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How a coding course is looking to move the needle for women in tech

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Code Institute is running two initiatives to help bring more women into the tech industry and support those currently fleeing conflict.

When leaders talk about gender diversity in tech, they often speak about it in a very broad sense.

They talk about the fact that early intervention is needed at a primary and secondary school level to ensure young girls are encouraged to consider a career in tech.

They discuss the importance of mentorships and resource groups at an industry level to make sure that women working in the industry are supported.

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The fact is that women remain underrepresented in tech. One thing that has changed, according to Code Institute CEO Jim Cassidy, is the attitude towards women’s abilities.

“The misconception that gender and technical ability is linked is less prevalent. However, we are not seeing that translating into more women in tech, tech careers or studying tech subjects in school or college,” he told SiliconRepublic.com

“There are longstanding barriers that need to be addressed. A predominantly gender-segregated education system gives girls and young women fewer opportunities to take technical subjects. This translates into the lack of progress in third level where the dial has not shifted in a decade.”

A practical, hands-on approach

In March, the Irish Government published a report on gender balance in STEM education, which included a list of recommendations to tackle the educational gap at primary and secondary level.

While this is a step in the right direction, Cassidy said it will take at least a decade for this to impact the workplace, creating “another generation of missed opportunities”.

“More immediate action is needed, particularly to create more opportunities for women who are already in the workforce or returning to the workforce,” he said. “It’s not realistic to go back to college for three or four years to get these skills – the barriers remain the same.”

To that end, Code Institute hopes its Coding Careers for Women initiative will help move the needle faster and in a more practical way. It’s a joint initiative between Code Institute, Limerick and Clare Education Board, the Mid-West Regional Skills Forum and Limerick For IT.

An initial cohort of 20 women were recruited from the Limerick and Clare region for the programme, which includes a nine-month diploma in software development and a three-month work placement.

Code Institute now aims to produce more than 40 graduates in one year through the programme, which Cassidy said will significantly shift the dial on the number of women software development graduates. He added that the programme looks to bypass many of the barriers women can face as the course is flexible and online.

“We teach full-stack software development in a one-year programme, which is a hands on, learn-by-doing approach. The women have the practical coding skills to start their first role,” he said.

“Make no mistake, this is a tough programme. It requires dedication and resilience, but the rewards are great.”

Why an all-women cohort matters

The course is made up of an all-women cohort, which facilitator Kasia Bogucka said is important for creating a safe, supportive environment.

“Women often feel intimidated by the competitiveness, sometimes aggressive approach of some males in this industry, hence they may feel inadequate,” she said.

“This feeling is not aligned with these women’s abilities. My first female cohort I worked with was a group of women who immediately came together and created a safe learning environment. One without arrogance and so-called chest-thumping, which often may be observed in male groups.”

Bogucka added that members of the group bonded as teammates. “Students became colleagues and almost friends as they were all working as a whole team – a team of women in coding.”

Siobhan Gorman is a graduate of the Coding Careers For Women initiative, having joined after she had taken a career break to raise her family.

“If the course hadn’t mentioned targeting women I would not have considered it – I liked the idea that the course would address the particular constraints facing women who want a career in tech,” she said.

“With an all-female cohort, we understood where we were all coming from with respect to the particular demands and constraints on women, especially after taking a career break or juggling looking after children and working. Women are very supportive and we formed a tight-knit team who shared problems and found solutions together.”

Gorman is currently halfway through her placement with Jaguar Land Rover, which she said is giving her a lot of new skills every day.

“My ambition is to work in a company like Jaguar Land Rover in a team as a junior developer with a view to becoming a scrum master possibly after some more experience in an agile team.”

Helping underrepresented women

While all women can face certain barriers in the tech world, there are even greater challenges for women in underrepresented communities such as refugees and asylum seekers. To help these women, Code Institute offers 20 scholarships through its Level Up initiative with tech company Zartis.

Now in its fourth year, the conflict in Ukraine has made these scholarships even more timely.

While Code Institute provides the training, Zartis provides a career guarantee to graduates, helping them move to a position of financial independence and stability.

Xhuljana Shehu is one of the graduates from the Level Up scholarship programme, having come to Ireland as an asylum seeker in 2016. “Although I have a law degree, I cannot use it in Ireland. So, I started looking for training opportunities to give me skills I can use.”

She was accepted onto the course in 2020 and, although she had never done any coding before, she found it really enjoyable.

