Event Report: Women, Coding & the Future

With World IP Day just around the corner on a timely and fantastic theme of "Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity", two weeks ago Bird & Bird hosted the London Chapter of ChIPs' event  "Women, Coding and the Future".  The AmeriKat was sadly unable to attend, but Zoe Fuller (Bird & Bird) reports on the evening:   
"Following the successful launch of the London Chapter of the ChIPs network last year, the eagerly anticipated "Women, Coding and the Future" event took place yesterday evening.  
Amali in action 
Headlining this event was Amali de Alwis, CEO at Code First: Girls, a social enterprise that has taken on the challenge of tackling the thorny issue of why there are not more women in tech and entrepreneurship. Amali took us through some all too familiar statistics which highlight the low numbers of women in these industries. In 2017, for example, female programmers and software developers made up only 3.9% of tech and telco professionals in the UK. Code First: Girls is engaging with this issue by teaching women (but not just women) to code, many of whom for free. Amali explained their 2020 campaign; teaching 20,000 women to code by 2020. Code First: Girls is well on its way to completing that challenge. As a taster of a typical coding lesson, Amali gave a practical introduction to coding principles and the internet, clarifying terms which we all use on a daily basis without really understanding what they mean and explaining how to create a website in under 10 minutes.
Anita Shaw (a patent attorney at IBM) was up next. She outlined the reasons why she chose a computer science degree rather than one in arts or medicine (because of the wide ranging career options coupled with a very tempting sponsorship offer from IBM) and described the chance opportunity which then led her down the patent attorney route. Anita shared her experiences of working in a male dominated environment and highlighted some of IBM's initiatives to improve diversity.
The evening was rounded off by a dynamic panel discussion with many questions and observations from the audience. Amali and Anita were joined on stage by Charlotte Szostek (Machine Learning Engineer/Data Scientist at Ripjar) and Sam Funnell (Adarga Ltd and co-chair of the London Chapter of ChIPs). Issues were identified, experiences shared and solutions proposed.
A lack of role models was mentioned as one particular challenge. Mentoring was generally considered to be a positive experience and need not be limited to the traditional mentoring relationship. Value can be had from both male and female mentors whilst reverse mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring can be mutually beneficial. The availability of mentoring schemes was noted as a good resource for those who do not have ready access to a mentor.

A debate on possible reasons why the number of women in law dwindles at the senior level led to a topical discussion of gender pay gap statistics. Equality in terms of maternity and paternity leave and flexible working policies were highlighted as potential ways to help level the playing field, with one observation of a gender neutral sabbatical leave being trialed in a work place. It was noted that there seems to be an increasing trend of clients demanding diversity in the legal teams they instruct. These clients would not be fooled simply by having a diverse pitch team which then disappears as the work starts. Perhaps ultimately any improvements in diversity within law firms will be client driven, rather than internally driven.
Brainstorming and network continued with gusto over drinks and canapes.
Changing the status quo will not happen by itself. Obstacles and deterrents need to be knocked down, and the more people involved in making that happen, the better. It was both heartening and exciting to see so many like-minded people buzzing with ideas to improve prospects for women in this industry. ChIPs, and other women-led initiatives, are paving the way to change things for the better for future generations. "   
To find out more about ChIPs and to become a member click here.   To learn more about this year's World IP Day click here.  And to get involved in coding initiatives with Code First: Girls click here
Event Report: Women, Coding & the Future Event Report: Women, Coding & the Future Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 Rating: 5

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