Written by Sofie Skouras

Amali de Alwis, CEO at Code First: Girls kicked off day one of Dublin Tech Summit with a keynote on the impact women have had on technology.

Looking around the audience during her session, I noticed a lot of faces in awe hanging off her every word. What was it, I thought, that made Amali so engaging to listen to?

Bar her obvious strong public speaking skills, I think it had something to do with the fact it left you feeling optimistic. It wasn’t scaremongering or a business bashing keynote about the sad state of affairs in the tech industry – which would have been very easy to do. Instead, she took the time to celebrate the huge impact women have had in the tech industry and left even a terribly unmathematical and at times cynical person, like me, with hope.

Yes, the fact that there are only 3.9% female programmers in tech and telco is an issue we can’t and shouldn’t ignore. But, there is still a lot to celebrate from what that small percentage has achieved.

First on her list of tech inspirations was “the mother of the internet”, Radia Perl. If it wasn’t for her we’d have no cable TV. Next was Lixia Zhang, without her we wouldn’t have the advances in video conferencing telephony. Third was Marina Croak, a serial innovator having applied for 350 patents in her time and 100 of them focused solely on telephony. Fourth was Elizabeth ‘Jake’ Feiver who created the precursor to DNS, if not for her website URLs instead would be a bunch of numbers rather than meaningful words. Last, was Jude Milhon who coined the term ‘cyber punk’ and was a passionate activist for women in IT.

Even more inspiring were the case studies of her alumni students. Take one woman who completed the coding course, starting from scratch. A mere eight months later, she presented Amali with a book she published on coding and fintech.

Interestingly, only a third of the students applying for Code First: Girls come from STEM backgrounds. The rest? One-third humanities and one-third social sciences. Demonstrating that anyone can get involved, and as Amalia put it:

“Coding is just another way of building something.”

At a time when it’s easy to focus on the negative story and headlines are bleak, perhaps as communication professionals we should, follow in Amali’s footsteps, and opt to tell the positive side of the story over the negative.

P.S. For those readers who fancy some more positivity in their lives, I recommend following @tanksgoodnews on Instagram.

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