Seventy-five members of Coding Black Females (CBF) have joined the professional body for IT, in a move to create more visible role models for women working in the industry.

The UK’s largest group of black women in tech are now part of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, joining through a new bursary, launched to improve diversity across the sector.

Black women make up less than 1% of the IT industry according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS); overall, 20% of the industry’s workforce is female.

A different perspective

Charlene Hunter, who founded Coding Black Females and is a lead software engineer with Made Tech said: ‘Whilst many of our members have traditional routes into tech, a number our members came to IT through non-traditional routes, taking degrees in philosophy or marketing, but that means when you reach a senior tech role you’ve got a different perspective.

‘Black girls and young women need to see their own experiences reflected throughout the IT industry. Introducing all seventy-five women who applied for the BCS bursary into the professional body for IT is part of that progress - but the data shows us there is more to do.

‘Leaders in the industry are still, mainly, white men and so becoming part of the Chartered Institute for IT should make a difference.’

Pipeline of IT professionals

Rebecca George OBE, President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT (and originally with an Arts degree) said: ‘Coding Black Females are all incredibly talented, some are tech entrepreneurs, some are academics, some are new into the IT industry.

‘We need a rich pipeline of IT professionals from diverse backgrounds - all upholding the same ethical standards - to ensure that computing drives our economic recovery in a way that takes account of everyone in our society.’

Advice from new members

New BCS member Siobhan Baker, a senior software engineer, originally took a masters’ degree in philosophy at Birkbeck and a BA in printed textiles design from University of East London.

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She said: ‘Three key things I would advise are to - stay curious, pace yourself and find your communities. By that, I mean that questions like ‘how does this work?’ and ‘what if we tried this?’ are ones that I still ask often.

Secondly, absolutely no-one knows or remembers everything. When you're starting out, focus on one thing/area and then expand it as you learn more. And lastly but (in my opinion) most importantly, find safe spaces where you can learn from others. They're an amazing resource of guidance, support and encouragement.’

Elle Hallal, also a senior software engineer, who graduated with a degree in business management and marketing from University of Westminster said: ‘My advice to people trying to make their way into tech is to connect with others. Whether that’s with people who are on a similar journey, to those who are more experienced and can provide guidance on entering and navigating the industry. Since changing careers in late 2018, I’ve had a number of mentors through Coding Black Females, and 8th Light (the software consultancy I work for.) They’ve all played a significant part in my journey. I’ve started mentoring too which is such a humbling and rewarding experience for me.’

The partnership with Coding Black Females is the latest action taken by BCS to promote inclusion in the IT industry, including creating the Embrace specialist group which works to understand barriers to entry to the sector.