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FE leaders consider the challenge of encouraging more girls into tech

FE leaders consider the challenge of encouraging more girls into tech

IDEAS GENERATED AT THE ‘TECH’ PARTY at the Euston Office on 24th March 2015

A session was run with five senior leaders and managers from the learning and skills sector.  The representation included from Principals, Vice Principals, industry and a representative of the independent training sector. A range of questions were generated from the research which resulted in 4 questions being asked at the event.

Question 1: What are the barriers to getting girls into technology?   

Rationale: Girls in year 6 and 9 enjoy STEM subjects and do well in them.  A high % of girls cite STEM subjects as their favourite but are less likely to aspire to have a career in science or technology. Girls interested in STEM subjects tend to be higher achievers especially in Maths.  The % of female participation in technology courses in the FE sector is generally very low.

Results: All representatives from the Learning and Skills Sector cited examples of very low female participation in tech based programmes within their institutions or networks.  A number of barriers were discussed including:

  • A major barrier was considered to be lack of appropriate Careers Education which emanated from the lack of information about the range of job roles that exist with the tech industry and in other industry sectors. It was felt that technology was impacting on all job roles as outlined in the Lords Report on Digital Skills, which cites that by bringing more women into technology would generate £2.6 billion into the economy
  • The group felt that technology was still seen as for “boys” and the industry was still very much seen as a male dominated environment with very few, if any, visible female role models. The working environment was also considered not to be conducive to attracting girls, it was not seen as a glamourous industry (girls would be seen to be dressing down).
  • Lack of early engagement in technology was seen as a major barrier, by the time girls reach further education they have disengaged with STEM subjects and with the case of technology they do not understand how technology impacts on other sectors and careers. It was felt that education and engagement with technology needed to start early, in nursery and primary schools.
  • Early education and engagement with technology brings its own challenges as teachers and parents are not confident and knowledgeable in technology themselves. The recent Lords Report on Digital Skills cite parents and teachers play a critical role in influencing future employment options for all young people (Paragraph 180).

Q2 How do we get more girls into Technology?

Rationale: Social and environment factors impact on girl’s engagement in STEM, parental and teacher reinforcement impacts on girls engaging in technology.   Girls interested in STEM are highly driven, especially by internal abilities rather than external factors. Parents are significant influencers on career aspirations, in USA fathers are cited as being the biggest influence, in UK mothers are cited as biggest influence on their daughters. Girls often feel uncomfortable about a career in Technology, they see it as “Geeky” and a man’s world, and this is reinforced by a clear lack of female role models.

  • Engaging girls in technology early was seen to be a critical factor to ensure they develop confidence in their abilities. It was suggested that this could be supported by developing books for primary age girls which reinforce females in technology.  The group also felt that FE should work with primary teachers to develop confidence and skills in technology.  Primary schools could be encouraged to run technology clubs, competitions and careers fairs to stimulate interests and provide girls with exposure to female role models from industry.
  • Female role models, mentors and industry champions was seen as critical to raising the visibility of job roles and girl’s aspirations to work in technology. Also ‘girls only’ initiatives run by females.
  • Embedding technology into all curriculum areas and developing cross curriculum working including competitions, live briefs and projects to ensure girls see the impact of and use of technology on all careers.
  • Improve the visibility of jobs and role models in technology through improved careers education, including promoting clear career pathways, jobs in technology and non-technology organisations. Parents and teachers should be exposed to the range of jobs, opportunities and benefits of working in technology companies as they are key influencers.

Q3 How do we engage FE and Industry to work together to get more women into industry.

  • Draw employers in through arrange of initiatives including:
    • Careers events/fairs
    • Apprenticeships and recruitment activities
    • Shared training between FE and employees
    • Sponsoring, setting and assessing projects, live briefs and competitions
    • Joint promotion activities
    • Providing work experience and internships
  • Bring female industry experts to run technology curriculum areas.
  • Run network meetings (Tech Party Style) targeted at HR teams, linked to using FE as a recruitment pipeline.
  • Work with industry to co-design curriculum and delivery.
  • Build on existing work including apprenticeship trailblazer work
  • Support industry to make itself more attractive to females.

Q4 Have you seen or run any effective initiatives to get more girls/women into technology?

 Initiatives that exist and could be adapted included:

  • Canvas organise visits to schools in USA targeted at women and ethnic groups.
  • Children’s university could be used to offer tech courses to girls aged 7 to 14
  • Jisc run a learner-led challenge programme
  • Idea challenge run by Nominet trust (Patron: Duke of York)
  • The Girls Network came out of Teach Too Innovation Unit

New initiatives

  • Training nursery and primary teachers in using technology
  • Tech blogs by women for women
  • After school clubs, summer schools, competitions and role models for primary schools
  • Inclusion of technology on ALL courses
  • Develop cross curriculum projects