Visible Women

4 female coders share their advice for women considering a career in tech

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Moya Crockett
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Meet the brilliant women behind stylist.co.uk

For the rest of our lives, tech will be one of the most lucrative, high-status industries on the planet. Yet despite the fact that the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, was a woman, just 17% of the UK’s tech workforce – and 15% of recent computer science graduates – are female. The vast majority of students can’t name a single famous woman working in tech, and 97% of women in their late teens and early 20s say a technology career wouldn’t be their first choice.

Why does this lack of diversity matter? For starters, it means women are missing out on an entire industry that is, by all accounts, fast-paced, exciting and ever-changing. More worryingly, however, recent research by the World Economic Forum suggests that global gender inequality – including the pay gap – will get significantly worse unless the sector makes a concerted effort to attract more women. To put it bluntly, if women don’t get involved, we risk being left behind.

At Stylist, we believe that ‘you can be what you can see’: that celebrating trailblazing women is vital if we want other women to follow their lead. That’s why we launched our Visible Women campaign earlier this year, and it’s why we’ve long championed women in tech, from towering modern figures like Sheryl Sandberg to under-the-radar innovators like Catherine Breslin and overlooked historical pioneers like Hedy Lamarr.

We’ve also been able to find brilliant female tech professionals within our own walls. At Shortlist Media, Stylist’s parent company, female coders make up 40% of the in-house tech team – 2.4 x the industry average. These women are the unsung heroes who helped design and build stylist.co.uk, shortlist.com and Shortlist Media’s new website, and keep them ticking over, day after day.

Below, we’re shining a spotlight on four of Shortlist Media’s fiercely talented female coders. Read on to learn how they got started, their thoughts on the industry gender gap and their advice for other women considering a career in tech. 

Viv

Vivien Ilett, 31, is a UX/UI designer. She has worked at Shortlist Media since late 2016. 

“My role covers just about everything you see as a user of Stylist and Shortlist’s digital products, from ideation to user journeys, UI design and deployment. Last year, I was focused on redesigning the Shortlist and Stylist websites; now, I’m more spread across our other products. It’s important to maintain the integrity of our print brands online while still having our own digital design identity, which means we often work with other departments.

My path into my current role wasn’t linear. I studied graphic design at university with a focus on advertising, but after about four years I realised the advertising industry didn’t feel quite right to me. I knew I loved designing for digital spaces and felt I could approach things more holistically if I learned the power of the technology behind it, so I joined a coding boot camp back home in Toronto. Before starting at Shortlist Media I held positions as a UI/UX designer/developer, art director and graphic designer.

For the longest time, women haven’t been encouraged to pursue careers in the tech industry. People have been used to men holding these positions, and it feels more appealing to choose working environments where we can identify with our peers, which leads to some disparity.

But I’ve been lucky to know and work with amazing women (and men) who have been both an inspiration and source of support as I’ve shifted my career into tech. There are so many avenues you can take in the tech industry that you’re bound to find a space that fits. Chat with your peers, reach out and find mentors and friends who share your passions.”

Leo

Back end developer Leo Gilmour, 25, has worked at Shortlist Media for a year and a half. 

“As a 17-year-old at a computer science open day, my main takeaway was how uncomfortable I felt about being the only girl in the room. It put me off considering the course, and I applied for engineering instead. I’m sure there are lots of women and girls who decide maths, science and computing aren’t for them because they think they can’t be for them. This needs to be tackled everywhere – especially in primary schools. Children are very quick to pick up what society thinks they should be good at.

I studied engineering at Oxford for two years before dropping out. When I told my grandfather I’d quit my degree, he replied, ‘What did you expect? A girl can’t be an engineer.’ It was heartbreaking, since it was him who inspired me to study engineering in the first place.

I went on to teach myself five coding languages, which helped me get a job as a web developer at a small agency even though I didn’t have any experience in the field. 

As a back end developer, I build server side features for our various sites. I love the challenge of problem solving when things aren’t working, and coming up with a neat solution is incredibly satisfying. It’s great because it’s both creative and logical, and there’s always more to learn and improve.

In the future, I’d love to launch my own business. Education and addressing the gender imbalance in my industry are also really important to me, so I’d love to do something in those fields – I currently volunteer with Code First: Girls as an instructor, teaching women at universities how to code. 

As a developer, I’m in the empowering position to build anything I want, which is an incredible gift.”

Silvia

Silvia Rebelo, 38, is a front end developer. She has worked at Shortlist Media for eight months. 

“Unfortunately, there are still loads of misconceptions about tech, and that contributes to the underrepresentation of women in the field. Most people think it’s too complicated and involves lots of numbers – but being a developer actually requires many non-technical skills like problem-solving, creativity and teamwork. Movies and TV shows, which tend to portray tech geniuses as antisocial men attached to their computers, don’t do women any favours either.

I think companies have a responsibility to hire female developers, give them exactly the same opportunities and trust as their male counterparts, and make their work visible so that other women feel inspired. 

I have a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and have worked in tech for over a decade now, in various different industries including healthcare, advertising, sports and publishing. At Shortlist Media, I’m responsible for maintaining, optimising and developing new functionality for our websites.

To any woman considering pursuing a career in tech, I would say: we need you! As an industry it’s constantly evolving, highly demanding and so exciting, and you’ll have the chance to work in every possible field. 

There are also loads of resources and communities out there – including meet-ups and events – for women in tech. Reach out to people already working in the industry and find out more.”

Eva

Eva Tkautz, 27, is a front end developer. She has worked at Shortlist Media for four months.

“I got introduced to coding at uni – I have an MsC in media from the London School of Economics, with a focus on human-computer interaction – and started building websites for friends. Coding became a hobby that evolved into a full-time job.

Today, I build websites like the new site for Shortlist Media. Every day, I address questions like: how are we going to build this section of the site so that it’s both efficient and delightful to use? What exciting features can we add? How can we make our sites accessible to visitors with disabilities? Once I’ve answered those questions, I start coding it up.

I love the intellectual challenge that comes with my work, and our team are amazing. We combine our specialisms and learn a lot from each other. My MsC gave me a design background and also encouraged me to think about how tech relates to topics like ethics, social problems and accessibility. 

There are plenty of free courses available if you’re interested in learning to code. If you’re into merging code with creative ideas, check out Super Hi, who offer scholarships for black and Latinx students. Code First: Girls run yearly workshops for recent women graduates. She Can Code offer career advice, and Codebar host free mentoring aimed at beginners.

In the future, I’d like to do more mentoring. Meeting like-minded female developers was important for my career as it showed me that I belonged, and as a society we should be making tech careers available to everyone. I’d also like to continue to show that developers are increasingly diverse. You can be a woman, interested in fashion and a coder.”

Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.  

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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