Published 11th April 2016
On 6th April, my colleague and I attended the Women Techmakers Summit in Belfast, an event organised by Claire Burn, the City Lead at Women Who Code Belfast (WWC) in association with Google. The Summit was in correlation with International Women’s day last month and its main focus was increasing visibility, empowering and encouraging women within the IT industry.
The Summit hosted a vast range of speakers from all areas of the IT industry from Managing Directors and Project Managers through to GCSE students with a passion for technology.
The key areas of discussion were Business Start Up, Cyber Security, raising awareness for younger girls and the importance of equality in this fast paced industry. Two of the most notable speakers where Olivia Copeland and Caroline McCartney, 13 and 14-year-old students from Methody College Belfast, who co-founded FutureConf – a conference for teenagers who want to learn more about technology. They spoke about the opportunities in schools for students, the gender difference in IT classes and the need to make IT a mandatory subject. The confidence and passion they displayed during their presentation was refreshing and encouraging and to quote Sheree Atcheson (WWC) “We can’t have women who code if we don’t have girls who code!”
For attendees similar to me, who are not full-time developers, there was an emphasis on the vast range of roles available within the tech industry from project management, analysis, support, consultancy, testing and marketing just to name a few. Speakers such as Patricia O’Hagan, Anna McMinn, Laura Moore and Carla McGlynn proved that there is so much more to software than just development, and how you can find your niche via support provided through meet-ups, events, seminars and conferences. It is an ideal way to meet like-minded people, get help, advice and network!
A focus on equality brought up questions about the speakers being an all-female line-up, but considering some of the statistics we read (in 2015, 8196 students chose A Level Computing – 8.6% of which were female) there really is a need to highlight that the IT industry has a major gender imbalance. A panel of Samantha Fraser, Victoria McCallum and Diane Murdock challenged the importance of equality in the workplace and gave an unbiased view of their own experiences. A mass amount of talent is being lost by the small percentage of jobs held by females in the IT workplace, but the drive and passion held by the speakers and attendees alike has proven that people are willing to work to close this gap and promote equal opportunities, regardless of gender. In doing so, hopefully in the future, we won’t need to have events like this, as equality will no longer be an issue.
This was my first IT conference and I certainly encourage anyone to attend similar events, there is no better way to find out what is out there than to get out there yourself and experience it.