Women and the World Wide Web

Caroline Hagan gives an insight into working in the exciting world of web development.

I became a part of the Digital Allies team in January this year to support the technical team with my expertise in website development. My role within the business is a Front-end Web Developer.

Have you ever explored a website and wondered who was behind it. Have you looked at the way it was laid out, the way the navigation bar takes you to where you want to be?

This is what a front-end developer does. While web design is the way a website looks, front-end development is what turns the design into reality.

When I was younger I loved being creative. I had a lot of interest in art, drawing and crafts. I remember very clearly my mother turning to me and saying “you should be a Graphic Designer when you grow up”. At the time I didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded fun, and that was it, that was what I wanted to be.

I read lots of books, I studied hard at school even managing to secure a work experience placement with a design agency while I was still at secondary school.

It was so cool; they had ‘proper’ old school colour Macs, they did Litho and Digital printing and it was that experience that made me realise digital was my passion.

As an adult, I’ve strived to learn as much as I can, reading, listening, attending courses both on and off line, the lot. I studied Graphic Design at Newcastle College then went on to the University of Sunderland and completed a BA(hons) in Design, Multimedia and Graphics.

There weren’t any ‘Web Design’ courses back then. All the development and website technical elements I’ve learnt have been completely self-taught. Even whilst studying at university we only touched the surface with HTML and Flash, but I was already familiar with it by then. I’ve been doing Web Design and Development ever since leaving University in 2008.

In aid of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d draw attention to being a woman in website development to others who may not think it is a career for them.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked predominately with men. That’s not been a bad thing, nor has it been a bad experience. It has been challenging at times but over the years I’ve definitely developed a thick skin which in truth is a good characteristic to have.

I’m unsure as to why web development tends to be a male-dominated career.

The imbalance became blindingly obvious to me when I attended the DIBI Conf at the Sage in 2011. At a sold out conference at the Sage Gateshead I saw between 10-20 women, the up side was that the queue for the ladies was non-existent, which was a nice change!

Although it’s a young industry I think a lot of employers are catching on to the fact that they need diversity in the office. If you have a variety of people working on a design or build, you’ll get more input and differing views and opinions. This can only be a good thing, as our users are all different too?

I know a lot of freelance ladies who work in the Graphic Design and Web Design area. Perhaps they feel more comfortable working for themselves? For many, I suspect it’s more about achieving a decent work-life balance.

I used to be heavily involved with The Inspire Network, a networking organisation in the North East exclusively for Business Women and I ran the North Tyneside branch meetings. The network has over 8000 members in its Facebook Group, where most of the action and debate happens, the organisation as paid Associate Members too.

It’s a great group of women who are all at different stages in their careers some working for themselves some running their own large businesses and lots in between. You get a lot of advice, or recommendations if you need help with something, or need to find someone to do a particular task the support is there.

Being a woman has never stopped me from achieving anything in my career if anything I’ve challenged it and exceeded the stereotype.

I’ve recently completed The Online Marketing Fundamentals qualification (Google Digital Garage and IAB Europe) and the Google Mobile Sites certification (Google Partners). I’ve also been fortunate enough to attend the PWA training at Google Academy in London and that was lots of fun!

In some respect’s I feel like I’m just getting started, I feel totally at home in the sector and the future has lots of opportunities and I can’t wait for the next challenge. Bring it on.


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