The latest episode of the Alan Turing Podcast in partnership with Boss Digital, features Anna Brailsford, CEO of Code First Girls, a social enterprise that looks to increase the number of women in tech by training women in IT skills and helping companies to develop more inclusive recruitment policies. Anna is also a Board Member for the Institute of Coding.
Before joining Code First Girls, Anna was the CEO and co-founder of Founders Factory incubated EdTech start-up, Frisbee. Prior to that, Anna was the Commercial Director of Lynda.com and LinkedIn. When LinkedIn acquired Lynda for $1.5 Billion in April 2015, she became part of the fourth-largest acquisition in social media history and subsequently contributed to the creation of LinkedIn Learning.
“I think role models are incredibly important. Not just women. If you can have a woman role model who’s either a leader of a business or in the tech space, I think that’s incredibly powerful. For me obviously from a young age without me even realising it was actually my mum. But equally, when I started to get into the proper world of work I had some exceptional bosses that were men that had a really really big influence on how I shaped my career and how I started to value myself as well.
I have to say I’ve noticed a correlation between really strong male role models in my life professionally and the way they perceive women. I think one of the strongest bosses I’ve ever had, had a daughter that was not far off my age, and what he perhaps saw in me was sort of certain struggles or certain things, certain inequalities and that he didn’t want for his daughter. He wanted to create a fairer world where women essentially valued themselves in the workplace. And they continue to be some of the strongest connections that we make even now. The clients and particularly the male CEOs that get Code First Girls the most typically will want to create a fairer world. Want to give women a fair advantage. Want to actually change things as opposed to just talking about it.”
“At Code First Girls we deliberately focus on women over the age of 18 and we focus on women that are at university and also women that want to switch careers. The reason that we do that is our research shows that women decide to move into tech slightly later in life, typically when they’re thinking about a job change or when they’re thinking about their first job at University. We don’t allow for that space. So one thing that I would say is that when it comes to organisations, organisations are finally starting to take notice of the fact that they have to find alternative mechanisms of getting women into technology outside of higher education alone.
If we just rely on the higher education system alone, that means there’s going to be 1 qualified woman for every 115 open roles in this space by 2025. So what organisations are starting to realise is that something like Code First Girls is a business imperative. It is the way to get ahead of the curve, because if the situation’s bad now by 2025, it’s almost going to be apocalyptic. I’m seeing big changes from organisations moving from talking to action.”
“When I first joined Code First Girls, yes, there were challenges. It felt like mountains to climb, but if you’ve got a supportive board and if it’s a board and an environment that supports change and supports difference, and actually provides creative space to create new products and create new models and get new talent into the business, actually, you can completely turn something around. So, my message here is when I first joined, it felt like the challenges were insurmountable, now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look back and think the achievement to get to this point has been phenomenal and there’s been so much learnt along the way.
I’m a big fan of the idea that you don’t really fail, you just win and learn. I think women dwell too much on failure, when actually what really should be thought about is how much you’re learning through that process. If you can do that, you can enable yourself to win.”
“I think we’re going to get to the point where if companies don’t have a fifty-fifty gender split in their technology departments, there are going to be almost bordering on financial penalties. I think companies are starting to link bonuses now to departments that have got fifty-fifty splits, so what’s really interesting is we are moving from a social impact agenda to this is a financial imperative for the individuals that hold the power to make the change.
We might start talking about gender inclusivity footprint or a diversity footprint and organisations are going to have to start publishing these types of things. We got there slightly with the gender pay gap publishing. What that revealed was just how horrible this situation is. I think we’re going to go further than that, we’re going to have to start publishing the footprint of these organisations and it will become one of the hottest things, I think, on organisations’ agendas for the future.”