Programming is one of the most demanded jobs in IT and Tech sectors nowadays. It’s also one of the best-paid jobs, and mostly a manly profession – or is it? At Briisk we’ve organized an event for female programmers: Elixir Girls Workshops, and it made us wonder why there were so few women working as software developers.
Put stereotypes aside
Don’t you think that the time when women were typical housewives are behind us? Why then the problem of diversity is still so common in many countries?
Women strive to be part of the tech community and build software as men do, because they also have the skills. That cultural myth that women are not techie is by far out of date. I know many girls programmers and programmers-to-be that are just as good as their male colleagues.
By the way, did you know that the first computer programmer in history was a woman – Ada Lovelace? It’s a shame that there are not many female mentors who girls could look up to these days.
Some would say it’s not that surprising, since the CEOs of big tech companies are men. Take, for example, Steve Jobs and Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantics or Elon Musk and Tesla.
However, this trend is changing. Women in IT and tech are not a fad, but a reasonable way of developing the industry. With the shortage of software developers on the Polish market, it’s only natural that we educate more women in STEM to work with us.
I’m glad that big brands see the problem of gender disparity and that the number of events dedicated to women, like Elixir Girls Workshops that we hold, is rising.
I went through many “Women in IT and Tech” statistics, and the results are not that satisfying. Although the numbers grow each year, globally there are still far fewer women than men working in IT.
However, the number of girls’ communities in tech and IT is growing. Thanks to groups like Geek Girls Carrots, Girls Who Test, Girls Who Code, etc., whose aim is to open up technology and make it more approachable for girls and women, the gender gap in these sectors can shrink significantly.
I really admire their founders for organizing events and workshops which are very often free and give women the tools to build their dream apps.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there will be more women programmers and entrepreneurs like Ada Lovelace, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, Marisa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, or Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube. The list is longer, the latest is from Forbes: The world’s top 50 women in tech.
Elixir Girls is a community of experienced programming practitioners spread all over the world. Their aim is to make technology more accessible for everyone by organising free meetups or workshops and creating a friendly environment for people who want to learn to programme together.
Elixir is a backend programming language and quite a young one in this field of study. Elixir with Phoenix is actually the younger and arguably more powerful brother to Ruby on Rails.
It’s also a high-level programming language, which means it’s very similar to a human language and easy to learn. There may not be that many learning resources available as for Ruby, but we managed to collect them in one place – they can be great for both, beginners and regular backend developers.
Elixir Girls Workshops
There are many events and conferences in tech, some of them are dedicated to Elixir, but there are not many free workshops where attendees could actually learn to code.
The initiator of Elixir Girls Workshops was Cath Jones, who created open source materials for people who want to learn to code in Elixir, and shared it during her workshops in Australia. Thanks to this community we could also use these materials, contribute to them, exchange the knowledge to build the guidelines and organize our own Elixir Girls Workshops in Poland, which happened to be the first in Europe.
This kind of workshops is a perfect environment for girls to broaden their minds in this field of tech and IT. For girls who already code in other languages it’s a chance to taste Elixir, and for the beginners, it’s an opportunity to learn what programmers’ work looks like.
At Briisk, we share knowledge almost every week during lightning talks. They are short, but the really touche upon the inspiring topic. The same thing we did at the workshops. Coding can be exhausting, especially for beginners, so lightning talks plaited between breaks were like food for thought for everyone.
The purpose of Elixir is to build live chat apps which are very popular these days. Elixir is a high-level programming language, which means it’s very similar to a human language and it’s easy to learn.
For many of the girls, Elixir Girls Workshops was the first time when they could see what’s under the hood. Fortunately for them, they were put in groups with similar level so they could understand and keep up with the information provided by their mentors.
Apart from building the actual app, the girls also learned:
- Elixir, Erlang and Phoenix
- how Phoenix apps are organized
- similarities and differences between Elixir, Phoenix and Rails (some mentors used analogies to Rails, which was super easy to understand for more advanced groups)
- functional programming
After the workshops, girls can still work on their apps and improve them. Not to leave them without further help, girls can join Elixir Girls slack group where they can still have contact with their mentors and reach out for more help if needed.
We also have collected all the materials needed for self-study here.
Apart from workshops, there are many ways to start coding. You don’t have to graduate from the University of Technology today to become a professional programmer. You can start with reading this Elixir article, or you can either sign up for a coding course, enter an internship programme in one of software houses like Briisk or start learning by yourself after hours. At the end of the day, we all know that the best products were created in their owners’ garages.
Attending tech conferences, meet-ups, and other industry-related events is also a great place to learn and be up-to-date with trends. At workshops like Elixir Girls, you can not only put hands on coding and create a real, working app but also listen to, ask questions and learn from experienced peers.
Yay or Nay
Are the events dedicated to women necessary? Yes. Women should have more access to tech and STEM education, and there should be more female mentors. That’s for sure.
As for Elixir Girls Workshops, the girls were very cheerful and excited to get this chance to attend the female meet-up. Our aim was to make Elixir more popular among women who work in IT or want to start their career as developers.
As organisers, we wanted to make the technology more accessible for everyone and to create a community for girls specialising in Elixir. We wanted to share our knowledge.
We see that there should be gender balance and that girls should use their creative minds to add last touches in apps. By organizing Elixir Girls Workshops we wanted to inspire more women to join IT sector and become developers, because we believe there should be more women in tech.
Yay to inspiring, women-dedicated IT and tech events! Hopefully, soon we will hear about women who created something big in their garages.