Kate Kirwin is the founder of Australian career propellor, SheCodes, a renowned movement and education provider committed to empowering women and non-binary individuals with the skills to step into technology-based roles – regardless of background, or limiting beliefs.
Backed by influential commercial partners such as resources magnate, BHP, SheCodes has made waves in its pursuit of inspiring 100,000 women to enter tech careers by 2025.
AESTOLOGYY contributor, Isobel Young, sat down with nationally acclaimed #WomenInSTEM advocate, Kate Kirwin, for an honest discussion about the risks of an all-male tech team, including its impact on commercialisation.
The power of diverse tech teams
“I can often tell when something has been developed by an all-male team, because it usually skips specific activities – let’s consider the difference between wearable fitness trackers – I can also tell when women have been included in the journey, as functions generally work better for me,” says Ms Kirwin.
“If we don’t have diverse teams, we’re missing out on many business opportunities”
“Wouldn’t you want to include someone who closely identifies with the target consumer?”
“There’s a whole heap of research that shows diverse teams are also generally more fun, collaborative, productive and creative – diversity harnesses the power of people who think differently.”
Kirwin highlights the fact many women are still the ones to make the majority of household product purchasing decisions, offering a developmental disadvantage for all-male tech teams.
Diversity harnesses the power of people who think differentlyKate Kirwin
Advice to someone entering a tech career
Kirwin highlights the importance of resilience and courage for those seeking to transition into tech, asserting there’s nothing wrong with getting a ‘no.’
“We put so many barriers on ourselves with self-doubt – I think it never hurts to put yourself out there”
“You just need to make sure you’re resilient enough to hear ‘no’ lots of times.”
Kirwin recalls meeting a fellow Australian startup founder in San Francisco who engaged in ‘failure training.’ The exercises prompt him to deliberately ask absurd questions of people, to become more accustomed with the word ‘no.’ She states he got so used to ‘no’, it wasn’t such a big deal when pitches were rejected.
“No doesn’t mean no forever, it just means no right now,” asserts Kirwin.
Sometimes it’s okay to hear the word ‘no’ – it doesn’t need to be this soul crushing moment.”
Even if it’s not a fit right now, the company will likely remember you for having the initiative.”
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The importance of fun
When considering key lessons learnt on the journey of developing SheCodes, Kirwin emphasises the importance of fun.
The company has coined the phrase ‘the cupcake effect’, which proactively puts fun at the centre of its internal culture, programs, and client experience. SheCodes has turned this ethos into a key part of its branding, by offering brightly coloured cupcakes at each event.
“The cupcake effect is the feeling you get when you you receive a cupcake at a workshop, and you feel special, welcome, fun and overall different – everything we do, we think about how to bring about that sparkle and feeling”
“We make an effort to care about the whole person, which is so important in education because a lot of the time, the focus is so strongly on outcomes.”
“But, if you’re not building up the whole person, the outcomes are harder to achieve.”Kate Kirwin
SheCodes has taught around 4,500 women to date, and is committed to expanding its reach across the Australian states and territories.
The company recently launched its first youth program, which taught kids technical skills and high-level strategies (e.g. vision-planning) which are often left out of traditional school teaching.
Isobel Young is set to join CommBank’s Enterprise Team in 2021, and took part in the SheCodes Plus program over a six-month period, alongside a cohort of 20 women and non-binary individuals.