Posted on October 11, 2019 by staff

Give your daughters electronics kits as well as Barbies


I’m a full-stack web engineer at the digital bank Monzo in the internal product team, building the tools our customer operations team use.

Building our own support platform has enabled us to move quickly, respond to growing demand and make our customers happy. I’ve been in the role for a year and I love that there’s always an exciting new challenge around the corner.

As well as my day job, I’m also a mentor at Node Girls London and an occasional tutor at Code First: Girls.

I was lucky to grow up with computers in the house, so I was using them from a young age. I started building websites at around 10 years old, and kept at it through my teenage years – but I’d never tried learning to code. I started learning C when I was working part-time after university and realised I was pretty good at it and that maybe there was a future in it for me!

I’ve got many role models in the industry, but Monzo’s CTO Meri Williams is an absolute badass who, as well as having a really impressive career record, does lots of trustee work and co-organises the Lead Developer conference. We are fortunate to live in a time where there are so many incredible women out there doing incredible things – we just need to make sure they aren’t marginalised or overlooked.

Having been the only woman on my Computer Science course and one of only two women in my graduate intake, I wanted to meet more women in the industry. The biggest challenge for me in the software world is underrepresentation: it’s quite demoralising to be the only woman at the table, in a big team of people, or one of only a handful of women at a meetup with about 100 men.

Regardless of how nice everyone is (and I have yet to meet anyone at Monzo who isn’t lovely!) studies have shown that in meetings where men outnumber women, women tend to get much less opportunity to speak, and get interrupted a lot more. Many women in the industry don’t get taken seriously: I’ve had friends be told “you’re too pretty to be a programmer”, or be told they must be the diversity hire.

Companies need to do more to look at their culture and ask themselves whether it’s truly inclusive and truly representative. This applies for people of colour as well as gender minorities. If there are unspoken expectations of their employees to work long hours, this creates a particularly hostile environment for women, who are disproportionately more likely to have caring responsibilities than men.

If you have employees who make sexist comments or consider their female engineer colleagues to be less technical than the men, ask yourself how you can improve your hiring practices to weed these people out. Organise unconscious bias training for your team.

We also need to make sure we are engaging kids from a young age. It upsets me when people give their sons electronics kits but make their daughters play with dolls because there’s ‘boys’ toys and girls’ toys’. I liked Barbies as a kid, but I was also learning about computers and helping my mum put RAM in her PC at a young age.

By imposing these false ideas of appropriate hobbies for kids, we’re discouraging them from developing an interest in tech, and ultimately reinforcing the idea that there are so few women in tech because they’re just not interested.

In 10 years’ time, I’d love to be part of a leadership team with a great gender balance.

Thanks to the  Makers Academy for this Insights piece