Founder of Code Like a Girl Ally Watson has been honoured with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).
Watson, a software engineer who spent years working as a lone-female-developer, was recognised for her work in promoting diversity and opportunities for women in tech, her dedication to education and training for women and her advocacy for promoting coding and software development among women.
Watson started Code Like a Girl in 2015 while she was studying Computing Science at The University of Glasgow. She wanted to close the gender gap within the tech industry and build a future where women didn’t feel like outsiders in the STEM industries in Australia.
In the last six years, her organisation has helped thousands of girls, women and other gender minorities learn coding and develop useful digital skills.
“It’s hard to believe what started as a passion project in my bedroom has led to the impact we’ve made to date,” Watson said of Code Like a Girl, which placed their 100th intern into a paid software engineer placement in 2021.
Despite the success of her organisation, Watson believes there is still much to be done to include women in STEM.
In March 2021, she told SmartCompany in an interview that the pandemic only highlighted the gender gap within these industries further.
“This pandemic has turned cracks into chasms, making it all-to-clear that the gendered division of our workforce is leaving our women behind,” she said.
“With demand for technologists seeing huge growth, it is the perfect time to re-skill the women with in-demand digital skills.”
In 2020, Code Like a Girl released an online coding course aimed at closing the gender gap in IT education, with more than a hundred students enrolling.
“Our courses are delivered 100% online which means we’ve been able to attract a diverse range of women across Australia nationally,” Watson said.
The pandemic has seen predictions around labour market disruptions accelerated and higher numbers of automation and digitalisation has made it more challenging for women to participate.
The UN’s Eco Forum Gender Gap Report 2021 revealed that roles common in low-to middle-income women are likely to be disproportionately represented among jobs erased by automation and that several emerging roles will need disruptive technical skills — an area where women are severely underrepresented.
“Working in the gender-equality space can feel like a relentless marathon, many people tell you it can’t be achieved in your lifetime,” Watson said in her latest statement, after being awarded the OAM.
“It takes a rare kind of optimism to keep pushing as hard as we do at Code Like a Girl and moments like this matter. When the country you call home, sees you and recognises your work.”
“It serves as great motivation to keep pushing forward, knowing how much more needs to be done.”
In late 2022, Code Like a Girl will launch a ECSTRA Foundation funded program called “Career Track” which will train and place women and non-binary people into entry-level technical jobs.
The program will ensure that Code Like a Girl continues to increase gender diversity within the tech industries across the country.