Women in Tech Cymru: A potted history of Women in Tech

We continue our guest blog series, welcoming Catrin Atkins of Women in Tech Cymru (WITC). Catrin is a Director at Sonix Software and founder of WITC - actively supporting and empowering women in the tech industry.

Following our 1st event in TechHub Swansea in November, I thought this would be as good a time as any to introduce Women in Tech Cymru.

Started in 2017, with a small group of friends who realised that in some semblance or another, they were ALL women in technology.

It was borne out of a frustration, noted in a depressing fact that only 17% of employees in the technology industry are women.*

So what is the history of women in tech?

Women in technology have had a bit of a chequered past, the Ancient Egyptians seemed to not have a problem with women studying and working within STEM industries. For example:

An ancient Egyptian, Merit-Ptah (c. 2700 BC), described in an inscription as "chief physician", is the earliest known female scientist named in the history of science.**

Even during the Dark Ages, women were given a role;

“Convents were an important place of education for women during this period, for the monasteries and nunneries encourage the skills of reading and writing, and some of these communities provided opportunities for women to contribute to scholarly research. An example is the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179 A.D), a famous philosopher and botanist, known for her prolific writings include treatments of various scientific subjects, including medicine, botany and natural history (c.1151–58).” **

So what changed? When universities popped up across the world, women for the most part were excluded, apart from the odd exception such as the University of Bologna, which accepted women studying there from their establishment in 1088.

Dozens of women were allowed to take things so far, before their ideas were sneakily patented by men and they happily took credit for many ideas, inventions and creations.

Take Celia Payne as an example. She was the first to discover that stars are made of helium and hydrogen. Her thesis, while described as “the most brilliant..ever written in astronomy”, was also dismissed. Until four years later, when her findings were confirmed’ by Henry Russell.

Or a personal favourite of mine, Jocelyn Bell Burnell – discoverer of the pulsar, whose contribution was ignored in favour of supervisor, Anthony Hewish and Martin Ryle who won a Nobel Prize in 1974. These days she is a visiting professor at Oxford University.

Women in Tech Cymru

So how can a group such as WITC support and empower women in the tech industry?

Since the launch event in June 2017, we have had numerous events such as guest speaker slots, raspberry pi workshops, info sessions and an All Wales conference in Aberystwyth.

At the launch event, I remember a guy coming up to me and saying, "Thank you so much for arranging this. I have a 7 year old and this is exactly what i want her to see and inspire to.”

It is EXACTLY that response that we needed to hear to spur us on to other events and activities.

Every time, without fail, it leaves me with a buzz – around the conversations I hear people having, the response, the meetings we hold where people come bursting with ideas and the satisfaction of knowing that gathering women in tech together always helps other women get involved/take the first step to be a bit braver or louder.

So what's next for WITC? Well currently it is a blank page for 2019. We will of course have a celebration of our 2nd birthday in June. As well as another All Wales conference (probably in North Wales), we are hoping to have outreach sessions in Grangetown and Butetown and if they’ll have us...maybe another event at TechHub Swansea. See you there? 😉

Facebook: www.facebook.com/WomeInTechCymru
Twitter: @CymruTech


*Recruitment International magazine, article dated 15th August 2017

**Wikipedia article