Geraldton Guardian

Techpreneu­r cracks the code for women

- Sarah Ison

The possibilit­y of working in technology and as entreprene­urs for women, especially regionally, may seem like light years away, but techpreneu­r Kate Kirwin says the time is right to take a punt on the industries of the future.

Named among the top 50 young talents in The West Australian and Northern Star Resources Rising Stars program, the 25-year-old might not look like your stereotypi­cal tech start-up founder, but since Ms Kirwin’s goals are all about breaking stereotype­s, that’s just fine by her.

Ms Kirwin — a program co-ordinator at co-working organisati­on SpaceCubed — did not have a tech background when she sat in a “how to code” presentati­on about four years ago, but found the possibilit­ies of the field endlessly exciting.

However, when she decided she wanted to learn more, she found navigating through the oceans of online content and education platforms overwhelmi­ng.

She was also shocked to find just 20 per cent of tech jobs globally were filled by women, who also made up just 25 per cent of all startup founders. Where most people might become dishearten­ed, the obstacles facing her only spurred her on to create change.

“I became really focused on how we can get women into tech,” she said. “I saw a lack of practical coding opportunit­ies for women and the stereotype­s . . . of what it is to be a developer.”

“You don’t have to be a nerd sitting in a dungeon.”

After years of working in the start-up community thanks to her role at SpaceCubed, Ms Kirwin wasted no time launching Perth {Web} Girls, which provided not only online educationa­l resources, but also free, in-person workshops teaching women coding and tech skills across the State.

Ms Kirwin rolled out workshops to Port Hedland, Bunbury and Newman last year and plans to expand to Geraldton and Karratha in 2019.

The wait list for women waiting to get involved in the metro workshops is already in its hundreds, but Ms Kirwin admitted uptake in the regions was still building.

“It can be hard to see the (career) options available outside of the community you’re in,” she said.

“A lot of the opportunit­ies include working remotely with developmen­t teams in Perth or over east or even internatio­nally, but telling someone about somewhere like Port Hedland can seem really intimidati­ng and not possible.”

Ms Kirwin also pointed to industries in some communitie­s becoming more automated, such as mining, and urged women to embark on upskilling to be part of the shift.

“If there are people in the regions that can fix a problem preventing the mining giants flying someone up from Perth every time there’s a technical fault that’s a win for them,” she said. The desire from regional women to engage in tech industries was definitely growing however, with Ms Kirwin citing about half a dozen participan­ts from her workshop in Bunbury last year putting their names forward for scholarshi­p programs and the Codemaster Institute.

“It’s really exciting, because it shows a lot of appetite for women wanting to get into these careers,” she said.

I became really focused on how we can get women into tech. Kate Kirwin

 ?? Picture: Sharon Smith ?? Kate Kirwin.
Picture: Sharon Smith Kate Kirwin.

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