“The programme is tough and I just had a new baby at the time, so I really had to work hard,” she said. “I qualified recently so I’m still working in my previous job but I’m looking forward to making the career change as soon as I have the opportunity. I can see a better future for myself with a coding career.”

Applications are currently open for the Level Up scholarship programme. The second Coding Careers for Women cohort is due to launch later this month.

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Linux 6.0 debuts, missing some Rusty bits • The Register

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Emperor Penguin Linus Torvalds has released the first release candidate for Linux 6.0, but doesn’t mind what you call it.

“After I had already decided to call this kernel 6.0, a few Chinese developers piped up and pointed out that ‘5.20’ is a more wholesome version of the Western ‘4.20’ internet-famous number,” he wrote in his announcement that Linux 6.0 rc1 has been released.

“4.20” is a reference to a day on which some celebrate marijuana, while “5.20” does likewise for magic mushrooms.

“So if you want to call this ‘Linux 5.20’, go right ahead,” Torvalds wrote.

“Because the kernel version numbers really are entirely made up and have no intrinsic meaning.”

That this week’s release has the 6.0 label is still nice to know, as discussion on the Linux kernel mailing list in recent weeks used 5.20 and 6.0 interchangeably.

As The Register has already reported, the release does not make major changes to the kernel but does include many useful updates – such as more RISC-V support, code to drive Intel’s Gaudi accelerators, and improved ACPI handling.

Torvalds lamented some Rust-enabling code didn’t make it into the release.

“I actually was hoping that we’d get some of the first rust infrastructure, and the multi-gen LRU VM, but neither of them happened this time around,” he mused, before observing “There’s always more releases.”

“This is one of those releases where you should not look at the diffstat too closely, because more than half of it is yet another AMD GPU register dump,” he added, noting that Intel’s Gaudi2 Ai processors are also likely to produce plenty of similar kernel additions.

“The CPU people also show up in the JSON files that describe the perf events, but they look absolutely tiny compared to the ‘asic_reg’ auto-generated GPU and AI hardware definitions,” he added.

The release includes 13,099 changed files, 1,280,295 insertions and 341,210 deletions. Torvalds calculated those numbers “just because I was curious and looked.”

He wants you to be curious too – or at least curious enough to test the kernel, because that’s what release candidates are for and this one contains at least one active bug. ®

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Tinder is the most hated app in Ireland

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Ireland is one of 19 countries worldwide that strongly dislikes Tinder. One in five Tweets by Irish people about all apps are negative.

According to Electronics Hub’s analysis of the most hated apps in the world, Tinder is the most loathed app in Ireland.

Irish people are not alone in their hatred for the dating app. Tinder was the most hated app in 19 countries in total, with Canadians, Americans, Nigerians, Kenyans and our neighbours in the UK also singling it out as their least favourite.

Electronics Hub determined the most hated apps in each country by analysing Twitter data. It processed more than 3m geotagged tweets related to 87 social media, dating, mobile games, entertainment, cryptocurrency and money transfer apps.

Researchers calculated the percentage of tweets about each app that were negative using a sentiment analysis tool which identifies whether a tweet has positive, negative or neutral sentiment.

Infographic of the most hated apps in the world by country.

Click to enlarge and see the most hated apps in the world by country. Infographic: Electronics Hub

Ireland was found to be one of the most negative countries when it came to attitudes towards apps. One in five Tweets posted by Irish people about apps were negative, Electronics Hub found.

Despite Irish people’s professed loathing for Tinder, the dating platform tried to play a role in keeping daters safe in the pandemic. It hooked up with the HSE to promote vaccines by adding badges to users’ profiles.

Tinder was only the second-most hated app in the world, with Roblox taking first place. More than 20 countries said the child-targeted gaming app was their most hated app. Other unpopular apps include Snapchat, Disney and Reddit.

Neighbouring countries tend to dislike similar apps, with the Scandinavians professing a dislike for Reddit and South Americans hating e-commerce apps.

Dating apps, meanwhile, are disliked the world over. In Iraq, 71.4pc of all tweets about Tinder are negative, which is the highest out of any country. A state-by-state breakdown of the most hated apps in North America also found Tinder took the top spot in 21 states.

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‘A sweatshop in the UK’: how the cost of living crisis triggered walkouts at Amazon | Industrial action

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Amazon workers say they are working in a “sweatshop” as safety concerns and worries about the cost of living crisis have triggered walkouts at warehouses around the country.

The Observer has spoken to four staff involved in the walkouts, who work at three Amazon warehouses, including Tilbury in Essex, where protests began on 4 August. All say they will struggle to survive this winter with pay rise offers between 35p and 50p an hour – far less than the rate of inflation, which is currently at 9.4%.

