Extract of talk given on 17 February 2022 via Zoom

Please tell me why

Please please tell me now demanded Duran Duran whilst Annie Lennox pleaded with us to tell her Why. It was the 80s and 90s, and this sound could be heard in homes across the country. In the 80s that was sound of a computer program, getting loaded into a computer’s memory. In the 90s it was the sound of a dial up internet connection.  We’ve come along way since then. 

Or have we?

When I was at school in the 80s, some schools did have classes in computer studies but it was typically viewed as a recreational subject rather than mainstream. Fast forward to the 2020s and given we live in a digital world,  it saddens me when I hear that, over 3 decades later, some secondary schools have no computing classes or if they do they are still seen more akin to a recreational class than something important for the future. 

To quote Annie Lennox – Why? Why is being able to write software code not seen as important? 

Everything digital runs from code. Let’s have a look at our lives.  

  • Streaming services, Tv shows or films or music – code 
  • Web –code 
  • Social media – code 
  • Zoom – code 
  • Smart phone – code 
  • Alexa – code 

The list goes on and on.  It’s everywhere. Even if you can’t see it it’s there beneath the surface.  

We have seen some amazing advances in science and medical breakthroughs due to code, for instance in the fields of cancer, assisting radiologists to spot patterns in scans when screening for cancer, to robotics where robots are used to perform dangerous jobs such as bomb disposal. 

Why are we not seeing more diversity?

Why are we not seeing more people learning to write code and working in this area. We need people of all ages, sexes, cultures to code – we need diversity. That’s the purpose of this talk.  I am really keen to hear from people what more can be done to encourage people to code. 

 Do we need more publicising of where code is used? We see technology programs on tv which show latest gadgets, do we need to explain that the gadgets depend on code, the code is there lurking in the background.

Do we need more mature people or more females like myself, raising our heads above the parapet and showing we can code.

I do really want to help so please tell me what needs to be done. 

Games industry

The computer gaming industry is a big market, with games ranging from Call of Duty to solitaire, so I looked at some statistics.  The UK Games Industry Census 2020 states that:  

  • 50% of people who play games on most days are female and 50% male. 
  • 46% of people who play games on most days are aged over 40. I suspect that has gone up in 2022 with the advent of Wordle.  

Yet when we look at the statistics of those working in the gaming industry, according to that same study, 70% of people working in the games industry are male, compared to 28% female and 66% are under the age of 35. 

Male female statistics for games industry demonstrating lack of diversity in coders

You may say does it matter? I don’t know for the gaming industry if it’s an issue but for coding in general it is a big issue as the figures in the games industry are replicated in other fields.  

Need diversity to prevent unconscious bias

The problem is if we don’t have people of all ages, all sexes, all cultures contributing to code, we end up with bias. And by that I mean unconcious bias.  

We are product of our environment, what we do, who we meet, what we read or watch, but not every aspect of life in general touches our lives so there are things we don’t know about to include – we are not deliberately ignoring things, we just don’t know they exist, the unknown unknowns. That is why we need a mix.  

This is why I would like to know why we don’t have more diversity. Why myself and others want to get to the facts. So please reach out if you or anyone you knows why. I don’t want us to get to the stage of putting out charity type adverts to get to the why. You know the type, there would be Why by Annie Lennox playing, a sorry looking person, and a voiceover saying . .. 

…this poor girl, she wants to help make advancements in the world, wants the world to realise how much it now relies on code. But where are the coders. Why are people not learning to code. Please put her out of her misery, text the why to …… 

Of course that wouldn’t be me in that advert because I am regularly accused of being too hulk like in nature, too blunt, for that advert it would be more Miley Cyrus ‘I came in like a wrecking ball’ playing in the background but I would argue that if things haven’t advanced much in three decades then perhaps it’s time for wrecking ball action to get things moving. 

After all software code is an amazing tool, and code can entertain, educate, inform, or just create something fun and cool stuff.  

Please please tell me now is there something I should know to help improve things in this area. Please reach out and tell me why. 

Extract of talk given on 17 February 2022 via Zoom

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