Supporting Pink Programming – a step towards greater gender equality

October 6, 2020
Attracting more women to the IT sector can help bridge the widening tech skills gap. Initiatives such as Pink Programming try to attract women to programming by creating networks, providing role models – and having fun.

We frequently hear about the increasing tech skills gap, not least in the information technology (IT) sector. The US Department of Labor has estimated that US computing bachelor's degree recipients can fill only 19 percent of the roughly 4 million computing-related job openings in USA 2028.

As for diversity, NCWIT (The National Center for Women & Information Technology) reports that only 19 percent of 2016 Computer and Information Sciences bachelor’s degree recipients in the US were female. Women held no more than 26 percent of professional computing occupations.

Diversity improves business

It would go a long way if more women and other people who seemingly don’t fit IT engineer or software developer stereotypes could be attracted to the sector. And as Malin Svensson, Chief People Officer at Axis, explains, it would help to create stronger, more diverse teams, something that Axis certainly pays attention to.

“We want to be an employer for many people, where you feel safe to be who you are, whoever you want to be,” Malin said in a previous Newsroom article. “The meeting of different backgrounds and skills fosters innovation, creative thinking, and employees' well-being. It's a smart strategy, driving results."

An NCWIT report backs this up, stating that gender-diverse tech organizations perform better financially and are also more innovative and productive.

Getting more women involved

One organization that works hands-on to increase female programmers is the Swedish volunteer-driven organization Pink Programming, founded in 2015.

They write on their website: “We want to create an inspiring environment, where girls and women who are interested in programming can have fun and feel at home while they learn to code or build on existing skills.”

Ellen Hedberg
Ellen Hedberg from Pink Programming (photo: Isak Simonsson).

Ellen Hedberg, Head of Communication, explains: “We aim to create a forum for identification with other women who are into programming because many feel alone because of the shortage of women in the industry. It is a fantastic feeling to see that our events make a difference and positively affect the participants.”

She says that Pink Programming’s work with getting more women into programming is a long-term way to counteract developers' shortage in the IT industry. Many women don’t even see these jobs as a possibility for them today. “Our activities are small but important steps towards improved gender equality and an IT sector that better mirrors society’s composition.”

Turning a challenge into an opportunity

Among these events are Digital Sundays and five-day summer coding camps. For obvious reasons, this year’s summer camps called for new, creative solutions. At first, the team at Pink Programming was taken aback. “It felt a little weird at first,” Ellen says, “as interacting face to face and getting to know the other participants are such an important part of the camps.”

However, it didn’t take long for the organizers to see it as an opportunity. Many people were spending their summer vacations at home, maybe looking for some meaningful activities. “We saw that it could be a perfect fit for people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend because they can’t leave their home or family for five days,” Ellen says. “We also broadened our geographical reach.”

A mix of coding and fun

So, what exactly is a Pink Programming summer camp? Apparently, there is much coding. "JavaScript for Intermediates", 17–20 August, was one of four summer camps 2020, focusing on JavaScript with React.js. During the day sessions, the participants developed web pages and games, individually and working together.

Pink Programming
Happy online participants of Pink Programming’s summer camp “JavaScript for Intermediates”.

Social and inspirational activities are essential to the summer camps, as is having fun. There were team-building exercises and games to help the participants get to know each other. There were also morning yoga sessions, dance class breaks, a movie night where everyone watched and commented on the same film, and a game night, which was a great success.

Female role models crucial

Positive female role models are essential to attract more women to programming. Elin Olofsson and Asmae Bni from Axis held inspiration talks at the JavaScript summer camp, sharing insights and experiences as female software developers.

Elin Olofsson
Elin Olofsson, software developer at Axis.

Elin says she had an early interest in science, technology, and how things work. She started at Axis after studying engineering in physics at Lund University. “Some people find it strange that I became a software developer, but often I think it is because they don’t know what it involves. And girls are generally not encouraged to take this route. You seldom get relevant information. Also, peer pressure can play a part, so it helps if your family is supportive.” Volunteering for Pink Programming came naturally, says Elin: “I think they do a fantastic job helping women be more comfortable with programming. Many feel that they need to know everything before applying for a job. But it doesn’t work that way. You search the internet, ask your colleagues, and learn on the job.”

Learned incredibly much

Summer camp participants Carina Alvares Fernandes and Ida Hellqvist have other jobs now but dream of working as software developers.

Carina Alvares Fernandes and Ida Hellqvist
Carina Alvares Fernandes and Ida Hellqvist, two of the participants of the “JavaScript for Intermediates” summer camp.

“I learned incredibly much during the event and was really motivated,” says Carina. “I appreciated the opportunity to meet developers and ask about their jobs. One crucial takeaway from the event is never to give up, even if you don’t get it on the first attempt. I had much fun during the evening activities. It was a super opportunity to meet and get to know other women with similar interests.”

Ida says, “I’ve been learning to program in my spare time, so it was great to meet other women who like programming and make new friends. I also enjoyed doing a bigger project; I'm still working to improve the games we developed. This summer's digital camp was different, but still a lot of fun. The day sessions were quite intense, so it was fun to hang out with the others during the evenings.”

Diversity and inclusion are top priorities

Axis has collaborated with Pink Programming since 2017 and supported the JavaScript for Intermediates camp. Tina Rudin Kaikkonen, responsible at Axis for the collaboration, says: “Pink Programming has a clear concept that appeals to many people. They break down mental obstacles, and just like Axis, there is a focus on knowledge sharing and team spirit.”

She says that there is strong interest at Axis to support initiatives such as this. “Axis has a unique company culture, where promoting diversity and inclusion are top priorities. Having diverse teams working in every function of the company is crucial to driving innovation. We believe in getting more women involved in technology and programming. If we can manage that, it is worth a lot.”

More about how Axis works with diversity and inclusion
Latest Sustainability Report Interview with Axis CPO Malin Svensson