Vienna is slowly developing into a tech-savvy hub, accumulating visionaries and experts from all nooks and corners of the IT industry. Among the 62% of workers active in IT only less than half are employed by women. (WKO, 2017)
Is there simply no market for women in IT? We targeted this matter with two leading professionals in the departments of coding and programming.
Dr. Barbara Ondrisek & Eva Lettner took matters into their own hands and started Women&&Code, an initiative for women to explore and learn more about the tech-field.
The two founders behind Women&&Code and have already organized many meets for females who are new to coding or simply curious to learn more about coding and programming.
Bih (Interviewer): How did you get about starting these meetups? Was it a joint idea or did one of you initiate the idea?
Eva Lettner: The idea came from a lack of events of this kind in Vienna. We knew of women trying to get into coding and not knowing how, so we wanted to provide them with a simple way of learning.
B: Could both of you briefly explain your academic/professional background in the field of IT and technology?
Barbara Ondrisek: I’m an entrepreneur, public speaker, and enthusiastic software developer with 18 years of experience. I studied at the University of Technology Vienna where I received my Master Of Science and my Ph.D., both in computer science. Furthermore, I’m a community person and co-organized several meetups and hackathons before - now I started Women And Code with Eva, a series of programming workshops for women.
EL: I come from a completely different side. I used to work in management and marketing and later transitioned into a frontend developer position. Now I'm not only programming but also traveling to conferences as a public speaker.
B: What were you trying to achieve by limiting your meetup attendees to only women?
BO: To achieve equal representation within tech professionals, we must provide more opportunities for all gender minorities and leaders in tech to connect, to work together and discover talent first-hand. Women And Code brings gender minorities and leaders in tech together, to share knowledge, experiences and to create real connections, promoting sponsorship through hackathons, practical sessions and events.
EL: What Barbara said! We also wanted to create positive role models by being there and having female mentors to show our participants that you can make it. Representation and role models matter a lot.
B: Since the beginning stages of Women && Code what changes have you experienced in terms of growth? Through your students have you perhaps noticed an increase in demand for women who would like to learn programming languages?
EL: We struggle meeting the demand at the moment. We are constantly booked out and so many women want to attend our events. The feedback we get is amazing and our participants have so much fun programming and working with technology. And because they are so happy with the courses, they tell their friends and bring them along.
BO: We tripled our efforts this semester (last semester we had one course, now three), but we are still booked out!
B: Before launching the project what were your biggest fears and uncertainties?
EL: We thought maybe nobody would be interested. We couldn't have been more wrong!
BO: First we thought that we might not get a full class for our study groups, but we were booked out in less than 24 hours!
B: Were either of you confronted with personal and emotional worries that you had to overcome?
EL: Not really, since it started as a side project the only worry for me was the time factor. And it is quite demanding, running Women&&Code next to a fulltime job, but in the end, it's all worth it.
Hearing a "It's working!!" at one of our courses is enough encouragement to keep going.
BO: Seeing all these happy and energized women at the end of our workshops is what motivates us to organize even more events.
B: What goals are you trying to reach with the Women && Code?
EL: We focus on three main goals for this project: We want to teach programming skills to women, we want to empower them and we want to connect them.
B: Do you have advice for other women in the IT sphere that struggle with making a name for themselves?
BO: Talk to positive role models and get a sponsor that supports you. We also offer coaching for interviews.
EL: Don't let anyone talk you out of it. Find other women in the industry and talk to them, if you want to, get comfortable in public speaking. Working in tech is a fun ride, it's creative work so enjoy yourself.
B: And lastly, we believe clothing does not necessarily make a person, but can definitely help improve their perspectives on things. What clothing items do either of you feel most relaxed yet confident in?
EL: Luckily, in our industry, we don't have to dress to impress. So sitting at work with a hoodie is completely fine. I like being comfortable and warm.