Thoughts work better with women
Ray Grasso with Stef Hof, Ania Niedzwiadek, Gabrielle Walker and Sally Porter. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

A software company fed up with its industry being dominated by young, white, American men is seeking to bolster the female cohort with a series of bold new initiatives.

ThoughtWorks has a global quota system to ensure half of its graduate intake is female but the Australian division has gone a step further by seeking women for half of all its staff positions.

It also runs a range of women in leadership programs and offers a generous 4 1/2 months of maternity and paternity leave.

The Perth office was responsible for the company's latest initiative at the weekend as the host of the world-renowned technology workshops run through the Rails Girls group.

First hosted in Helsinki in 2010, the travelling workshops teach women about programming through a web-based framework called Ruby on Rails.

ThoughtWorks spokeswoman Lindy Stephens said it was hoped the free workshops would encourage more women to consider a career in the male-dominated programming sector.

Only about a quarter of the information and technology sector in Australia was female, according to a recent report by the Australian Computer Association.

Ms Stephens said the bid for more women was not just a philosophical decision but based on a sound business case that diverse workforces were better able to design creative software.

"At the moment, the industry is dominated by young, white American men and that results in a particular type of solution dominating the sector," she said.

"Whatever we have to do to attract women to the industry, we think it's worth it because we believe a more diverse team builds better software."

A participant in the weekend workshop, Gabrielle Walker, said the program helped her understand the possibilities open to her in the field of computing.

Ms Walker, the blogger behind a fashion and urban culture blog called Camille Shirley, said the workshop had potentially opened up new avenues by teaching her how to build an app.

"It's good to know the other side of what you're doing on a computer," she said.

The West Australian

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