EXCLUSIVE: How Women Of The Future 2018 award winner Sarah Moran is fighting for gender equality

The CEO and founder of Girl Geek Academy talks coding, gender equality and mingling with Australia's influential women at The Weekly's 2018 Women Of The Future Awards.
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When you think of coding, you may immediately think of someone hidden in a corner, typing furiously and shrouded in a black hoodie, and you wouldn’t be alone in that assumption. But Sarah Moran is anything but that stereotype.

As the CEO and co-founder of Girl Geek Academy, Sarah picked up the Entrepreneur and Business Award at the Australian Women’s Weekly Women Of The Future Awards in 2018 and since then has been on a mission to change how many of us view coding and technology by educating girls and women of all ages on the matter.

We spoke exclusively to Sarah about how she’s fighting against gender inequality, the struggles of being a woman in the tech industry and how every girl needs her girl gang.

As a male-dominated industry, coding has come a long way in Australia, but Sarah admits that America still has a long way to go. She realised this back in 2016 on a business trip to San Francisco when she visited different tech companies to discuss her program Girl Geek Academy, a global movement encouraging women to build more of the internet.

“We met with a recruiter, so the hiring manager at a start-up, and he said, ‘I would totally hire more women, I just don’t want to lower the bar,'” she tells The Weekly.

“We’ve had a lot of similar stories like that but that one for me, I was so gobsmacked. And so when I tell that story in Australia people are shocked but when I tell that story in America I have responses where people will go, ‘Oh well you wouldn’t want to, would you?'”

At the time, Sarah and her co-founder were debating about moving their headquarters to the States, but after that experience, they made the decision to say no.

“We thought we were doing the right thing going to the home of the Internet but that home is so broken for women,” says Sarah.

“They say that Silicon Valley is the best place in the world to build a tech start-up, but not if you’re a woman. They don’t get funded, two per cent of venture capitals in America in 2017 went to women, considering how much money went into venture capital last year.”

Sarah and her team of technologists, who are no strangers to gender inequality, are currently trying to reduce the social context that creates men’s violence against women and situations for that to occur and are enlisting the help of their male behind-the-scenes supporters.

“I think there’s a point in gender equality when we need men to come on that journey with us, otherwise if it’s just women helping women, that will get us so far but to create equality we need to work together.”

Sarah has seen gender inequality in the technology industry and is working to stop it. (Image: Supplied)

Sarah is currently busy running workshops for women with a focus on teaching them to work with the young girls in their life so that they can improve their technology skills together.

While some women will confess that their daughters know more than them, Sarah says the aim of the workshops is to encourage problem-solving together and allow these women to be good role models to the younger generations.

“Every girl needs their girl gang and sometimes that girl gang needs to be your mum or your aunty or your grandma and that’s ok,” says Sarah.

“It’s boosted some of the women’s confidence and it’s definitely helped the young girls know that that they have a support partner in the home in their world. And it’s just been a hoot, we’ve just had such fun, we’ve had tea, we’ve had yoga, we’ve had coding, the whole kit and caboodle. We’ve also been doing some dance coding to Katy Perry!”

Coding has been a part of Sarah’s life since she was just five years-old, who learned the basics in the computer room at school with her fellow pupils.

“For me, coding’s always been social, so the idea of this nerdy isolated activity is not how I learned coding and that’s what we’re trying to recreate in the workshop- it’s a social environment that you do with your friends that is fun and you build awesome things together, that’s what it is.”

“One of the first activities we do is we say, ‘Close your eyes and picture what coding means, I want you to picture a hacker.’ And then I put a stock image on the screen, a person in a hoodie, in the dark. And I say instead, ‘Look around you, this is what coding looks like today, it’s going to be us with our tablets, that’s what coding is.’ So we’re smashing that stereotype before it even exists for them so they’ll be able to go ‘I know what coding is, it looks like me and my friends having fun’ and that’s what I want it to be for them.”

Sarah with some of her coders of the future. (Image: Supplied)

At our Women Of The Future Awards, Sarah was also the recipient of the Entrepreneur and Business Award and mingled with some of Australia’s most influential women from industries including politics, the arts and media.

“I had a blast. I was really surprised at the range of people who were in the room, it felt like walking into an Australian Women’s Weekly magazine so that was a really surprising feeling!”

Aside from meeting Emma Watkins (better known as Emma Wiggle), Sarah also chatted with Australian designer, Carla Zampatti, and confesses she was surprised they hit it off so well.

“Fashion isn’t really my thing but business is and she is such a strong businesswoman, we were talking about 3D printing fashion which was just a great combination of our two worlds.”

WATCH: The Women Of The Future Awards red carpet. Post continues after video…

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When she collected her award, Sarah also called on the influential ladies in attendance to help bring down gender inequality.

“I said, ‘There are a lot of women in the media in the room here, when you have your technology segments, are they presented by men or women? One of the easiest things you can do to help me is have women presenting some of your technology stories on the TV,'” Sarah explains.

In fact, that speech led to an invitation on the Today Show from Georgie Gardner herself!

“Seeing that relationship being fostered, women helping women first and foremost, that was great.”

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