Some women in tech talks: Warwick, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh

I have a bunch of things I meant to blog about but didn’t get round to – so I’m catching up by blogging once a day till I’m back at “now”. This would probably have been 2 or 3 blog posts had I done them at the time!…

Way back in 2012 I did an invited talk in Wolverhampton, on women in tech. This year they invited me back, so obviously, I needed a slightly different talk. At around the same time I was invited to talk to the University of Warwick Computer Science department, and as I was going to be in Edinburgh for the Lovelace Colloquium I got invited to do a BCS talk there too. Obviously, I re-used the talk (although with different titles each time – that’ll fool ’em:-)

Here’s the lovely Sharon Moore from BCSWomen in Scotland introducing me on the last outing, in Edinburgh:

The theme I took this time was “Young women in computing”; instead of trying to address the entire career pipeline, I only really considered school and uni experiences. There’s plenty to talk about there. Here’s my abstract:

There are many initiatives supporting women in computing, from programming systems aimed at pre-teen girls, through to initiatives helping women get back into the tech industry following career breaks. However, in terms of “intervention density” (if that’s even a thing), it seems we aim a lot of our efforts and funds at younger women – students, apprentices, schoolkids.

It’s over a decade since the book “Unlocking The Clubhouse” gave us a detailed look at the student experience in the USA: did we learn anything from that, or are we just repeating the same old stuff? Do today’s young women have the same experiences? In this talk I will look into the attitudes and experiences of younger women in tech – the things we’re trying to do, the things which work, the things which are too little, and the things which are probably too late. I will also try to address the big question: are we wasting our time?

My conclusions – spoiler alert – were that we’re probably doing some good stuff, but that we really need the guys to get on board. This was a useful thing to say in Wolverhampton (there were some guys there, it was about 50-50 split), but probably not a useful thing to say in Warwick (1 guy turned up in an audience of about 10) or Edinburgh (maybe 3 or 4 guys out of 70-ish audience). I do think that we need to take a more joined-up approach, and that we really need to stop having women doing all the women’s stuff (leaving the rest of computing to be done by the guys).

Anyway, if anyone wants a slightly ranty talk about young women, how and why they’re turned off computing, and some of what we can do about it, I’ve got one ready to go… it’s been delivered 3 times now so it even makes a coherent argument.

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