Breaking down tech gender barriers

Breaking down tech gender barriers

Women have been consistently underrepresented in the technology industry since its inception. 

Recent research showed that just 14% of the UK tech industry is female and that fewer than 10% of its investors are women.

One Near Neighbours project in North West London has taken to tackling this gender divide head on. 

And so, with support from the Near Neighbours small grants fund, Rabbi Natan Levy began a course to run once a week that would teach these girls computer programming skills. 

Throughout this intensive course these enterprising students gained new coding skills in Python, CSS, and JavaScript. For the final session on the course the girls were even treated to a visit to the UK Twitter HQ to hear from some of the women who had found success there. 

However, these girls were not just exposed to new tech skills and experiences, they were also exposed to new cultures and faiths. The girls worked across faith schools by partnering with one of the girls from a different school to work together on the computer lessons. 

The result of this was that there was just as much curiosity about each other amongst the girls as there was about the computers.

Each class ended in a chance to eat together and it was during this time that the girls were really brought together. The natural inquisitiveness of youth broke free during these sessions as questions ranging from the topic of fasting during Ramadan and the importance of 'what does a communion wafer taste like?' began to emerge. 

Hamila is the Head of ICT at one of the participating schools and was responsible for delivering the classes. She explained that, actually, the relationships that have been built and the lessons learnt about other faiths and cultures has been an even greater success from this project than the computer skills. 

One of the girls commented, 

"After the course I am definitely more interested in IT and coding, and I most enjoyed the chance to make new friends outside my general group.

This comment sums up that this project has succeeded in exactly what it aimed to do. As well as tackling gender divides in our society, this project has brought people together and allowed relationships of trust to form across faith and cultural lines. 

The importance of the project was succinctly explained by the project lead, Rabbi Natan when he said, 

Computer coding felt like such an obvious focal point for this project, not least because it is an emerging field, but even more so because in this currently fractured world it holds promise as a shared language."

This project has been both truly groundbreaking and a tremendous success. It's been  fantastic project for Near Neighbours to become a part of and we'd like to extend our congratulations to everyone that was involved. 

Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones

Date: 10 July 2015