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May 31, 2016

Men can code just as well as women

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Last week, I attended an IT industry event. It was fantastic, and unlike most tech events, there was almost a 50/50 gender split between the guests.

I was thoroughly enjoying speaking with the other guests and discussing the work I do with WORK180 along with the reasons for co-founding the company. Having come from 9 years in ICT, I developed a passion for encouraging women to choose careers in ICT, and other industries under-represented by women such as engineering or mining.

At one stage, I was speaking with a male attendee (male #1) about our careers- he thought WORK180 was an awesome initiative- a reaction I’ve grown used to seeing. But then, I was faced head on with a healthy dose of unconscious bias and pure ignorance.

We were joined by another male (male #2), who initially, only introduced himself to male #1, barely even looking at me. Male #2 asked male #1 all about his business, IT background and why he was at the event, almost with his back turned at me. I could tell male #1 was feeling awkward about me being excluded and politely interrupted male #2 to introduce me into the conversation.

I proceeded to tell male #2 what I did and all about WORK180. This was his reply;

“Great initiative, I met a girl who could code once. We hired her on a project of ours, I couldn’t believe it, but she could actually code just as well as the boys on the team.”

I could not believe my ears! Without a second thought, I responded with:

“Wow, I’m surprised that was your first experience of a woman who can code given the tenure you’ve had in the industry. What you’ve just said there is exactly what we’re trying to change, I hope that one day we can live in a society where it’s not a surprise if a girl can code as well as a boy.”

I was so shocked by his comment that I completely forgot to point out that the first ever programmer was a woman – does that mean men can code just as well as women?

He looked embarrassed to say the least. This was a classic example of unconscious bias – referring to the bias we have, but are unaware of. Every second, humans take in huge amounts of information and our brains can only consciously process a fraction of this data. Therefore, we rely on “auto-pilot” for the majority of our thoughts and actions.

At WORK180 we’ve seen a number companies combat unconscious bias, such as removing the names from CVs to ensure the candidate’s background is evaluated based solely on merit. Companies are also looking beyond the one-off training session and thinking out of the box when it comes to implementing strategies moving forward. For example, one organization in an industry under-represented by women has appointed C-level female mentors for senior male managers after their initial training session. These managers are now looking at everyday situations through a very different lens.

If you’ve had any experiences with unconscious bias, I’d love to hear about it- likewise if you’ve rolled out unconscious bias training in your organization with positive results.


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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.