It has become apparent that the lack of technology talent is down to the lack of young girls choosing technology as a career path. The perception of working in technology for a number of young people is either geeky or being hunched over at a computer for hours. However, the truth of it is that technology can provide you with variety and flexibility, something which everyone looks for in a career nowadays. This misperception is a real shame as many girls have missed the opportunity to work in a field that has a huge impact on our everyday lives, just because they felt or were unaware that they could fulfil their ambitions by working in tech.
Digital skills are becoming more crucial in all areas of employment and statistics now show that 90% of occupations require digital competences including programming. So, ensuring that young girls are aware of the benefits that technology can bring them in their later careers is essential for the growth of females in tech and diverse tech skills.
One way to fuel girls enthusiasm for tech at a young age could start at home. An initial discussion about the realities of a job in IT could help young girls to grow up without the perception that tech is geeky and to realise the benefits the tech industry has to offer. Recent statistics have shown that one in eight parents want their son to become a game developer compared to just one in twenty who say the same about their daughters. Parents are more interested in their daughter choosing ‘caring professions’ rather than a career in technology, despite the higher wages and long-term job security it can offer.
As a family member you are more likely to be listened to than a school teacher when it comes to encouraging a young female family member into tech. However, school teachers are more likely to carry on the encouragement for girls in tech through their learning, and so it is essential that teachers make classes engaging for everyone. To fuel girls enthusiasm for tech at a young age, there are a few things that you can do:
Spark her interest
It is never too early to fuel girls enthusiasm for tech at a young age. First you can start by encouraging her to explore technology, even those at nursery. There are several ways to spark her interest in technology for example with books (like Hello Ruby), interactive games (like Program your own Robot) and inspirational women. There are many ways to spark her interest through activities and free online resources too (like Khan Academy) that teach children about computer science in engaging ways.
Explore technology with her
Exploring technology with her is a great way to fuel girls enthusiasm for tech at a young age as it shows that technology is interesting, and it is important to continue learning no matter your age or gender. Looking through instructional websites together is a way of getting her involved and thinking about technology by asking questions like ‘How do you think they made that?’. Together you can find ways to connect technology with other interests like pets, sports and music to help keep her engaged.
Get hands on
Giving young girls the chance to use tools, build, and have hands on experience with projects is a great way of building their confidence when it comes to technology. Taking apart household appliances or items and asking girls to help put them back together are mini projects that can build their logical skills. There are several tools that you can use to help build their confidence and spatial skills for example, toolkits (like E-textiles) and invention kits.
Inspire her with role models and mentors
Young girls always benefit from having role models and mentors that inspire them in a certain topic. They are more encouraged to work hard when they have someone to look up to. Girls may start to enjoy computing and technology when they see people they admire enjoying technology and becoming successful from it. Good candidates for role models to girls are family members, teachers and technology professionals. Even young girls themselves can become mentors for younger girls or girls who are less experienced in technology. There are plenty of resources where you can find either role models or mentors for girls in tech, some of which include FabFems, Tech Girls are Superheroes and Dot Diva.
Make it relatable
To keep up any girl’s interest in something, you must ensure that they can relate to the subject. As technology is growing and more people are starting to use smartphones and laptops, it will be easy to use these as relatable pieces of technology. There are lots of ways you can explore computing further from code academies and asking questions such as “How does this work?”.
Keep it up
Lastly, it is essential that you keep up the encouragement to fuel girls enthusiasm for tech at a young age. There are a small number of girls that want to carry on taking technology related subjects at school due to lack of interest and stereotypes. Therefore, to try and stop this disengagement, you should encourage age appropriate activities and relevant courses to take. This will not only help with closing the gender gap in tech, but it will also help some females progress and become successful in a field that they didn’t know they had an interest in.