Rewrite the code

scottFacebook celebrated International Women’s Day in London with the launch of Theirworld’s  “Rewriting the code” campaign.  Sarah Brown said that this meant changing the deep rooted values embedded in society across the globe that are stifling the potential of women.

Aside from the benefits of fairness, there is a powerful argument for business to support this.  McKinsey have estimated that there’s $12trillion that could be added to GDP worldwide by 2025 by improving parity between men and women.  (A trillion is a million millions by the way).

The speakers presented a spectrum of challenges that are currently blocking these opportunities from the 3rd world to the 1st.  Firmly in the latter world, model and app developer, Lyndsey Scott, told her story.

You don’t meet many actresses who are also models who are also brilliant at coding.  Lyndsey is the first one for me.  She became an overnight sensation when she was picked up by Calvin Klein in 2009 to be their first African American model (after a day spent handing out flyers in the street in NYC).  She talked about the fact that later on, when her successful modelling career hit a wall (she was fired with no notice by her agency), she turned to her other passion, coding, because it was a career where she could exercise some control.

She’s very good at coding.  But she feels that she had to be very good at it because she’s a woman.  She was constantly challenged online by men who kept saying that she wasn’t serious about it, because she’s “just a model”.  Across Facebook, Google, Apple the ratio of men to women in tech employees is 4:1.  It is she points out “a less than welcoming environment for women”.  And she looks forward to the day when a woman in tech can actually be average at her job and still be taken seriously (as millions of average men in tech are every day worldwide).

Things had better change. There’s about to be a stepchange in women in tech in the workforce according to a MediaCom survey.  In the UK we’ve spotted a significant shift in career aspirations from girls in our long running research insight panel Connected Kids.  Our latest trends watch survey has Science careers as the second highest career aspiration amongst girls.  Top five aspirations are Teaching, Science, Doctor, Vet and Law.  And 80% of the girls surveyed want to go to university, up from 72% last year (compared to 65% of boys this year, a drop from 69% the year before so the gap is widening).

Half a decade ago the picture was really different by the way.  Girls still aspired to be teachers and doctors but science careers didn’t feature.  Instead the top five included singer, pop star and actress.  It looks like current generation of girls at school have reached the same conclusion as Scott – that a career based on something that you can control is a better longterm prospect.

The team behind Connected Kids at MediaCom, Pauline Robson and Hanna Lubin, are calling boys and girls of this generation “Gen Responsible”.  They’ve had relatively high exposure to news and the economy because of social media and they’re worried about their prospects, they’re savvy about financial issues and they believe in preparing for the future.  In Deloitte’s latest TMT Predictions they warn our industry that as far as women succeeding in IT jobs: “It’s about education, but it is also about more than education”.  The industry needs to be better at recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting.  That’s where my next book: The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work will be helpful.

It looks like the girls are coming and they’re ready to re-write the code, literally.  Our industry needs to be ready to reward their talent.

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