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How do we keep school-aged girls interested in careers in IT?

Last year I was privileged to be invited to Otago Polytech’s pre-graduation ceremony for their BIT programme and I love attending this kind of event. The sense of achievement shimmers in the air and the opportunities for the young (and some not quite so young) fill me with an enduring happiness. I should mention too that I get to hear great stories about some of the students that will be joining us – always a buzz.

How do we keep school-aged girls interested in IT?

Last year, however, I was saddened to see that, of the 30-odd students that were graduating with degrees, not one of them was female and I made a commitment to myself then that I needed to do something to change that.

Since then I have enrolled with Future in Tech and the Institute of IT Professionals as an ambassador – this has seen me present my career path (if you can call it a path – I prefer to refer to it a series of connected dots!) to classrooms of engaged students and I was also present at one of the local college careers evening.  However, again there was a low percentage of females that engaged with digital technology, science and engineering.

Last week I took a day off to support my children’s primary school by offering to teach digital tech to all of the Y0-4 (five to eight year-old) children. What was I thinking!? – ask my team and they’ll confirm I’m no coder, and I take my hat off to anyone who teaches five year olds!

What an absolute buzz to see the amazement from the younger children when they worked through ‘the magic’ of a sorting algorithm and came out in numerical order. That was surpassed tenfold by the excitement of the Y3-4 (girls and boys) when they had sprites moving across the screen, changing colour and size, all because of the code they had written. The response? “Aww, do we have to go to lunch?”. And lots of children tugging on my sleeve asking me to come and look at what they had done.

So, somewhere between eight and 18, we lose our women to other careers. I personally believe this is because there’s not enough of us (male and female) out there shouting from the rooftops about how ubiquitous digital tech is, how fundamental it is to enabling business strategy and, most of all, how much fun it is – for boys and girls (and men and women) alike! 

Posted by: Cheryl Adams, Practice Manager, Enterprise Solutions | 08 November 2016

Tags: Career, Women in Tech

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