This week, we asked Arfah Farooq of Makers Academy why we should be diversifying our tech teams. She gave us some amazing insight and some steps we can all take to create a more inclusive working environment.
I am a British Muslim Pakistani woman who has been working in technology for 3 years. In this respect, I am unusual – only 15% of the UK technology workforce are female, and even fewer are Muslim. For the last 2 years I’ve been working at Makers Academy where I’ve met an incredible amount of women from a variety of backgrounds who have learned to code.
My journey into technology was a bit of an accident. I’ve often found myself suffering imposter syndrome where I feel like I don’t quite belong or don’t deserve to be there, mainly because no one really looked like me or came from the same background. This is why it’s great that we’ve partnered with Digital Gurus to help solve the skills gap.
Diversity in technology doesn’t stop at gender. Personally I’ve lacked role models and this is one of the reasons why my friend Murtaza and I set up “Muslamic Makers” – a community for Muslims working in technology.
A question we often get asked is why there’s poor ethnic representation in the tech startup world. My answer is that there are more barriers, such as a traditional upbringing and a lack of opportunity, education and resource. There is also a huge gap in confidence as we’re working in an overwhelmingly white, middle class environment – but Murtaza and I knew of a handful of Muslims working in and around technology and wanted to find a way to overcome these barriers. The mission was simple: create a community and safe space for guys & girls who wouldn’t attend the usual tech events due to cultural barriers, like not drinking alcohol. We aim to inspire, network and create future role models to contribute to a much more inclusive technology world.
Inspired by what I was doing and their own experiences in technology, two amazing Makers Academy graduates, Chuka Ebi and Adil Ali, decided to set up “Black Techies”, a community for black professionals working in technology. Adil said, “I came up with the idea of Black Techies when I realised that one of my only black role models in tech was Chuka. The first time I met him was at a party during my second week at Makers and he was working at Fjord. He was someone that I could look up to and he gave me a lot of great advice that night and thereafter.”
My passion for diversity in technology is just getting stronger. I now curate a Snapchat account celebrating #DiversityInTech. My hope is that the account will be taken over by women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and anyone else who works in technology and wants to celebrate diversity. I’m particularly excited about the fellas from Apps for Good taking it over in the not-too-distant future! Interested in taking part? Just send me your details here and be sure to add the account.
Quick plug before I finish – we’ve put together a free coding starter kit with Digital Gurus for professionals of any background who are thinking about learning to code. It includes a fantastic interview with Pearl – a Digital Guru and FemTech recruitment specialist who works hard to get talented women into digital roles – well worth a read!