According to a Microsoft study of 1,000 girls and young women last year, there is just a five-year window to foster a passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in young girls.
The global IT sector is characterised by a low participation of women. The UK, sadly, is no exception. Many attempts have been made to address this problem, including better training and development, or narrowing the gender gap in high productivity sectors. Ultimately, however, it may be down to school-level inspiration and self-confidence.
“If we want to encourage more girls and young women to pursue STEM fields, planting the seeds of inspiration from a young age is absolutely vital.” Microsoft
By actively encouraging girls’ interest in tech earlier in their school careers, then empowering them to pursue careers in the field, it will go on to create greater job security for the next generation of women.
So, are there additional steps your school could be taking to inspire young women with IT and technology?
Identify gaps in your school
According to research by Tes, computer science, mechanical engineering, maths and physics are in the top ten university subject preferences for boys. Of this list, only maths makes it into the most popular degree-level courses for girls.
In some cases, Microsoft reports, it is confidence in technology that is the major barrier for young women. If your school provides a collaborative, hands-on digital environment for pupils to experiment and learn digital skills like coding and programming, this confidence could be developed from the ground up.
Break down stereotypes
Microsoft’s study also pointed towards peer pressure and gender stereotypes hurdles in schools; 10% of its respondents admitted it felt like a peer-level betrayal to show interest in STEM, whilst 23% felt STEM subjects are geared towards boys.
What’s more, Accenture released a survey that identified that more than half of teachers (57%) admit they have subconscious gender stereotypes about STEM subjects.
“We have to spark and retain girls’ interest in STEM at an early age, while expanding perceptions and demonstrating what a career or a person who works in STEM looks like beyond the traditional stereotypes.” Emma McGuigan, Senior Managing Director, Accenture Technology
Consider inviting female IT role models and industry figures to give talks that encourage more students to consider subjects outside of their gender ‘norm’, and inspire teachers to support them.
Developing digital skills earlier
There are plenty of devices and other edtech platforms that schools can use to create a more inspiring digital environment. A Raspberry Pi can be used to aid hands-on IT learning for all pupils, for example. With a Pi, a couple of motors and a motor board, students can learn basic robotics. Setting up a class blog or wiki, meanwhile, gives pupils the opportunity to adapt web content with code, inspiring girls and boys to foster the technical skills to develop websites.
Ultimately, schools should consider investment in edtech that fosters both a passion for digital skills whilst encouraging collaborative participation in technical tasks. If young women are provided greater inspiration in primary school, and more practical experience and knowledge of STEM in secondary, the uptake of women in the IT profession could be even greater.
Working with cutting-edge front-of-class technology like Promethean’s ActivPanels, your teachers are empowered to inspire more young women in your school. Such intuitive edtech also develops their own core IT literacy, in turn providing internal IT role models to encourage the pupils. It’s never too late to inspire the next generation of young women in IT.