Diversity and equality in the workplace are crucial for promoting creativity and innovation. And attracting more women to the programming sector can help bridge the widening tech skills gap. That is why Axis supports Pink Programming, an organization that encourages women in choosing a programming career.
We frequently hear about the increasing tech skills gap, not least in the information technology (IT) sector. The US Department of Labor has estimated that US computing bachelor’s degree recipients can fill only 19 percent of the roughly 4 million computing-related job openings in the USA in 2028.
As for diversity, NCWIT (The National Center for Women & Information Technology) reports that in 2020, women held 25 percent of professional computing occupations. In 2019, 21 percent of Computer and Information Sciences bachelor’s degree recipients were women.
Diversity improves business
It would go a long way if more women and other people who seemingly don’t fit IT engineer or software developer stereotypes could be attracted to the sector. And as Malin Svensson, Chief People Officer at Axis, explains, it would help to create stronger, more diverse teams, something that Axis certainly pays attention to.
The meeting of different backgrounds and skills fosters innovation, creative thinking, and employees’ well-being.
“We want to be an employer for many people. Where you feel safe to be who you are, whoever you want to be,” Malin said in a previous Newsroom article. “The meeting of different backgrounds and skills fosters innovation, creative thinking, and employees’ well-being. It’s a smart strategy, driving results.”
An NCWIT report backs this up, stating that gender-diverse tech organizations perform better financially and are also more innovative and productive.
Breaking the mold to attract new programmers
The Swedish volunteer-driven organization Pink Programming, founded in 2015, is one of the organizations that works hands-on to increase the number of female programmers. They write on their website: “We want to create an inspiring environment, where girls and women who are interested in programming can have fun and feel at home while they learn to code or build on existing skills.”
With ever more reports highlighting the benefits of inclusion and diverse teams, what are the significant barriers to making it happen?
“Today, less than 10 percent of all developers are women. The possibly biggest barrier is that there is still a narrative about who ‘is allowed’ to be a programmer,” says Andrea Arvidsson, Managing Director at Pink Programming. “We want to broaden that narrative and attract many different perspectives and personalities into programming. Different ages, genders, backgrounds. Through our activities, we want to show that it’s possible, that it’s fun, and to highlight role models from the industry for inspiration.”
Events meet a pent-up need
Pink Programming arranges various events where women meet and program together. The events include coding camps over several days and so-called Pink Digital Sundays, which have both proven very popular.
“When we originally initiated the events, they got fully booked in no time,” Andrea says. “There was a big pent-up need for women to have a community where they could meet others in the same situation, program together, and share their experiences in an environment free from performance anxiety.”
Traditionally, this magic has thrived when the participants have all met in the same room. There was apprehension that the COVID-19 pandemic would sap that energy, but Pink Programming has successfully transformed the events into a digital format. They have even managed to broaden the concept, attracting participants who, for various reasons, previously couldn’t take part in the events.
A joint event focusing on cybersecurity
Axis is one of Pink Programming’s main sponsors, and on March 21st, the two organizations arranged a joint Pink Digital Sunday. The theme was “Cybersecurity – Capture the flag!” focusing on investigating and finding common vulnerabilities on web pages. During the event, participants took part in a game of capture the flag and listened to inspirational speeches from engineers at Axis. Victoria Vucic and Malin Lindström where two of the Axis employees that shared their experiences during the event.
The event gathered 80 participants, and although the majority was Swedish, seven countries were represented, including Albania and the USA. Most found the event very inspiring, and one participant stated that it was her favorite workshop so far:
“It didn’t feel like a 100-percent beginner workshop, but the topic is super interesting, and I was able to follow it,” she wrote in her evaluation. “It helped me decide whether IT security is a career for me. 100 percent yes! It was also super interesting to hear Victoria’s story. People with alternative career paths show you that you can do it, too.”
Female role models crucial
Providing positive female role models is essential to attract more women to programming, making Victoria and Malin’s participation an important part of the event.
Victoria works as a test engineer. She studied programming at university but didn’t see herself as a programmer. “It was never something I pictured myself working as. But being able to understand code is a huge advantage when you work in tech, regardless of your position.”
She never hesitated to participate in the Pink Digital Sunday. “I want to show that Axis is an inclusive, diverse, and fun place to work,” she says. “I also want to show that everyone can work with security, regardless of background. I will suggest to everyone to participate in these types of events. It’s a great possibility to learn new things and meet other women in tech.”
Working as a mechanical engineer, Malin is currently developing panoramic cameras. When searching for her employer, she looked for a company culture that encourages openness and where people help each other. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” she says.
Given her position, Malin has a somewhat different take on women in engineering. “I think that it’s important and fun to show what you can do as an engineer, no matter if it’s programming, mechanics, or something else,” she says. “Role models are essential, and if my colleges and I can inspire other females to become engineers, that’s amazing. For me, that’s what the Pink Digital Sunday was all about. Also, to tell the participants about something they maybe didn’t know about or didn’t even know that they were interested in.”
Diversity and inclusion are Axis top priorities
Axis has collaborated with Pink Programming since 2017. Tina Rudin Kaikkonen, responsible at Axis for the collaboration, says: “Pink Programming has a clear concept that appeals to many people. They break down mental obstacles, and just like Axis, there is a focus on knowledge sharing and team spirit.”
She says that there is a strong interest at Axis to support initiatives such as this. “Axis has a unique company culture, where promoting diversity and inclusion are top priorities across every function of the company. We believe in getting more women involved in technology and programming. If we can manage that, it’s worth a lot.”