Coding for Good Today and Tomorrow
It’s pretty darn inspiring when we lift each other up. One person who does so is Amanda Bishop, who posted about her efforts to help other girls learn to code, the resistance she received, and her personal journey. I loved her story, and it got me thinking: as our careers develop, and as we reach for better representation in tech, here are just a few methods that can help pave the way for the next generation and give our work lasting, positive meaning.
Community Building & Education
There are a ton of awesome stories about women in tech passing on their knowledge and empowering a younger generation. Jessie Duan is another leader taking community spirit to heart. There are organizations popping up with a similar spirit to these awesome ladies. Hive Waterloo Region is a nonprofit that teaches digital literacy to youth with a focus on girls and diversity. The Waterloo Region, where it operates, is one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech sectors. Black Girls Code is a similar organization in San Francisco, focusing on girls and women of color.
If education isn’t your jam, though, there are a ton of other ways to give back to communities, and directions to take a career that prioritize helping the world and doing good. One of the most amazing things about the rise in women helping one another into the tech sector is the connection between community and technology that’s being created. You can teach children to be community minded while they learn about technology and digital literacy, because there are so many community-focused ways to use skills with coding and computer engineering.
There’s a disconnect between the number of young girls who want a job that directly helps the world and the number who understand that they can do that in STEM. So if you are the inspiring type and want to let your students know what options are available to them with the skills they’re learning, here are just a few examples to get the ideas rolling.
Security: Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking
Cyber-security is a high-demand field, and it’s a skill set that can be used to do a lot of good. Women, however, only represent about 20 percent of the cyber security workforce. There is a ton of growth for us in this career, and we can use it to do a lot of good.
One subset of the field is “ethical hacking” — attempting to defeat security measures for the purpose of improving them, rather than stealing information. Penetration testing is one element of the job, which involves simulating direct attacks, but ethical hacking can also mean monitoring network traffic, evaluating update/patch installation processes, and searching for unsecured ports in a network. Some independent white-hat hackers chase bug bounties: cash rewards offered by companies to individuals that reports bugs and vulnerabilities in their systems.
One of the reasons cyber security is in such high demand is that more and more industries are coming to rely on digital infrastructures, but without the internal expertise of a tech company. Healthcare is a big example; the industry uses a lot of very private data and in many cases, as exemplified by major breaches, hasn’t been prepared to secure it.
Small businesses and nonprofits often seek to make use of systems to help them manage and collect data. Working digital security for a nonprofit, creating an agency that serves nonprofits exclusively, or pushing for your company to give donations of services rendered are all fantastic ways for community-minded techies to give back and reach for that job satisfaction of doing good for the world.
Digital Relief Efforts
Technology and public safety have fascinating interactions. Women, unfortunately, are still not well represented in the area. However, a number of women are leading grassroots efforts when it comes to disaster relief, such as Laily Begum from Bangladesh, who led preparation and relief efforts during tropical cyclone Mahasen in 2013.
In areas where technology and internet connectivity allow, grass-roots organizations are making use of crowd-sourced relief efforts.
Social media and collaborative work apps saw a lot of use during the 2017 earthquake that hit Mexico City. Digital relief took many forms. Some people helped to centralize data as it came in from various digital and traditional media sources, while others used social media to help professionals give evaluations and opinions from a distance. Rescuers even took to social media to ask for the tools and information they needed to save lives in real time. This kind of organization of information can be a serious boon to EMS and other first responders. During a disaster situation, digital disaster relief communities have the potential to make a huge impact on the organization and execution of emergency efforts.
The digital relief effort during the Mexico City quake was led and organized in large part by Codeando Mexico. Organizations in other countries, such as Romania, have used modern digital tools — often social media platforms like Twitter — to gather, catalog, and disseminate information during disasters. In fact there are a number of digital disaster relief organizations that are looking for volunteers to help with relief efforts all over the world.
There’s a ton of potential out there for us and for the next generation of women in tech to combine our technical skills with an ability to create real, positive change. Let’s heed the call and be part of a real, collective solution — rather than part of the problems that are lack of awareness or empathy. Corporate social responsibility can look like so much more than a box checked off a list; rather, via a shift in priorities, tech companies can demonstrate their relevance in a rapidly-changing world — rather than more of the same myopic production of new toys catering exclusively to the 1 percent.