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Code like a girl!

PQS Prefect Jess Patishman with Ally Watson: Inspiring women to enter the world of coding

When Ally Watson, founder and CEO of Code Like a Girl started her computer science degree, she walked into ‘a sea of men’ at her first lecture, and immediately thought about dropping out: ‘I really questioned my own gender and intelligence - everywhere I looked in tech, there wasn’t a woman in sight.’

Invited to St Kilda Road campus by Public Question Society Prefect Jess Patishman, Ally spoke to interested students about her journey into a software engineering career and what drove her to establish the Melbourne-based social enterprise, which offers training and support to women seeking a career in the tech industry. Fortunately, Ally challenged her own misgivings about having the skills she needed to succeed. ‘I realised this wasn’t innate for men, it was conditioned and learned from a young age,’ she said, ‘and then I realised the Spice Girls had betrayed me – the role models I’d grown up with had never encouraged me to think about science, about tech.’

The realisation spurred her on. ‘There were moments when it was really hard, but I grew so much as a person in my degree. There’s never been anything that’s really truly worth it unless it’s been a bit of hard work,’ she said.

Given her own uncomfortable first steps into the tech world, Ally wanted to create something accessible and inclusive for women new to the field, and so she started Code Like a Girl. Ally is passionate about making the online training available for all – for every four students that go through the program they give a full scholarship for a woman from a marginalised background. ‘I really wanted to build a business that allowed women of all backgrounds to succeed.’

And succeed they have. ‘We just placed our 75th woman into a software engineering role, and 71 per cent of our interns move into permanent jobs as software engineers,’ she said.

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