Shevaun: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I decided to make programming my career, but I have a few different experiences that all set me on the path to be a developer.
The first is also my first coding experience, which was in my first year of high school, during a “technology” module. We were given little round robots with wheels and keypads, and we could program them to move around the room and play musical notes. I made my robot dance in circles while playing twinkle, twinkle little star, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever!
That experience made me switch schools in Year 12 in order to attend a school that had a programming class. I took that class in Years 12 and 13, and at the end of Year 13 we all sat a scholarship exam and from that a number of us (including myself) were awarded a scholarship for our first year’s fee at the local university.
So it was an easy decision to study Computer Science and I enjoyed it so much that when I graduated I immediately started looking for programming jobs.
What factors do you think made it possible for you?
Shevaun: Having that initial exposure to programming at high school, and being able to take a class in it. Also my high school programming teacher, Mrs Baker, was a fantastic teacher and really encouraged my passion for coding.
What’s the most inspiring application of your skills you’ve experienced in your career to date?
Shevaun: I was working for the Ministry of Social Development in NZ when the Christchurch earthquake happened. A lot of businesses had to close and employers were left unable to pay their employees.
Our developer team banded together and worked round the clock to deploy a web application that would let people apply for and receive emergency benefits within a couple of days.
It was amazing to be able help people going through a really tough point in their lives.
What’s a great idea you’ve encountered to help reverse the gender gap in technology?
Shevaun: Buildkite sponsored “gender pay gap” subsidised tickets for women to a recent Railscamp, which was a great way to increase accessibility and let more women attend.
What other women in technology do you admire?
Shevaun: I admire people like Sandi Metz and Katrina Owen, who not only are passionate about constantly improving their craft, but are helping the rest of world do so too with their awesome presentations, books and blog posts.
What are you most proud of about being a developer at Envato?
Shevaun: Envato is full of caring, passionate and friendly people, which makes for an amazing work environment and one I’m very grateful for.
What excites you most about the next few years in tech?
Shevaun: As more and more of the world moves online, there is always more work to do and better ways to do it. The room to grow and take on new challenges is infinite.
If you’re in Melbourne you can catch Shevaun and many other talented female technologists at the Code Like a Girl launch event.
Resources for Women in Tech
Here’s just a handful of the many terrific organisations and initiatives set up to change the fortunes of women in technology worldwide.
Women in Technology International is a global network of women working in tech, dedicated to advancing career opportunities and building meaningful connections.
Black Girls Code provides young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn technology and computer programming skills at a critical time in their lives.
Girls in Tech is a global organization focused on nurturing women to positions of influence in technology.
Rails Girls is a global organization aggregates resources and creates a network to help women leverage technology to bring their ideas to life, and bring more women into the folds of programming careers. Envato Developer Trung Le is helping bring this to life in Vietnam.
Geek Girl Dinners are a global network with local outposts in various cities, that host socials, dinners, bootcamps – anything to connect women in tech, extend their skills and open up new horizons.
Anita Borg Instituteis dedicated to the transformative impacts of technology – and of women within the technology fields. Founder Anita Borg is the woman behind the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (the largest gathering of women technologists on the planet).
Girls Who Code works with high school students to teach them and equip them with the resources to get involved in computer science.
CodeEd is a U.S based organization that teaches computer science to middle-school girls
appcamp4girls is a North American spin on holiday camp where girls can use their creative talents to design and building applications.
Program a New Future
Rewriting the future for women in technology starts with early education – shattering stereotypes, recalibrating expectations and shining a light on heroes living those changes.
These initiatives are focused on empowering younger women; teaching them that there’s no one way to program, and no one type of person that is a programmer.
Kodable offers light touch curriculum content to teach elementary age children programming.
Iridescent Learning aims to help children get started in the field of engineering, and specifically focuses on those in underserved areas.
Hello Ruby is a book for children between five and eight interested in learning programming. It uses the Ruby language (and a character named Ruby) to teach basic concepts through reading and illustration. It’s a great way to engage a young girl in the craft.
code.org is a U.S. non-profit is on a mission to make coding more inclusive – to everyone – with a focus on underrepresented groups like women and minorities.
Read Envato co-founder Cyan Ta’eed’s playbook for combating imposter syndrome
Creating an even playing field and changing fortunes for women in technology is a long game, but like many industry peers, Envato is invested for the long haul.
This article was originally published on Inside Envato in August 2015.