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Women Who Code

Posted by: Liz Prince

Why we need more women in coding

It’s no secret that it can be a lonely world for women in tech industries, and that’s particularly true for coders. One 2015 report on software development revealed just 5.8% of software developers are women, and of those, they’re nearly twice as likely to have less than two years of programming experience. Of course this experience deficit will diminish over time, but until then there is a short-term lack of experienced female coders available in the market. So why has this industry been so dominated by men, and in particular what can be done to attract more women to the wonderful world of games development?

Get educated: A gender divide

Women in the UK are 35% more likely to go to university than men. Despite this, fewer women today are studying computer science than they were five years ago, dropping to a representation of just 13% of the total computer science pool in 2014. The answer to why more women are not studying this increasingly popular and lucrative subject is varied. Wider perceptions of gender roles in society have taken decades to change, and perhaps girls are still not encouraged to pursue this career path at a young age. They may also be lacking awareness of the successful women who are making waves in development professions. Megan Smith, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Assistant to the President believes that there is a general lack of exposure to the work that technical women do.

While computer science may not be drawing women to universities, games oriented courses are having more success. When the first gaming course opened at universities in 2012, women made up 9% of its students. In 2014, this figure had increased to almost 12%. It would take another 12 years at this rate of growth until subscription equals the numbers of men, however with the positive trajectory there is a likelihood of exponential rather than linear growth in the years to come.

Encouraging more women to pursue computer science and games-related university courses is a major step in addressing the gender imbalance in coding, but as many games companies would agree, your experience, skills and personality are often just as important in a role as formal education. Most of all, as a coder a genuine interest in games is vital to help you rise to the top. This is a thought echoed by video game designer and executive Jade Raymond, who advises budding games developers to focus on what they do well.
“Don’t do computer science if it’s not something you can be great at. You need to do what you are best at, as you need to be the best grad in your field to break into games. You need that passion about games to be at the heart of what’s driving you,” she says.

Industry impact

Having few women in tech is bad for the industry. At a fundamental level, half of the potential technology and games audience is made up of women and girls so having so few of them contributing to development could lead to a lack of female perspective and appeal. In fact, women have been lead adopters in many tech-driven spaces from internet and mobile phone usage through to the vast majority of social networks and messaging services. Developers not addressing women as part of their audience are missing a trick.
As computer science continues to grow in size and scope, the industry is undoubtedly going to need more talent to step up to help solve unique problems and present new ideas. So why shouldn’t half of this talent be women? 

Is there is a solution?

The push for more women in tech is ongoing, but there are more targeted programs, courses and organisations setting up to specifically get girls into coding. To support this, companies looking for new coders and fresh talent could consider hiring more junior developers and women with less experience, as studies show that many female developers have worked in tech for fewer than five years. As for attracting this demographic to the workforce, games companies also need to consider the motivational factors behind women who enter - and exit - the tech industry. 

Some may be concerned about development’s perceived lack of creativity, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just ask Amelia Humfress, founder and CEO of London coding school Steer, who says “Coding is super-creative. It's all about taking an idea and figuring out how to build it and writing lines of code to make it a reality.”

Do you want to make your mark as a developer?

Aside from undertaking a computer science degree and honing your craft as much as possible, there’s plenty you can do to enhance your chances of success in tech. When you’re just starting out, focus on core language skills in high demand areas such as C++ and C#. Check out our article for more information on the most desirable programming languages here. Join local coding groups and forums, and seek out fellow female coders who can mentor you as you develop. And when you’re ready to look for the perfect job in games get in touch with us, we’d love to help you out.

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