Kirwin unlocking the inclusivity code

20/07/2022 - 10:28

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She Codes is continuing to build its network as women demand better access to tech training.

Kirwin unlocking the inclusivity code
Ms Kirwin says women often change their career direction following a She Codes experience.

Skills in IT and engineering are increasingly important as Australia transitions to a technologically driven economy.

However, there is still a huge underrepresentation of girls in STEM subjects at school and women in universities, equating to low numbers of women in the workforce.

It seems the issue is less one of insufficient demand and desire among women to participate in tech roles but more to do with the inherent problems women face in finding the right learning environment and career pathways.

Pathways to tech

She Codes founder Kate Kirwin has a background in events (not tech) and started working for Spacecubed at the end of 2014.

Her early experiences in tech are typical of women seeking to navigate their way in the early stages.

Through attending events and meetups, Ms Kirwin found technology intriguing and started to learn how to code through online tutorials and games.

“There weren’t a lot of friendly places to learn, only very intense groups with lots of acronyms that didn’t really feel like a safe place for beginners,” Ms Kirwin told Business News.

This spurred her and a committee of about six others to run the first coding event for women.

Demand for that first event (and subsequent coding days) was strong, with all events since inception sold out and 20-30 people on the waiting list each time.

With the original committee members splintering off to do other projects, Ms Kirwin decided to push forward and start She Codes.

100,000 by ’25

She Codes now offers one-day workshops, one-week programs (Flash) and six-month tech immersion programs (Plus) with the goal to inspire 100,000 women by 2025 to learn technical skills and connect them to career pathways.

More than 6,000 women have been through the program, with a strong network of around 11,000 across social media, events and more.

She Codes has been in Perth and Brisbane since 2020 and has also taught a small cohort in regional Western Australia.

It has just been launched in Sydney this year, while some activity is likely to start in Melbourne within the next six months.

Ms Kirwin said locations were determined by where She Codes could align offering the highest impact with the right partnerships.

Typically, She Codes partners with big corporates that want to recruit large numbers of people, including with Bunnings and Cash Converters in Perth, and BHP in Perth and Brisbane.

One major pull of the She Codes format is the immediate job opportunities, with 70 per cent of the alumni finding work within three months of exiting the program.

Impact, outcomes

Ms Kirwin told Business News she had heard from many women who fundamentally changed their career direction following their She Codes experience.

One such alumni is Meagan Cojocar, who completed the six-month program in 2019.

Ms Cojocar did a talk at the Latency conference having only just learned to code four months earlier.

“She nailed it,” Ms Kirwin said.

Ms Cojocar has gone on to work at companies such as Amazon Web Services and is currently a senior product manager in the US.

Another She Codes graduate is Bronwyn Achemedei, who is now a software engineer at VGW.

Due to a narcolepsy diagnosis, Ms Achemedei was unable to continue her research work, so wanted to change her career.

She moved from testing to engineering and has come full circle to return as a mentor.

Nadia Reyhani was one of the first She Codes participants and had always wanted to work in technology.

She faced a different obstacle: her parents did not want her going into what they perceived to be a male-dominated industry.

Ms Reyhani is now a ‘devops’ engineer at Perth’s Mechanical Rock.

Change

Ms Kirwin said it may be common thinking that if women wanted to be in tech, they would simply just be in tech, but that view tended to overlook ongoing issues of diversity.

She said the best results would be delivered when the tech community worked together, with women supporting other women and creating that flywheel effect: change happening across organisations, social lives, learning experiences and enabling the community of women in tech to flourish.

Chloe Constantinides is a consultant, adviser, and founder of multiple startups. She works in marketing, technology, and strategy. A 2018 40under40 winner, she also featured on SmartCompany’s 2018 Smart 30 Under 30 list

 

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