The world of technology has revolutionised our lives in unimaginable ways, and yet, women continue to be underrepresented in this field. However, the tides are turning, as society recognises the invaluable contributions women bring to technology.
To effect real change, we must start at a young age by engaging girls in tech, nurturing their curiosity, and fostering their passion for innovation.
Engaging girls in tech is not only a matter of equality but also an opportunity to unlock a world of innovation and diverse perspectives. By fostering their interest, providing support, and breaking down barriers, we can empower girls to become the next generation of tech leaders.
BREAKING DOWN THE BARRIERS
One of the primary barriers for girls entering the tech world is the persistence of stereotypes and bias surrounding their abilities. This bias is slowly being broken down, and these days it is more common to come up against an unconscious bias.
At a recent cyber security event this bias showed itself to still be embedded in the sector, with men being openly approached as they walked by various stands yet as a woman it was possible to step onto a stand and still not be approached. More often than not, once on a stand, it was a fellow female who was willing to approach any women who walked onto a stand. To someone who has worked in the industry for a few years, this may not seem daunting – in fact, it was nice to be able to focus on only vendors of interest at the event. But someone starting out their journey in cyber security could be seen in a very different light, appearing to be ignored and isolated.
To combat this, we must work on continuing to challenge this bias.
Engaging girls in tech is essential to bridge the gender gap and creating an inclusive environment requires ongoing efforts and support.
Emphasising the diverse range of careers within the tech industry, can encourage girls to explore their unique interests and talents, showcasing how their creativity can shape the future of technology.
Providing opportunities for young girls to engage with tech we empower them to explore their interests and develop skills. Had there not been a computer in my house growing up, along with my dad’s inquisitiveness in technology, my career may have turned out very differently. As the industry has progressed initiatives such as tech clubs, coding camps, or after-school programs specifically targeting girls can help create a supportive environment that encourages participation, whilst fostering collaboration and friendship. These environments provide a sense of belonging, enabling girls to share experiences, exchange ideas, and support one another in their tech journeys.
Research has shown that girls tend to underestimate their abilities in STEM subjects compared to boys. To address this confidence gap, it is crucial to create an environment that nurtures and boosts girls’ self-assurance. Encouraging girls to take risks, providing constructive feedback, and celebrating their achievements can help build confidence. Recently the opportunity arose to support a STEM project, run by the RAF at my old secondary school. The project encouraged all students to design and build a device that allowed the safe delivery of an important package (an egg) when it was dropped from a ‘plane’. Whilst watching the girls design and build the designs in a supportive and safe environment, their engagement with STEM grew as did their confidence.
Bringing about systemic change requires the active involvement of industry leaders, policymakers, and government bodies. Additionally, advocating for policies that support equal access to education, scholarships, and grants for girls in STEM can provide the necessary resources and opportunities to foster their growth and success.
ROLE MODELS AND MENTORS
The success of the Red Roses in the sphere of women’s rugby has created a new wave of role models and idols for young girls. This has meant that over the past five years, the number of adult women playing rugby has grown from 25,000 to 40,000 in England and women’s rugby is now one of the fastest growing team sports in the world.
Emulating this success by promoting positive role models, showcasing successful women in tech, and highlighting their achievements, we inspire young girls to envision themselves in these roles and challenge any preconceived notions about their capabilities.
Mentorship plays a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s career trajectory. Mentors can provide guidance, advice, and support, helping girls navigate challenges and build their confidence. Establishing mentorship programs where experienced women in tech guide and inspire young girls can have a profound impact on their professional development. These programs can provide guidance, advice, and networking opportunities, helping girls overcome obstacles and fostering a sense of belonging within the tech community. Additionally, creating support networks and safe spaces for girls and women in tech can help address challenges and provide a platform for sharing experiences.
BE THE CHANGE
Changing attitudes towards women in tech requires a multi-faceted approach involving individuals, communities, educational institutions, and industry leaders. By challenging stereotypes, providing early exposure, fostering mentorship, addressing the confidence gap, and engaging the support of industry and government, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse tech industry. Let us empower young girls, nurture their talents, and build a future where women thrive and make remarkable contributions to the world of technology. Together, we can create a transformative and equitable future for all.