By Tanja Richter, ambassador, Vodafone Code First: Girls programme
On UN World Youth Skills day Vodafone launches world’s furthest reaching girls coding programme to address widening gender gap in STEM careers. It took me years to realise that I might be good enough to pursue a career in electrical engineering. Yet, looking back, there were many moments where I could have realised that a career in technology was an option for me.
I really enjoyed programming our first family computer and building things with the electronic kits that my friend’s brothers owned. However, at school I thought the boys were better at maths.
I focused instead on history and biology and eventually went to study medicine. Working at a local hospital, I was captivated by ultrasonography and tomography and saw how important those techniques are to look inside our bodies to provide the correct diagnosis. Only then did I finally decide to switch to learning about electrical engineering.
I was one of five women among 300 students on my course. Three of us graduated, beating the 50% dropout rate for women at the time. My thesis was on ways to destroy kidney stones with acoustic shock waves.
My story is not unusual. Men still dominate the number of science technology engineering and maths (STEM) graduates in most countries.
In 2014, only around 22% of UK graduates in science, mathematics and computing were women. The gap was wider in other countries. STEM fields also have fewer women on boards than any other sectors.
To help address this imbalance, Vodafone is launching a new programme to provide coding training to teenage girls across our 26 markets in Europe, India, the Middle East, South Africa and Australasia.
Coding is becoming one of the most in demand skills across industries as an increasing number of businesses now rely on computer code. Half of all programming openings are in industries outside of technology, such as finance, healthcare and manufacturing, while recent research found that coding has become a core skill that bolsters a candidate’s chances of commanding a high salary.
Vodafone’s coding courses will be provided by our partner, Code First: Girls , which runs coding courses for women and girls. The course content has been created to be suitable for all girls of ages 14 to 18, irrespective of their previous technology skills. It will provide basic knowledge of computer languages and development programmes including html, CSS, GitHub and Bootstrap, enabling the students to develop a web site by the end of the one week training programme.
Vodafone will be partnering with schools, but girls whose schools are not involved can register their interest here. The course will run from July until October this year.
Empowering women and helping young people increase their skillset through technology are two important areas of focus for Vodafone as part of our company’s 10 year sustainable business goals. By 2025, Vodafone’s ambition is to be the best employer for women.
Vodafone has certainly helped my career. I joined the company after university and now lead a team of 200 people across Europe, supported by 300 software developers. We’ve built a mobile payment product used by millions of customers and are now developing Vodafone’s Internet of Things platform.
I hope Vodafone’s programme helps more girls get the opportunity to find out they would really like a technology career. Enjoying what you do is the best way to ensure you are able to be at your best in the workplace.
Tanja Richter is director of consumer products and services in technology at Vodafone Group. She is an ambassador for Vodafone’s Code First: Girls programme alongside Karine Brunet, Vodafone Group’s director of IT shared services.