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Promoting gender diversity in technology as a Code First: Girls instructor

DWP Digital software engineer Pooja Malhotra helps a student during a Code First: Girls session in DWP Digital's Leeds digital hub.
Pooja helps a student during a Code First: Girls session in DWP Digital's Leeds hub.

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been one of the instructors at the Code First: Girls coding sessions we’ve been hosting at DWP Digital’s Leeds hub.

Code First: Girls is a not-for-profit social enterprise which works with companies and women to improve the gender diversity in technology. It trains women in technology, digital, and IT skills and helps companies develop more female friendly recruitment policies.

I was keen to get involved in the coding sessions because I can really identify with the aims of Code First: Girls. It’s well known that there’s a need to have a more diverse digital sector, and I’ve always felt that in order to get more girls and women in technical roles, women already doing these jobs have to step up and be the role models. We have to show them that digital roles are not scary and if we can do it, they can do it too.

Learning basic web development skills

The Code First: Girls course was an introduction to the basics of web development. There were 25 women in the cohort and most of them were from a non-technical background. Some were postgraduate students, others were working but not directly in technical roles.

In the first six weeks we started with teaching the basics of topics like learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, GitHub and then moving onto more advanced concepts like BootStrap and JQuery frameworks. In the final two weeks the women have had the chance to build their own websites using the skills they’ve learned. We’ve also had talks from prominent women in the industry talking about their experience, which were really inspirational.

As an instructor, I led some of the sessions and in others where I wasn’t the lead instructor, I helped the groups if they had any problems or if they were stuck with anything they were learning.

Pooja Malhotra and a Code First: Girls student look at a computer during a Code First: Girls coding session
Pooja works with a student during the Code First: Girls course

A passion for teaching and mentoring

I’ve really enjoyed it. From doing mentoring in my role at DWP Digital and in previous roles, I’ve realised I have a passion for teaching and helping others. Because the women had different levels of knowledge on the Code First: Girls course, my role as an instructor was to make sure that everyone was involved and noone was left behind.

Our team of instructors were all from different roles, and that was a good thing – it showed the women that there are different roles available in digital, not just coding.

All the women were very dedicated and passionate – if people are like that it makes teaching them much easier. It was great to see them getting more and more confident every week and then moving on to build their own websites by the final week. Some of the sites they built were really impressive and really showed just how far the group had come during the eight weeks.

Facing the digital world with confidence

I started my career as a software developer 8 years ago after completing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. It has been a very exciting and fulfilling career journey. Reflecting on my early days in technology, I think if I’d met more women role models in the industry it would have helped me a lot.

I really hope the Code First: Girls group are now ready to face the digital world with confidence. Hopefully we’ve showed them there is nothing to be scared of in digital roles. With the skills they’ve learned, they can hopefully see it’s not that hard to develop a website and if they have the basics, they can move on to learn more and more.

I also hope they realise there are so many career avenues women can explore in digital organisations these days. There are all kinds of roles available, from user researchers, business analysts to front end developers. The sky is the limit for women in technology now, and I hope that realisation is the main thing they’ll take away their Code First: Girls experience.

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Bonnie Brown posted on

    Love this - can we get this at HMRC?