Is it time to stop telling women they need to learn how to code?
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Is it time to stop telling women they need to learn how to code?

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Encouraging women in science and technology roles is extremely important, but is simply telling them to learn coding the only way?

From courses and seminars, to workshops and bootcamps, there are plenty of opportunities to learn how to code.

And, with the ongoing gender gap within the STEM sector – tech in particular – its no wonder that advocates for women in STEM are encouraging young women to take up the invaluable tech skill.

However, with no sign of the gender gap disappearing any time soon and educational institutions unable to plug the gap fast enough, it seems that simply encouraging women to code is not enough.

For those who don’t want to learn how to code, a career in tech still might appear every bit as unlikely as it did before coding workshops popped up.

Adrienne Weissman has worked in the technology sector for more than a decade. She was previously a senior executive in Google and LinkedIn and is now the chief customer officer for G2 Crowd, a business solutions review platform.

Weissman believes that more can be done to encourage women to pursue a tech career than simply telling them to learn how to code.

More to tech than coding

There is no doubt learning to code can help young women advance in the tech industry. But it shouldn’t be positioned as the only path to a career in tech,” she said.

“Women can still work in the tech sector even if they can’t code. There are so many other opportunities within the industry that are in need of women.”

Weissman said not knowing how to code never stopped her from advancing in her own tech career. She believes encouraging women into the tech sector is about education.

“Very few understand what would it mean to be a product marketer at a tech start-up. This is where the education begins,” she said.

“We need teachers, parents and those in the industry to help show girls and boys what it means to work in the tech industry. We need to show young people the diverse opportunities available to them if they continue to follow this career trajectory.”

‘The developers are one piece in a larger puzzle’
– ADRIENNE WEISSMAN

Indeed, when people think of tech careers, their minds can often automatically veer towards the software developers, the engineers and the coders.

To bring women into these jobs, showing them coding is not just for boys and encouraging them with workshops is important.

But Weissman said these people are just one part of the tech industry. “We need to zoom out and show girls and boys the big picture. There are opportunities in every organisation where they can make their mark.”

From UX designers and technical writers, to business analysts and system administrators, there are plenty of roles within the tech sector that don’t require a knowledge of coding. “The developers are one piece in a larger puzzle.”

Weissman said that those interested in the tech industry can pursue a role as a venture capitalist or even start something themselves. “The possibilities are endless,” she said. “This is what I want those coming up in the industry to understand.”

Under-represented career paths

So, is it time to stop telling girls they need to learn how to code? Time to abandon coding workshops? Absolutely not.

Coding is a valuable hard skill within the tech industry and there are certainly not enough women in that side of the sector.

However, while plenty of advocates are promoting the value of teaching young women how to code, Weissman said it’s important not to neglect the other roles within tech.

“I want to establish awareness about under-represented tech career paths – opportunities that many girls don’t learn about at home or in school.”

While the overall battle to promote women in tech is to show that learning the hard skills are not difficult, Weissman wants to ensure that those who don’t want to learn how to code are not excluded from the conversation about tech careers.

“The majority of these job opportunities don’t require candidates to know how to code,” she said. “I encourage women to pursue whatever career they are passionate about, but tech can be an exciting industry for those with varied skill sets.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny is the Careers Editor at Siliconrepublic.com, although she prefers to be known as Careers Overlord. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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