Girls into tech

Just what is the problem?

“Five years ago it seemed just about everyone, from teachers to business leaders to politicians, was in agreement about the need for radical changes in the way children were taught about computers. But today it is hard to find many who are happy with the speed and direction of the revolution in computing education.”

So says Prof Rose Lukin, University College London’s Knowledge Lab, in a recent article by Rory Cellan-Jones, Technical Correspondent for the BBC.

Coincidentally, four years ago, bespoke software engineers First Option Software Ltd from Alresford, Hampshire, held a symposium style breakfast meeting to discuss the subject with specific emphasis on the gender imbalance in the IT world. Discussion included parental/peer pressure, gender stereotyping, definitions of IT, hard-wiring of girls v boys, educational curricula and industry’s reluctance to change.

So what has changed in four years, if anything? According to Russell Haworth of Nominet, “the top three things putting girls off a career in IT is that they believe it to be boring, too technical, and too hard”.

First Option Software has teamed up with The Nav People and Winchester Science Centre to hold a follow-up event in October. It will be a larger event and will be hosted at Winchester Science Centre from 5pm – 7pm on Thursday 12th October. Attendees will come from industry and education and will include leading STEM Ambassadors.

There will be a welcome introduction over tea and coffee, a short presentation by three or four key speakers and a break-out/networking session afterwards. The aim is simple: to find out what has changed and what can be done to influence decision makers into correcting the gender imbalance that exists.

There are plenty of good initiatives designed to encourage young people, especially girls, to get involved with technology from an early age. But without joining up the dots, we could be looking at a similar, or worse situation than ever in the next five years.

Cellan-Jones continues, “Figures from the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) show only a modest rise in students taking the new computer science GCSE. “Experts are concerned. The British Computing Society warns the number studying for a computing qualification could halve by 2020.”

If you are concerned about the future of the industry for girls particularly and the industry generally, and would like to take part in this debate, register now to save your place.

Any questions please contact Emily Thorpe-Smith, Director of STEM Engagement at Winchester Science Centre.

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