WE are all - to one extent or another - adept at operating our mobile phone or laptop satisfactorily, but very few of us would be anywhere near as confident about tackling coding. At its most basic, and thus readily comprehensible, level, coding, as we quote one instructor as saying today, is the process of writing instructions for a computer. If we want a computer to do some work, the “real-world problem” has to be rendered as a set of instructions, or computer programs, the language of which has to be in a language that the computer understands. Learning to code is the process of mastering these languages.

It’s encouraging to report that the allure of coding is particularly strong in Scotland, good news when a skills-gap of an estimated 11,000 developers has to be addressed. In just three years the organisation, Code Clan, has produced 500 graduates. It is even more encouraging that emphasis is being placed on attracting female applicants. One-quarter of the current graduates are women; the laudable aim is to have the proportion reach 40 per cent by 2020.

Much has been made of the campaign to attract women to STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is widely acknowledged, to borrow wording used by the STEM Graduates organisation’s Women in STEM web-pages, that STEM careers are male dominated. Just 15% of engineering graduates are female, while the figures are 19% for computer studies and 38% for maths. It is worth quoting further: “The shortfall is hardly surprising when we consider that 13% of the overall UK STEM workforce is female” - other sources give a higher figure, however - “and there are relatively few female STEM role models as a consequence. Employers who do not actively target female candidates are likely to receive significantly fewer job applications from female candidates.”

Fortunately, a large number of groups are working to improve this situation. In Scotland, a survey has been launched into the subject of gender imbalance in the STEM sector, thanks to the efforts of key names in the country’s flourishing tech field.

There is much to be gained from having more women working in science, engineering and technology. Not only would businesses, and Scotland’s research base, benefit, and workplaces become much more diverse, but, as a Royal Society of Edinburgh report pointed out six years ago, these sectors, all of them key to Scotland’s future prosperity, would also feel a positive impact. One line from that strategy report, Tapping All Our Talents, bears repeating: “It is estimated that a doubling of women’s high-level skill contribution to the economy would be worth as much as £170 million per annum to Scotland’s national income.” It is, indeed, food for thought.