Doing away with clichés
This interview was published in the Ergon Magazine SMART insights 2019. You can order the complete Magazine here.
Women are underrepresented in IT. What exactly is holding them back from writing code? Where is the prejudice coming from? Sybil Ehrensberger, a passionate software engineer, wants to break down barriers and is trying to bring more female talent on board, including via Django Girls.
Who are the Django Girls?
It’s a global organisation with local representatives who put on programming workshops for women to help them find out about IT.
Only for women?
Yes, the idea is to break down any initial reservations and do away with the cliché that "maths is for boys, languages are for girls". It’s not just young girls who come; we have a wide range of ages from 16 to 60 involved. It’s really gratifying to see how much they enjoy it – and of course even nicer when one of them ultimately sticks with it and gets more deeply involved in the field in the future.
How did you get involved?
It started at my last job. Django is a web framework for programming that I used at my last employer and had also mentioned in my LinkedIn profile. The organiser of a workshop who found me on LinkedIn had seen that and asked me if I would like to take part as a coach at the workshop in Berne, and I did. I enjoyed it, and since then, I have been involved both as a coach and on the organisational side.
That must be a pretty demanding hobby. Why are you doing it?
I think IT could stand a few more women getting involved. It would be nice if I were not always the only woman on the team and in the meetings. There are also a lot of studies to suggest that having greater diversity on the team overall (not just gender diversity) leads to better outcomes. When I joined Ergon, I was indeed the first woman on the team. My colleagues told me that my presence changed the team dynamics – for the better, I trust! That’s what they said, at least. (laughs)
Doesn’t organising the events take up a lot of your time?
Yes, it does. But it’s also fun when your organisational committee is a good team, and the community and its coaches are all very decent people. Comparing notes is valuable and you can also debate technical questions, so you’re always learning something new.
Does Ergon support you in these endeavours?
I organise and put on the events off my own bat, but Ergon has been location sponsor on two occasions already and provides financial support for Django Girls. Ergon also offers a wide range of support of its own for the next generation of employees. I’m also involved here – in planning taster days, programming workshops and the like.
How long have you worked at Ergon, and why did you join?
I have been here for two years now. A former work colleague gave the company a glowing recommendation.
Was he right?
(laughs) Yes – I haven’t regretted it yet, that’s for sure. I really like the work. You collaborate closely with customers and you can have a real impact on the work. I am currently involved with the VIAC project and I have to admit it makes me proud to be able to say "look – I had a hand in that."