At a recent lunch with work colleagues, the waitress was quite surprised to find our group consisted of 13 men and one woman; me. After 10 years of working in the IT industry as a developer, even I find it a novelty to come across other female developers.
And so it begs the question, why don’t more women code?
Here are some of the reasons I think they should.
Computers “think” in a unique way; it does exactly as it’s told and does not deal well with ambiguity. Even if programs, such as Siri, appear to be able to do otherwise, they are just following a fixed set of rules.
By learning the basics of coding it can aid you in your decision making process by going through if-then-else scenarios. It also trains your brain to break down tasks into their separate parts and to systematically solve the problems you encounter in your personal as well as professional life.
You don’t have to learn a whole computer language to take advantage of the time-savings a computer offers by performing repetitive tasks for you.
Just open up Excel and click the fx button above the spreadsheet to explore all the simple yet powerful functions you can use. On top of getting Excel to add and subtract values, you can use the CONCATENATE function to join a list of first and last names into one. If you want to be fancier, you can combine the FIND and LEFT, LEN and RIGHT functions to split a full name into their first and last names (if you spent more than a second trying to work it out, then you would probably enjoy coding). Just by setting up a formula in Excel, you have effectively written a line of code. Go on, try it.
Once you start coding, you begin to understand how a computer, and technology in general, works. Instead of wondering why your mobile, for example, is behaving a certain way, you realise it’s just doing exactly as it’s told to do. So you can go from saying “my mobile isn’t working” to asking “why is it acting this way”. From there, you can try to solve the problem yourself instead of being left feeling helpless.
If you decide to delve deeper into the world of coding, you’ll find that, just as businesses need accountants, the growing use of technology also generates demand for developers, not just in Australia, but worldwide. By exploring coding, you may not only be discovering that you enjoy it, but that it pays well and opens many doors.
Okay, this one might be a little selfish, but I would love to see more women in IT. But seriously, like everything, I believe a diverse mix of people can drive outstanding results. I’m talking about age, cultural backgrounds and experiences, and of course gender.
In most IT teams, men almost always outnumber the women, if there are any at all, which means you miss out on the benefits a female perspective can bring to a team.
Ada Lovelace is known to have written the first “computer” algorithm in 1842. It was also a woman by the name of Grace Hopper who invented the compiler, a tool that translates written language into computer code.
There are also many great women inventors throughout history. A quick google and you’ll see that many great inventions were by women. Some great examples include the circular saw, liquid paper, the windshield wiper and Scotchgard.
With fewer women in IT, the industry is potentially missing out on future innovations. In fact, if women never considered computing as a career choice, coding as we know it maybe completely different.
Back to the present – for applications designed for women, who better to design it than a woman?
Although the perception today is that coding is a man’s job or the domain of geeks and nerds, the reality is far from it. It was not that long ago we generally accepted that women were poor at maths and science yet today nobody would dare suggest it. And considering the amount of technology jobs out there, if popular culture’s portrayal of IT employees is to be believed, then you would have already noticed many more socially dysfunctional people out there.
So why did I learn to code?
Because I wanted to make computers bend to my will, just like my brother.
Lucy Chau is a software developer with over 10 years experience. Her career has taken her through all facets of development – from UIs to databases and analysis to support. After a years break travelling around Europe, she has thrown herself afresh into the world of all things IT. Connect with Lucy on Linkedin.