On leaving digital Manchester 

This week I was lucky enough to attend a screening of ‘Codegirl‘ at the Cooperative building in Manchester; organised by Ladies of Code. The evening, and the film, followed an introduction by Ladies of Code organiser Danielle, who shared a heartfelt story and the need to get more girls in STEM subjects. Females are hugely underrepresented which can be overwhelming for those growing up with dreams to enter the stream. I completely appreciate the challenge females face in STEM. It’s more so than the Arts, but as a student of literature, I was taught by lecture and by influence that it’s a man’s world. It’s not good enough. We need more female role models and we need more varied role models. 
  

A post I read today touched on the absurdly outdated compulsory reading that so frequently appears on must-read lists and I couldn’t concur more. Being taught that the stories we should admire, the literature we should aim to replicate – and what makes up the majority of the canon – is mostly the work of privileged white upper class men (…writing about other privileged white men and their grasp over everyone beneath them) is dangerous. Women are actively sidelined, other races only feature when the story is about inhibiting them, and there is focus on how the less wealthy were in place to smooth the rides for those grand masters. 

It’s terrible. We’re fuelling the culture we’re desperate to escape and not realising it’s time to move on. 

If I could create my own compulsory reading list, I wouldn’t make it a diverse mix of race and gender because I felt I should, I’d make it this because this is what enables the characteristic of being understanding; open minded. Culturally, this gives us the broadest exposure, the richest knowledge, the greatest understanding of the human race and the greatest chance to succeed. I studied English and Creative Writing and (in the second university I went to) there was not a dot of creativity in the thought behind the modules. We dealt with books about women or books about race, and we dealt with books that reinforced abhorrent values.

According to my degree, to be a literary genius, I had to be white, upper class and male. The principle tutors embodied this persona with aloofness and wealthy drawl. 

Each industry faces their challenges in this respect and Codegirl seeked to dismiss the existing paradigm that coding is for boys. It was epic. Showcasing a snippet of teams from the ‘Secondary School Division’ grouping of last year’s Tecnovation, the movie followed teenage girl groups as they innovated, designed and developed apps to make a positive impact on their society. 

It was truly inspiring to see each team’s approach, ideas and process and see what they achieved in their limited time. Though I felt pangs of envy at my lost youth and missed opportunities, I came away from the screening feeling empowered, feeling inspired and having my knowledge that girls rock affirmed. 

The event in Manchester was recommended by one of the (66% female) coders in my agency. Manchester is great for all of this; inspiring and empowering events and mixing the cultural melting pot. 

  

When I first moved to Manchester, I frequented She Says events before dropping off the radar as the winter blues kicked in and I became more reclusive. Each She Says event I attended left me feeling like I could conquer anything I set my mind to. 

It’s a shame to leave as I learn about more of these incredible events that the digital world can help initiate and publicise. In the last few weeks, my appetite for tech has been stirred.  Manchester is such a digital city and it’s great to see the Co-Op taking a big part in this as they too expand their digital offering. If I weren’t escaping the country to (ironically) escape the digital world that has absorbed me too quickly, I’d be plastering its offices with my CV and pestering for an interview. 

Since I’ve been here, I’ve also found the opportunity to be involved in a local arts event for which I’m utilising (and desperately increasing) my digital skills as I develop and manage three social channels ahead of a weekend event in June. It’s something I’ll continue remotely, harnessing the power of digital and keeping my ties to the ever-connected and opportunistic world of the north west. 

My time here has been varied, under-utilised and perhaps, at times, undervalued, but I’m doing what I can to make the most of it in my final months. There’s more to come from Manchester, that’s for sure. 

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Header image and image one via Unsplash.

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