Women In STEM: Organisations Building A Future For Female Coders

“Code is the next universal language, in the seventies it was punk music that drove a whole generation, in the eighties it was probably money — but for my generation of people software is the interface to our imagination and our world,” said Linda Liukas, a Finnish programmer who left a cushy job at Codecademy to develop a children’s book aimed at teaching little girls (4 – 7 years) about coding and tech.
Called Hello, Ruby — the illustrated book, named after the programming language was authored and mocked up by Liukas herself, going on to raise hundreds of thousands in funding. Since then she’s released more titles in the “Ruby” series to promote further the need for getting girls into tech as soon as possible.
Liukas isn’t the only STEM enthusiast to push these topics on future generations; there are numerous organisations in existence and forming that are intent on creating a space for women in tech. Here are a few worth a mention:

Girls Who Code

Founder Reshma Saujani introduced Girls Who Code to the world in 2012 as a way to teach young women how to master computer science. “The technology field is where new jobs are being created, and if we want to increase opportunities for women and girls, it has to be in that field,” she told Time. Her US-based non-profit includes a 7-week Summer Immersion Program, 2-week specialised Campus Program, after school Clubs and a 13-book series. So far, “88%​ ​of​ ​alumni​ ​have​ ​declared​ ​a​ ​CS​ ​major/minor​ ​or​ ​are​ ​more​ ​interested​ ​in CS​ ​because​ ​of​ ​Girls​ ​Who​ ​Code,” states the website.

Rails Girls

The brainchild of Hello, Ruby’s Linda Liukas, and Karri Saarinen the Finnish workshop gets its name from the web application framework Rails and began in 2010 as a workshop program but has grown into a global non-profit volunteer collective teaching coding to girls in countries like India, Romania, and Uganda.

CodeFirst: Girls

This social enterprise, founded in 2014 is focused on eradicating the barriers put before women pursuing a STEM education. “We want to change society and the face of the UK economy by teaching 20,000 women how to code for free by the end of 2020,” states the website.

Girls in Tech

A global non-profit geared towards helping women quickly advance in the STEM field. Girls In Tech was created by Adriana Gascoigne, a former tech executive, and current activist and entrepreneur. She started GIT after noticing she was the only woman in a company of 50 people. One of their notable events is “Hacking For Humanity,” a year-long endeavour that debuted last year with the intention of creating something that could help humanity. The winners were a hackathon team in Melbourne, Australia who created an online tool to make it easier for families to find missing loved ones. They were awarded a prize of $2000.00. Since its formation more than a decade ago, GIT has accrued 50,000 members in 60 chapters worldwide.

Code Like a Girl

The Australian company runs workshops throughout the country to bring together girls interested in the tech sphere. Speaker events like “Programmed for Success” include stories of women who have defied the odds in the STEM world.
These are only a few of the many companies created to create a space for women in tech. Despite these groups being primarily for the female sect, they also invite the opposite sex into many of their projects. Indeed, their purpose is to promote inclusivity in the industry and avoid gender favouritism. Let’s “code-exist” happily.
Via: Forbes, Time, STEM, TEDX

Interview With Cloud Operations Engineer Alaa Rahimi

Freespee: Hi Alaa! So tell us more about what you do for Freespee?
Alaa: Hi. In this position, I am responsible for managing our cloud infrastructure, contributing to the expansion of our telco network, while helping developers and support in the issues regarding Freespee services.
Freespee: STEM week is here, as an engineer and a woman in tech, who is your female STEM idol?
Alaa: Well, this is a hard one! I would say any female who succeeds in the tech world is a role model for me. However, to be precise, I could say Lise Meitner is a female idol of mine. I know that despite being criticised and mistreated due to her gender and religious belief, she didn’t give up. Ever since I was a teenager and found out about her life story, I realised that in STEM world; the most important thing is to concentrate on your goal and never stop, follow your dreams and trust yourself.

Freespee: What is the industry like for women in the cloud operations field?
Alaa: I would say this is one of the fields in which I don’t see many women involved. But I’m very optimistic, and I believe women can perform any STEM job as well as a man — sometimes even better! Usually, operations jobs include more responsibility in every position and demand more care and patience in the role. Cloud operations could even be more challenging since it requires background and knowledge of cloud computing. I’ve seen female in tech who avoid this field due to these criteria. I strongly encourage all girls in IT to join this field because even though its challenging, it’s very fun and you can work with different aspects of technology.
Freespee: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Alaa: I get excited when I work towards implementing new ideas. The fact that I can combine cloud operations with telecommunications makes it even more interesting. I’ve studied  communications, networks, distributed systems, and telecommunications. Now I can use the technology which is built upon all these subjects. IT is rapidly advancing, and this creates twists and challenges which inspires my curious mind to continuously learn and build new structures.
Freespee: How can we create an environment of inclusivity in the tech world?
Alaa: Women could be good representatives in STEM by encouraging other female workers to join the tech world. I could say we have already started to create such an environment in Freespee. I was the only female engineer for some time, and now that I see more women have joined Freespee I am happy and certainly proud to be part of the team! The movement has started from small-medium sized companies in many countries where gender equality is part of their culture. Moreover, I am aware that in some firms there are particular laws for hiring women. But this can only happen if women themselves are interested in being involved in the technology.
Freespee: A survey recently revealed, teenage girls aren’t interested in tech jobs due to a lack of self-belief, what are your thoughts on this?
Alaa: If women don’t step up themselves then, around half of the population in STEM, who are talented and educated cannot participate in this era. This leads to the lack of professionals with the necessary skills in STEM areas. I feel that teenage girls have more self-belief in comparison to the time when I was a teenager. Even though self-confidence in women has increased during the years, there is still a long way to go, and I’m optimistic that someday in STEM gender will not be a criterion for any job or position in all over the world. This could lead to more self-confidence not only in teenagers but also in all women of any age.
Freespee: What are you most excited about regarding tech development in the next few years?
Alaa: I’m super enthusiastic about cloud to the edge developments and conversational platforms. Both of these areas are very interesting and make me excited. The fact that shortly we can decentralise most of the computing power across multiple edge devices makes the server implementations a lot different. Conversational platforms are also getting more challenging, the interaction between human and smart devices, speech to text, webrtc, and similar technologies have made life easier for consumers, and at the same time in STEM world this has made new opportunities to implement new ideas, and this has opened a whole new development era in Tech.