The young women who are proud to 'Code Like a Girl'
Updated 8 March 2016, 9:30 AEDT
For International Women's Day, we meet two young migrants who are breaking down barriers in Australia's male-dominated technology industry.
Ally Watson grew up in a small town just outside of Glasgow, Scotland, and moved to Melbourne two years ago. She says she was drawn by the city’s “flourishing tech scene, active community and ability to make a seriously good cup of java.”
Having worked as a developer for almost six years, Ally says she knows what it’s like to be the only woman on the the ‘tech team,’ and that’s why she started the ‘local tech initiative’ Code Like a Girl – a meet-up group that hosts speaker events and workshops focusing on topics related to the tech industry.
“Code Like a Girl is an initiative that aims to provide girls with the tools, support and network they need to flourish in the coding world. Girls need more role models in tech so we create events that showcase local women in our industry and celebrate their achievements.
"We want to inspire a new generation of girls so host workshops and classes that break down any barriers of unfamiliarity of coding in a fun, accessible and welcoming environment."
Marcellina Mardian was born and raised in Bandung, West Java, in Indonesia. She moved to Melbourne in 2007 to study Media & Communications at RMIT before teaming up with Ally to become the content and marketing manager for Code Like a Girl.
“There are many meet-ups and networking events in Melbourne," she says, "but not enough of those specifically catering to women, especially as tech is quite a male-dominated industry.
“I’ve always been passionate about fostering communities and local initiatives, and had been involved in other local events in Melbourne. Having seen Ally’s ambitions for Code Like a Girl from the beginning, I wanted to be part of it."
She describes Code Like a Girl as "a local tech initiative for girls, by girls".
"Working in the tech sector shows me the great fun things about tech, what the industry offers, but also the challenges that comes with it. I think Ally and I share a common goal for Code Like a Girl; to continue to support, share knowledge among the community and hopefully, inspire a change in the tech space too.”
Both Ally and Marcellina agree that the biggest challenge they face is bring young women into the world of technology.
“The challenge for us is removing that stigma that ‘tech is geeky’ or ‘it’s only for guys’ and engaging girls at a young age,” Ally says.
Coding is one of the most important skills of the 21st century and there is a significant talent drought.
"It’s so important that kids, especially females, are exposed to these kind of careers and skills from an early age. Unconscious bias means that from a young age girls are not exposed to problem solving and electronic games in the way boys are."
She says this disparity has led to a huge imbalance in the number of boys compared to girls who pursue technology as a career path – a problem they hope to go some way to addressing.
For now, the two are hoping 2016 brings an opportunity to expand their organisation, and reach a bigger audience.
"This year’s an exciting year for Code Like a Girl," Ally says. "We want to make big strides to reach a younger audience and will be collaborating with other initiatives and organisations to achieve this goal. We’d like to see Code Like a Girl go beyond Melbourne, but we’ll be taking it step by step.
"For the next generation of coding girls, we hope more girls feel inspired to get into coding and be more involved in the creation and development of tech, rather than just being the end-users. We hope to see more role models and stories of great things made by coding girls. We’re on our way there! "