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More Turkish women consider writing code as career

Sun 27, March 2016 Kategori Magazin-Media

"Your resume seems fine but we prefer a male programmer because I don’t think that women are suitable for flexible schedules,” one employer told Melek Elmas.

Just one event among many that shattered her dream of becoming a code writer despite the fact that she had trained for precisely that line of work since 2003. Having studied coding in her high school years, she graduated from the Computer Technologies and Coding Department in 2009 at the Istanbul Trade University. She even took private courses on coding and database.

To no effect..

Elmas remains sour to have been judged on her gender rather than her skills.

"I was pretty much annoyed by this stance. That’s why I decided to change my career path despite the fact that I have trained as a coder and loved this job,” says Elmas, 27, who now works on search engine optimization for websites.

Elmas’s experience captures challenges waiting or affecting women coders around the globe and also in Turkey.

Made of words, numbers, brackets - incomprehensible to a layman - code directs programs to accomplish set tasks.

Behind any shiny graphic interface, complex computer game, smartphone app, there is coding.

The computer world, and specifically coding, has long been seen as male-dominated environment. Figures appear to support this.

A 2013 survey indicated that 11.2 percent of software developers worldwide were women.

Moreover, the U.S. research suggested that women faced double standards even though they turned out to generally be better at coding than men.

The research on GitHub - one of the largest open-source software communities in the world – showed that 78.6 percent of proposed code changes made by women were accepted compared with 74.6 percent of those made by men.

When these women revealed their identity, the rate dropped to 62.5 percent. The researchers concluded that bias against female code writers "exists”.

In Turkey, the percentage of female code writers surpasses 20 percent, according to Nuri Odemis, deputy chairman of the Istanbul-based IT and Software Authors Association, or BIYESAM.

At least 160,000 coders have been employed by the Turkey software sector, Dogan Ufuk Gunes, chairman of Istanbul-based Software Industrialists Association, or YASAD, told Anadolu Agency.

At the national level, there has been no academic study or survey on whether or how women programmers face prejudice. But, female code writers and prominent figures of the industry speak of a rampant bias against women.

"I can say that there has been discrimination against women within the sector,” Nuri Odemis, deputy chairman of BIYESAM, told Anadolu Agency.

Odemis believes reason behind this bias was a reflection of problems within society.

Ozge Kasap, a 28-year-old programmer, conceded that irrespective of any working environment, being a woman is a challenge.

"During a job interview, an employer questions a woman’s plans to marry or to have a child. I did not hear such questions being asked to male candidates,” Kasap noted.

Elmas stated that her story presented prejudice against women programmers during hiring process.

Another problem facing women in coding stems from a tendency for male workers to stick together.

Ozdemis from BIYESAM said that male workers tended to isolate the - most often than not, lone - female worker.

Kasap added that she heard of other female coders switching departments due to pressure from male workers or because their ideas were not well considered.

"If a person is good coder, gender should not make a difference,” Kasap said.

The Software Industrialists Association’s chairman Guney argued however that the software sector was a most convenient place for female workers.

"Our work is free from time and place. You don’t have to be here to do the job. A woman coder can work from home even if she gets pregnant,” Guney said.

Despite existing difficulties, Elmas and Kasap were confident that a bright future awaited tech-savvy women.

Elmas said self-confident women solidarity among women coders was beginning to flourish.

PhD candidate Kasap said she observed that the number of girls enrolled in the coding department had surpassed the number of male students.

"When I enrolled into university [in 2009], we were two girls at the Coding Engineering Department [at Istanbul-based Bahcesehir University],” Kasap said.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education revealed that it had set up a commission to revise coding class to teach programming at an early age. Coding will be taught at middle school, according to senior officials of the ministry.

In recent years, Turkish girls have outperformed boys at the central university placement exams.

Nationwide results released in March 2015 showed that, for example, 72 percent of girls scored the 180 points needed to apply for the second round of Turkey’s national university entrance exam.

Only 66 percent of boys made the grade, according to the government-run Measurement, Selection and Placement Center.

Not only are girls outscoring boys in tests, they are also enrolling into universities in higher numbers.

"In the future, I believe there will be successful female coders whose names will be written in gold letters,” Kasap said.

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