Sunday, 19 March 2017 13:24

Not Just for Boys: Tackling the Widening Gender Gap in Tech

New research released by Manchester Digital in February 2017 suggests that the gender gap in the North’s digital technology sector is continuing to widen, with workforces split 72:28 male to female

New research released by Manchester Digital in February 2017 suggests that the gender gap in the North’s digital technology sector is continuing to widen, with workforces split 72:28 male to female (88:12 in technical roles); which also showed a decline from the previous year. Initiatives like Liverpool Girl Geeks play a vital role in to addressing the imbalance, and their application figures show that there is a demand for extracurricular education for girls who are interested in technology.

The Girl Geek Academy will run at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) from April 2017 into 2018. The two organisations share the mission to address the issue of the technology sector being regarded as a male domain, and a commitment to changing this misconception. The workshops will take place at FACTLab, giving participants access to all of its facilities, including electronic and prototyping equipment such as 3D printing and laser cutting.

Three programmes are planned over the next twelve months, covering themes such as electronic music and wearable technologies. Over an eight week project cycle, girls will learn to code, prototype and design tools and products, and be introduced to female role models from the industry. Liverpool Girl Geeks also provide mentoring and support to those who graduate from the Academy, with girls recently achieving day placements at companies like Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Over the past year, the organisation has worked with over 100 teenagers, building their self-belief and helping them to obtain the technical skills needed to enter the digital and technology sector. It is clear that some girls are not getting the opportunity to learn these skills within the current computing curriculum.

Academy graduate Amelia Roberts, aged 13, says: “I have really enjoyed Girl Geek Academy. It’s helped me realise how much I can do and achieve, and that success isn’t just meant for the boys anymore!”

The next academy, which is sponsored by Co-op Digital and Liverpool’s John Moores University will focus on music technology and coding through open source software, Sonic Pi. Girls will learn to code whilst creating their own music, which will be publicised during the final stages of the course. There will also be visits to the University for further insights into what opportunities are available within higher education.

Chelsea Slater, co-founder of Liverpool Girl Geeks, said:

“Until there is change both in attitudes towards the tech sector and the current school curriculum, programmes like this are absolutely necessary. Over the last year not only have we discovered that girls are super keen to have careers in the industry, we know that this is a field they will excel in as well. It’s time to re-define their careers and let them know anything is possible.”

Danielle Haugedal-Wilson, business architect at Coop Digital:

“The Co-op remains committed to education and diversity which is why we were delighted to be sponsoring the Liverpool Geek Girl Academy for a second year. Seeing the results of last year’s academy demonstrates how valuable these initiatives are in addressing diversity in STEM.”

Ahmed Al-Shamma’a, Executive dean at Liverpool John Moores University:

“The Faculty of Engineering and Technology at Liverpool John Moores University is delighted to support the superb activities undertaken by Liverpool Girl Geeks. We think the programme will certainly inspire and motivate girls to take up computer science and other STEM subjects as their future University degrees. This is very much in line with the vision for Liverpool City Region and the UK industrial strategy plan.”

Lucia Arias, Young People & Learning Manager at FACT, says:

Grace Hopper, one of the most influential female programmers of our times, said: ‘To me programming is more than an important practical art. It is also a gigantic undertaking in the foundations of knowledge.’ That is exactly how we think about FACT’s learning experiences; as an expanded classroom were the foundations of knowledge can be learnt, tested and put into practice.

For more information about this year’s programme for teens see http://www.liverpoolgirlgeeks.co.uk/teens/

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