The workers, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals from Amazon, said they were speaking out to highlight how the firm’s ultra-cheap, ultra-convenient, super-fast delivery model works.

Amazon employs more than 70,000 people in the UK, adding 25,000 staff in 2021 alone. Many work at the company’s 21 fulfilment centres, where some workers say they are asked to carry out long, physical shifts, with difficult targets, for low pay.

Starting pay in Amazon warehouses will shortly be increasing to between £10.50 and £11.45 per hour, depending on location. An Amazon spokesperson said this was a 29% increase in the minimum hourly wage paid to staff since 2018. They said it is also augmented by a comprehensive benefits package worth thousands of pounds a year, and a company pension plan.

But staff say it is too low for the type of work being done and given the current economic crisis, especially at a company that just posted $121bn (£100bn) in revenues in the second quarter of 2022 alone.

“When we heard the news, it was shocking,” said one worker at Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury. “It’s ridiculous. Inflation is [forecast to reach] 13%, and our salary increases barely 3%.” The worker rents a house with her husband for £1,350 a month without bills. “My salary is £1,600. … I’m lucky I’m married, otherwise I’d be homeless.”

Some staff are seeking a pay rise of £2 an hour from the tech giant.

Hundreds of Amazon employees stop working over disputed pay rise – video

Another worker at Amazon’s warehouse in Tilbury said they were “petrified” about how they would survive this winter. “We had a scenario recently where someone was living in [an] Amazon [warehouse],” he said. “If I’m honest, I can probably see that happening again.

“I can see people staying in the canteen all the time because they can’t afford to go home.”

The worker is protesting against the poor pay offer, as well as conditions that lock staff in cages for entire shifts at the warehouses, from where they pick items to be delivered to customers. (Amazon says the workstations are to protect workers from moving robotics.)

“It’s a Chinese sweatshop in the UK,” said the second worker at Tilbury. “It’s how they set up their model.”

The worker has struggled with his mental health while working for the company. “I’ve realised how bad Amazon is for my mental health,” he said. “The anxiety of going into work, knowing you’ve got to do the same stuff day in, day out, is horrible.”

That concern is echoed by a worker at an Amazon facility near Bristol, who has worked there with his wife for three years. “It was good initially,” the worker said. “There was a lot of safety consciousness, and the targets were pretty reasonable. But now they’re just pushing it higher and higher, and exploiting people.”

Around 100 Amazon staff at Bristol staged a sit-in at the company canteen on 10 August – action for which they say they were docked pay by management at the site. “The vast majority of people went back to work at that point, because at the end of the day, as much as they want to fight for it, they have to think about themselves financially.”

The Bristol warehouse worker says that managers used to stop employees from lifting heavy items from bins on high shelves in the warehouse without a ladder. “If you overstretched yourself for 10 hours, you’d end up with a bad neck and a bad back,” he said.

That has subsequently changed as staff said they felt pressured to meet ever-escalating demand. Staff pushing carts around the warehouse used to be limited to using one cart at a time for safety reasons; now it is claimed managers turn a blind eye to staff pulling two carts at once. “They don’t say nothing because all they care about is getting the work done as fast as possible,” he said. “Safety just goes out the window.”

He says he has personally lifted items weighing up to 25kg by himself, despite rules saying anything heavier than 15kg should be lifted by two people.

A worker at an Amazon facility in the north-west of England said that managers at his warehouse similarly ignored rules around not running on site and lifting down heavy items from high areas in an attempt to meet targets, which at his site require two items to be picked every minute.

Amazon declined to respond to specific claims.

Martha Dark, director at Foxglove, a non-profit organisation working to highlight issues within tech companies that supports Amazon workers, said: “None of the workers we’re supporting wanted to protest.

“They’re desperate and can’t survive on these wages. Meanwhile, Amazon threatens to dock pay and send workers to HR for revealing the truth about life in the warehouse.”

She added: “Amazon needs to respect workers’ rights to organise, stop penalising people who are fighting to survive and provide a real pay rise now.”

Two workers said they plan to leave the company because of the conditions and pay. However, some hope to stay put – to change things.

“If a lot of us who are experienced leave Amazon at this point they’ll get a new group of people in who they can mould into this depressing way of work,” said the Bristol worker. “That’s the problem.”

This article was amended on 14 August 2022. Inflation is at 9.4%, not 13% as stated in an earlier version; the latter is a forecast rate.

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