How the problem of women in tech starts in school
In our profile of web developer Diosa Taylor, we see how the lack of women in tech starts in school and how this could be easily improved on.
Back when I was at university I lived in a house with six male students. Between them they studied maths, physics, biology, electronic engineering and computer science. I studied languages. It recently struck me on hearing the term computer scientist that, despite a wholehearted belief in gender parity across all spheres, the image that sprang to mind was still of a nerdy, bespectacled guy behind a computer screen. It led me to wonder whether perhaps gender equality in the tech sphere is lagging further behind than we hoped. Why do we still think of computer science and STEM as such a man’s sphere? The media? What’s encouraged at school? Some of these reasons are explored in an introduction to our women in tech series (read here). I then went further a field to get some genuine insights from successful women that actually work in the technology industry.
In this interview I spoke to Diosa Taylor, 26, a web developer (Ruby on Rails) now based in Amsterdam. Educated internationally and something of a global native, she discusses her experience of starting out as a woman in the field, the reasons behind the gender divide in tech and choosing between arts and STEM subjects.
§ Can you sum up your work and a bit about what you do?
The company I work for helps businesses collect data about visitors to their website. Using this data, they can target their marketing at particular users depending on their behaviour and characteristics. Everyone gets annoyed at targeted advertising but we’re trying to make it so that instead of seeing an ad for a pair of trousers you’ve already bought, you’ll see the matching shirt instead. I help develop the web interface part of our products.
§ How did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in tech?
I kind of fell into it, actually. I studied maths at university. When people see that on my CV they assume there’s a few things I could try my hand at in related fields. Someone asked me one day if I’d be interested in learning to code and I said yes. Here I am 2 years later!
Learning is essential for for personal development and creating new opportunities for yourself. Having a mentor can be a great way to advance the learning process.
§ Were you always interested in STEM subjects?
I’ve always liked maths and physics but was better at the former so I dropped physics and let my dreams of becoming an astronaut fall to the wayside. I’m too short anyway.
I loved art as well so for a while I tried to choose between art and maths. But making websites actually involves a lot of design, so I’ve accidentally found a job that combines both, which is fantastic.
§ Did you find your university course heavily weighted towards males?
Maths at Cardiff Uni was about half and half, although I’m not sure about other universities. I do know that other subjects like engineering and computer science at Cardiff were 90% guys.
§ Did you ever feel like your gender affected people’s expectations or the way you were treated in the professional world?
Professionally I’ve been really lucky and no one has treated me differently because of my gender. In my personal life though, people outside of tech are sometimes surprised to find out I’m a programmer. They assume I must be a front end developer, or just responsible for making the site ‘pretty’.
§ Have you noticed a lack of women working in the tech field?
Yes. I haven’t been in it very long but yes I would say it’s a man’s world.
§ What do you think could be a way to combat this?
Although recruiters could do more to seek out women for tech roles, I think the lack of women in tech starts at school. IT is seen as such a ‘boys subject’. It would be nice to see schools do more to encourage girls to do STEM subjects. This could be through finding video games that girls actually play and explaining that they could make games themselves. Or maybe by incorporating programming and art together to show how you can combine them to make websites with some simple HTML & CSS.
§ What would you say to any girls or women that considering a career in tech?
Do it! We need more of you! And also, there are a ton of meetup groups and things like that for women in tech if you ever get frustrated sitting in a room full of straight white dudes. Come find us.