It’s time to diversify the tech scene…

Anisah Osman Britton is challenging the concept that the tech industry is a man’s world. Since completing the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at Bilborough College, in Nottingham, UK, Anisah founded 23 Code Street – a coding school for women in the UK, where every paying student will fund a lesson for a disadvantaged student in the slums of Mumbai, India. The school, which is based in London, gives students the foundation that they need to become developers. While in India, it is working closely with a Mumbai-based non-profit, which concentrates on women’s health, to plan classes in the

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The founder of 23 Code Street, and IB alumni, Anisah Osman Britton, tells IB World magazine how she is making coding more accessible to women in the UK and India

city from September 2018. 23 Code Street will focus on digital skills, which will provide the necessary skills to help women get data entry jobs and regain independence. In the future, 23 Code Street will also teach coding. Looking back, Anisah always thought she would go to university after school, as this seemed a natural pathway.

“I don’t think I had really considered anything else apart from going to university,” she says. “But the IB made me realize that university wasn’t my only option.  “The open-minded way of approaching education and the way you are encouraged to question everything you know, made me realize that I had other options open to me and that, actually, I had the skills and confidence to go down another route”.

Lack of women in tech

Anisah realized that she wanted to start her own company, and after graduating from Bilborough College, she interned in businesses around the world to gain an understanding of what was needed to start and grow a company.

“I didn’t have any knowledge of technology. But, as I fell into the tech industry, I realized how valuable it would have been to have had some of these skills at college, and have had conversations around the impact of technology, the lack of women in the industry and the change we could have been part of”.

Five years ago, when Anisah was working at The Bakery – a company that pairs brands with tech startups – she realized that the tech industry was male-dominated. Nine out of 10 people she worked with were men. “I heard views I disagreed with, I found people patronizing towards women who didn’t have technical skills, or, more importantly, who didn’t have tech jargon as part of their vocabulary. I saw that we worked with a majority of startups, which were led by men, and the female-founded companies had to prove themselves that little bit more.

“I saw men in Third World countries, especially the rising working class, who had doors opening for them because technology was accessible to them. And I saw products and services that seemed to forget that women existed”.

For example, Apple released a health app without a period tracker on it for women.

“23 Code Street was born out of a need to give women the skills to build the future, to be part of the conversation and to diversify the tech scene”, says Anisah.

She started pushing for more women on teams at The Bakery, and over time the gender split improved from 20 per cent female, to 40 per cent. Tom Salmon, founder of The Bakery, realized the value women bring to the industry and invested in Anisah’s idea of a coding school for females.

“We need women who are marginalized and often forgotten in certain societies to have the tools and knowledge to be able to even imagine a change they could create”, explains Anisah.

She credits the DP for the success of 23 Code Street, as it challenged her in ways that she’ll never forget. “The DP taught me how to ask for help and to be grateful for that help, and how to be a team player. I hire smarter people than me and don’t feel threatened. I challenge people to be better than me in my own company. I go to employees for advice”, says Anisah.

“The IB also taught me to be proud of being a feminist. Nobody had labelled me that in a positive way before. I came to understand feminism meant the fight to be equal. I debated history, literature and science, to understand the role (or lack of) of women in the world. The day I graduated, my English teacher gave us all a book as a parting gift. I was given A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by Mary Wollstonecraft. I read it and realized how far we’d come but also, how far we had to go”.

Expanding into Europe

To date, Anisah has won four awards and has been nominated for ‘We are Tech Women finalist 2017’ and ‘Forbes 30 under 30 nominee 2017’. In addition, many London students have successfully completed the course and gone on to work in the tech industry. But, it’s just the beginning for Anisah and 23 Code Street. She wants to create more courses in the UK and expand to other cities in Europe. “We are also bringing the courses online”, she says.

“In India, we want to create a sustainable model where our alumni begin training our new students. If we were to ever close, which is not the plan(!), we want to have left the infrastructure for the community”.

See the original article here

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Tech lobby thrilled about computer coding in schools

People who work in Saskatchewan’s technology sector are applauding the provincial government’s pledge to introduce new computer coding courses in elementary and high schools, hoping to solve an industry-wide labour crunch. The province’s tech sector is still comparatively small, but rapid growth has resulted in a shortage of experienced software developers, and the problem is expected to get worse, according to a spokesman for a new industry lobby group. “We can identify several hundred open jobs right now,” said Aaron Genest, who works for the computer chip developer Solido Design Automation Inc. and speaks for SaskTech, which represents more than 40 companies with about 5,000 employees. “It’s an early indicator of the challenges that we’re going to face in 10, 15, 25 years … In the long term, we need to prepare our children to see (computer science) programs as part of their future.” The Saskatchewan Party

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SaskTech spokesman Aaron Genest in the Saskatoon offices of Solido Design Automation Inc.

government committed to developing the curriculum in its throne speech, which was read in the legislature on Wednesday. It said the courses will prepare children for careers in science, engineering and technology.  The promise emerged from consultations with SaskTech and the broader industry.  Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said this week that while the mechanics have yet to be worked out, she would like to see the courses being taught “as soon as possible.” She declined to provide a specific timeline but said enthusiasm for the proposal is widespread. The main challenge is a shortage of qualified teachers, the Stonebridge–Dakota MLA said. Saskatchewan only has about 70 teachers qualified to instruct high school students in computer science, and the province’s two education colleges must work to increase that number, she said. Saskatchewan’s 28 school boards have spent the last six months grappling with a 1.2 per cent, or $22 million, operational funding reduction handed down in the government’s unpopular 2017-18 budget, which aims to halve a $1.2 billion deficit this year. Eyre said the province’s financial situation has “no relevance” to the development of coding courses. “Now that the focus is there, and so the resources will, I’ve been assured, fall into place,” she said.  Michelle Naidu, associate director of development for the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, noted it takes years to develop new courses, and professional development resources are already scarce; however, she said the proposed courses could benefit students. “Computational thinking is going to start showing up in all kinds of jobs as we move away from people doing work,” said Naidu, who is also the president of the Saskatchewan Math Teachers Society. “It’s really hard to predict the future, but everyone seems to be very happy to understand that technology is going to play a larger role in everyone’s future, and so that understanding of the basics of how that works is to everyone’s advantage.” Genest said SaskTech is thrilled the government was open to considering the industry’s proposals, and that while introducing the courses will take time it signals a willingness to boost an emerging sector in the provincial economy.  “It means that they’re committing to a homegrown solution to it (so) that Saskatchewan citizens are going to be able to step in and fill the gap in a technology-driven future.” Measuring the size of the province’s tech sector is difficult, as its work is diverse and often overlaps with other industries. However, the provincial government estimates its economic impact is around $540 million — just under one per cent of the provincial GDP. “Absolutely, it has economic potential,” Eyre said of the proposal. “And absolutely that’s why we’re doing it. We need to take our place as a province that offers this to our students.”

 

Google Student Blog: Applications are open for 2018 scholarship opportunities in the US, Canada, and EMEA!

Google is proud to offer academic scholarships and development opportunities to students from historically underrepresented groups pursuing computer science degrees. We aim to help students from diverse backgrounds become future leaders and role models in computing and technology by breaking down the barriers that prevent them from entering these fields.  Selected students will receive a financial award for the 2018-19 academic year and be invited to the annual Google Scholars’ Retreat in their region next summer. At the retreat, scholars will participate in networking and development sessions, including sessions on how to lead outreach in their communities. Scholars also join long term a community of former scholarship recipients for continued networking and development.  Read more to check the details of each program here