Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Software Circus and Diversity in Technology

I’m unusual - I’m a woman. That seems a bizarre statement. Nonetheless, it's true in the software business. At Software Circus this September, I won’t be talking about gender because I seldom do. I’ll be speaking about the fascinating future of infrastructure opened up by containers and orchestration.

I’m always very happy to talk about technology; for over 20 years I’ve had a highly enjoyable career in it. Being female I've usually been in the minority but I’ve never felt unwelcome. I’ve never been called names or made to feel uncomfortable by my colleagues. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen - it does and it’s always unacceptable - but it’s unusual. It’s so uncommon that in my judgement no woman or any minority should be put off such a rewarding field because of a fear of bullying.  However, the fact remains, there aren’t many of us.

Last month, Mitchell Hashimoto the CEO of Hashicorp said that software was driving the world’s economy. He was right. Software is changing every aspect of life: education, healthcare, the environment, our money, leisure and work. It’s pivotal - and not just to software engineers.  

Decades ago we realised politics was too important to be the province of any one group. It wasn’t easy, but political representation for women and minorities shifted from less than 5% in the late 80’s to around 30% today. There’s still a way to go but we’ve made progress.

I believe that technology is no less important than politics. Everyone has a duty and a right to involve themselves in its future. We cannot afford for a significant proportion of our population to remain apart from the decisions we will make. The recent referendum in the UK has demonstrated that all parts of society must be included in and benefit from progress, or it isn’t really progress.

That’s why it’s great that tech conferences like Software Circus encourage people of all genders, races and backgrounds to learn and have fun together. Conferences are an excellent way to gain understanding of new trends. They are a key part of building networks, improving skills, enjoying your job and building a vision for the future. They’re part of your career path and where you’ll find next year’s industry leaders.

We all want to look out at a conference audience and see an enthusiastic, diverse group with a variety of ideas and opinions.  I know that conferences and meetups like Software Circus, which explicitly encourage diverse attendees do better at getting those mixed audiences and I’m grateful.

I believe that technological progress is as important to the future of the human race as politics and I predict that we can and will do better than the politicians at making it inclusive. It will not be easy but we must do it.

Anne Currie
CTO Microscaling Systems

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