How do we get girls interested in Technology?

We have previously discussed the gender pay gap and the general lack of women working in the Tech industry. It has been suggested that companies need to look at employing women into the technical positions, and positions of seniority and those who are already in the space should be supporting one another as women.  However, if there are no women who are skilled and experienced in these positions, what then?

When recruiting for technical positions in the Networking and Security space, out of 100 placements, less than 4% will be women.  Talking to recruitment consultants, it’s not because the recruiting managers are simply hiring the male applicants over the females, it’s that they just don’t get the volume of female applicants.  The question is, how do we get women interested in technology?

It has been widely spoken about taking it right back to school age girls and trying to get them passionate about STEM subjects.  It has been quite some years since I was sat in a University lecture studying for my degree in Computer Science, but I can certainly remember I was one of few girls on my course. The students who were sitting their master’s degree in computer science had only 1 female on the entire course.  Several of the girls on my course dropped out saying they were surrounded by geeky boys.

Both of our Founders here at Hamilton Barnes, Nick Barker and George Barnes are STEM ambassadors visiting students to talk about careers in Tech.  The students who turn up who are already on courses such as Network Engineering or Computer Science degrees are predominately male.  However, when we look at the recent GCSE and A-level results of Computing and STEM subjects, although male-dominated, girls consistently outperform boys.

Overall GCSE entries increased by 202,000, STEM entries are down by 136,000. This represents 66,000 less girls taking STEM GCSEs this year.

  • In Additional Maths 96% of girls achieved 9-4 grades (vs 94% of boys).
  • In Physics, 91% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 90.5% of boys).
  • In Statistics, 73% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 69% of boys).
  • In Computing 66% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 60% of boys).
  • In Engineering 66% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 42% of boys).
  • In ICT 72% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 64% of boys).
  • In Science 51% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 45% of boys).
  • In Other Technologies 55.6% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 52.7% of boys).
  • In Design and Tech 73% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 54% of boys).
  • In Other Technologies 55.6% of girls achieved A*-C grades (vs 52.7% of boys).

 

A-Level – STEM

The number of young people studying computing at A-level has soared by nearly a quarter compared with last year. Still heavily male-dominated with 10,286 students sitting the exam this year, an increase of 23.9 per cent on last year, 8 out of 10 students were boys. As with GCSE’S, the boys dominate the subject, but again, girls generally outperformed their male counterparts.

This year, 20.1 per cent of girls studying computing secured at least an A grade, compared with 17.9 per cent of boys. Similarly, 4.2 per cent of girls managed an A*, as opposed to 3.2 per cent of boys.

Miles Berry, principal lecturer in computing education at Roehampton University, said he was delighted by the increase in take up. “I hope this trend will continue, as computer science becomes better embedded in the national curriculum and at GCSE. “A-level computing is relevant for many Stem disciplines at university, and paths into employment at 18,” he added.

Girls who do take these subjects up do very well! How can we keep increasing those numbers?

Speaking to young girls and teachers, despite performing well, girls get ‘turned off’ the subjects by the end of primary school due to a subconscious bias that it is not for them. When girls hit the age of choosing GCSE, A-Level and university subjects, it is usually too late to persuade them otherwise.  Often girls will choose subjects where they feel ‘happy’ it’s about being part of a group, feeling comfortable.  Sciences being so male-dominated means it may not be as appealing.  Judgement will often take place on the girls that do take these subjects up and for teenage girls who do not have the experience to deal with these judgements, it will have an impact of them not choosing STEM subjects.

We must encourage girls to look at the careers that can open up to them, to not listen to what other people are telling them, keep focused on what they are passionate about and not to be distracted.  We need to be educating girls on what areas of Computing there are to have careers in.  It’s not all about wearing overalls with a screwdriver in your hand or sitting in a cupboard writing code, which is what the perception can be.  It’s also about reinforcing their confidence in these areas. Girls don’t seem to realise that they perform exceptionally well in these subjects and are just as capable as the boys.

Educators have said that school leaders need to create more positive role models in Tech to encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM areas. For girls to have a female talking to them about jobs in Tech and Engineering, by having these role models and support at home and in the classroom, these are key drivers for inspiring girls to study STEM subjects. It has also been highlighted that gaining practical experiences and hands-on exercises in STEM subjects can have a positive effect.  This corresponds with links between creativity and getting girls interested in pursuing careers in STEM identified subjects.

Gender Gap

Girls have also spoken about the gender gap, knowing how females can earn significantly less than their male counterparts, the lack of female presence in Tech and in positions of leadership, also have an impact on career choices.  Men working within the tech sector have themselves, spoken out in several surveys calling for more women to join the industry.  It’s not ability holding back girls in STEM and the industry – more is the question of ‘do I belong here?’ Businesses need to be looking inwards at ways to address this.  The changes will eventually cascade down to the school-age girl who will be able to see rewarding careers ahead of them.

Don’t forget, women are half of the bright minds in this world, and the key will be hiring for diversity. But that diverse workforce won’t be there to help unless school leaders and companies spread the message right now that STEM is a place where girls can thrive.

 

 

Have a read of this article about some inspiring Women in Tech here.

Don’t forget to read our interview with Rita Younger, another inspirational Woman in Tech, you can access it here.

 

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