Why women are better at coding than men
“We must provide more opportunities for women; we must actively listen and consider other people’s points of view.” – Nick Hurley
Digital designer, developer and founder of The Human Project, Nick Hurley, agrees, stating that the lack of diversity is a self-perpetuating cycle. He argues that it only gets worse as the next generation of venture capitalists – “the people who capitalism has appointed as the gatekeepers to the direction of the human race” – are created from a tiny privileged subset of society, sharing and perpetuating the same values as the generation of venture capitalists that went before. “This cycle will only continue unless we take an active role in encouraging diversity,” he urges. “We must provide more opportunities for women; we must actively listen and consider other people’s points of view; and we must stand by their side, understanding that our position of authority was not afforded to us by meritocracy, but by privilege.”
Thankfully, there are some companies already implementing initiatives to improve diversity in the workplace. Kathryn Finney is the founder and managing director of digitalundivided (DID), a social enterprise that finds, supports, and trains urban tech entrepreneurs. In 2013, she received the Champion of Change Award from the White House for her work increasing inclusion in the tech industry. In the early 2000s, she participated in one of the first accelerator programmes in New York, and found herself as the only black person and one of only four women in the room.
“A famous investor even told me he wouldn’t invest because he ‘didn’t do black women’” – Kathryn Finney
“I was never invited to pitch my idea,” she remembers. “A famous investor even told me (in front of everyone else) that my business model for a beauty box service ‘was excellent’ but he wouldn’t invest because he ‘didn’t do black women’. It made me wonder how many other diverse women founders had been rejected and actively discouraged from tech entrepreneurship. Shortly after that, I founded DID.” Finney offers some hopeful statistics, explaining that by increasing the transparency in demographics in respective companies, there’s more awareness around diversity.
“Pinterest hired its first head of diversity; Investor Jonathan Sposato committed to investing only in startups with women founders; and Kapor Capital asked over 50 of its funded companies to sign a diversity pledge called ‘Founders’ Commitment’. These are actions that would have been unthinkable a decade ago,” she enthuses. “However, we need to get more stakeholders involved. We can’t just wait for the Silicon Valley executives to decide on this; we have to look into other resources such as foundations, government-funded organisations, and even ourselves in order to keep the momentum going.”
Liles is also working with her company towards diversity improvement, implementing a code of conduct at its developer events, ensuring job adverts aren’t gender-biased and taking on junior developers to train them from the ground up. “Another thing is just talking about it and educating ourselves – calling out the unconscious biases. After a year or two, those who had those biases in the first place start calling it out themselves,” she says. “It’s kind of training them, which in turn creates a culture where you can actively talk about it.”
As encouraging as this seems, Finney argues that a lot of companies tend to be all talk and no action. “Many are happy to talk about diversity in the press, but few are willing to put their money where their mouths are,” she explains. “If more people actually translated their good words into tangible action, then we could have made even more strides in solving our problems in tech inclusion.”
“Women such as Liles, Finney and Imafidon are inspiring the next generation of coders.”
While this call to action could see an increase in gender diversity in the coming years, it’s these startups – and women such as Liles, Finney and Imafidon – that are inspiring the next generation of coders, leaving the bigger companies in their wake. “It’s really easy to underestimate what young people can do,” Imafidon explains. “The girls just blow me completely out of the water at every event.”
“For me, one of my biggest [Stemettes] highlights was the outbox incubator project that we ran last summer. We took 115 girls from across Europe and brought them in 45 at a time, under one roof in south London,” she explains. “They were all working there and eating there and sleeping there. We had loads of different people coming in doing sessions on running their own tech startups; teaching them about money and fundraising and accounting, teaching them about marketing and product development.
“We did a demo day halfway through [where] 29 startups pitched, and the quality of the ideas and how much thought had gone into it… completely blew me away.” Concluding, she enthuses: “There’s so much we do to inspire these girls, when actually it’s them that are the inspirational ones – it just goes to show what happens when they’re given a platform.”
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