Scottish technology companies join support for diversity in software development

A leading software development conference in Scotland has seen a significant increase in the number of underrepresented groups speaking at and attending their conferences, thanks to a number of initiatives.

The Scottish JavaScript Conference (ScotlandJS), was attended by over 250 people this year, with 50% of speakers and 30% of attendees being female or non-binary (individuals who do not identify as either male or female).

The initiatives, undertaken by the event’s organisers to increase participation from more diverse groups come in direct response to the overwhelming number of men in the Scottish software development industry. Women and other minorities are hugely underrepresented in Scotland’s tech sector, with 96% of software developers being male.

The organisers partnered with a number of technology companies to create a ‘diversity fund’, providing tickets and fully funded scholarships to attendees and speakers. It also provided childcare for the entirety of the conference. The fund was supported by a number of technology companies including FanDuel, Amazon, Cultivate, JP Morgan, Cucumber, Travis, Scott Logic, CodeClan and ScotlandIS.

Eileen McLaren, VP of Engineering at FanDuel, said: “It’s great to see conferences like Scotland JS making a positive impact on diversity by creating an inclusive environment for all. Supporting diversity is a crucial step in securing the future of Scotland’s tech industry, ensuring that we have the best people working on new ideas and innovations.”

As part of their work to improve diversity, the team organised support groups to support potential first-time speakers and encourage them to give their first conference talk. These groups were chaired by women and quadrupled the number of proposals from underrepresented groups from 8 in 2015, to 32 this year.

The conference organiser, Peter Aitken from Cultivate Software said “We’ve put in an incredible amount of work to improve the diversity of our community events, but we still have a lot of issues to overcome. Since last year, female speakers increased from 18% to 50%, non-male applications to speak increased from just 8 to 33, and non-male attendees increased from 15% to 30%. This is a good start, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want to leverage the immense opportunities that come from having a more diverse community”.

Alison Aird from Glasgow who received support from the diversity fund said: “It really was a fantastic experience. I have never seen such large numbers of women and people from various minority groups as speakers and attendees at a computing conference.”

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