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Tower Hamlets girls share their attitudes to tech

Tower Hamlets girls share their attitudes to tech

IDEAS GENERATED AT THE ‘TECH’ PARTY at Tower Hamlets College on 24th March 2015

A session was run with 21 Year 1 and Year 2 students from levels 1-3 aged 16-18. The students were at the College studying a range of subjects – Hair & Beauty (8 students), Early Years (3), Health and Social Care (3), Creative Media (2), ‘A’ levels (2) and Technology(3). The group was ethnically diverse with a high proportion of girls of Bangladeshi origin.

A range of questions were generated from the research which resulted in 4 questions being asked at the event.

Question 1: Did you enjoy science and maths at school? If yes, why if no, why?      

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. 

Results: Out of the 21 girls present 11 of the girls had enjoyed either both science and maths and 5 girls had mixed views enjoying either maths or science – only 5 girls had disliked both science and maths.

  • I enjoyed maths because I like working out and solving problems
  • I liked experimenting and working things out
  • Science is interesting
  • I enjoyed science more than maths because I have never been good at numbers and I like doing the experiments
  • Maths is easy and fun
  • Enjoyed science course as it was interesting and fun
  • Yes I did enjoy science and maths as I like problem solving and finding the cause of things
  • I did enjoy science at school because I had a teacher that motivated me and especially liked the biology topics
  • I enjoyed science because I loved all of the practical experiments
  • Yes I did enjoy maths a little bit
  • Yes I always loved it. It helps me relax-it is very interesting for me
  • I did enjoy science and maths in school because they were interesting subjects. They were also fun. In science we were doing experiments and in maths when we were doing maths puzzles
  • I enjoyed maths as you did not have to do practical work
  • Yes maths taught me how to buy things
  • Yes science – experiments were fun
  • Yes maths great
  • Yes it helped me learn the basics

Reasons given for not liking either Science or Maths:

  • I did not enjoy maths at school because there were difficult symbols or numbers that did not make sense
  • Science is boring and not interesting
  • I did not enjoy the intensity of some units
  • Hated maths because I lacked interest and I don’t like numbers
  • I did not enjoy science at all as it was quite boring and a lot of handwriting

Reasons for not liking both were as follows:

  • Because they are both boring
  • Because it was not fun or interesting
  • Cannot concentrate in class then got bored
  • Because it was very hard and it was complicated. Also because the experiments did not make sense to me. Also because you couldn’t argue you your own point
  • Because it was difficult and it is too much

The results highlighted that the majority of girls had enjoyed science and/or maths at school and only 3 out of the 21 were taking technology the next question explored was what had discouraged them from studying technology.

Q2 What do you think discourages girls from studying or pursuing a career in 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.

Discouragement reasons cited were:

  • Women don’t know how to find some things on computers
  • The men, environment and negative comments
  • It is boring, it is masculine, it is man-made – human nature
  • Men can be sexist this makes women uncomfortable
  • The thing that discourages girls is that they are more male careers. If a girl does it, it is almost as if they are the only girl there. They stand out more.
  • I think the thing that discourages girls from doing technology could be the lack of knowledge or due to the fact that they think it will be all boys on the course.
  • Because it looks more like a role for men
  • It could be just uninteresting for them
  • Boring, people might judge them. It does not pull them in/ does not interest them to want to pursue a career
  • Scared that people might judge them -call them names
  • Women might not want to pursue a career in technology because it is not encouraged and due to the fact it is male dominated (fear of being judged)
  • Girls are discouraged from pursuing a career in technology they may think girls don’t know much about the field
  • Knowing that they would be competing with men that have a much better understanding
  • Stereotypical – boys jobs for technology not girls – family discouraging
  • Lack of female role models
  • Ratio of boys to girls in a class
  • Peer pressure
  • Career choices
  • Stigma
  • Religious values
  • Policing of opposite gender/criticism of opposite gender
  • Things that may discourage girls to do it is family- family may have a say ,as they may stigmatise
  • It is a male subject
  • Boys tend to choose it so girls may not feel comfortable being alone with boys
  • Family don’t necessarily accept girls can carry it out

The results highlighted that there were strong social pressures on girls to veer away from technology as a subject choice despite them being interested in science and maths. The main areas of concern were being a minority in the course group, male behaviour, family pressures and fear of being seen as a social outsider.

The girls were then asked why they had chosen their current subjects.

Q3 Why did you choose your subject?

Rationale: Girls make stereotypical choices into roles where they are caring or tending to other people’s needs. The roles of Hairdresser, Nurse or Teacher seem more accessible and more female friendly.

Health & Social Care

  • It was something new and seemed interesting. It is also applicable within many sectors and I could take it into university
  • I chose it because I would be able to gain more knowledge about health and social care. Also it would help me to get into my career which is nursing. I enjoy helping people.
  • I chose Health & Social Care because I want to be a neonatal nurse

Early Years

  • The reason why I chose childcare is because I enjoyed working with children and I want to work in a primary school
  • I chose it because I like working with children
  • I chose it because I like working with children and I also see myself working in a nursery and one day becoming a teacher

Hair & Beauty

  • Because I thought it would be something I’d want to do in the future as my career
  • Because I enjoy learning about hair and make-up. I like experimenting with make-up
  • Because I like doing hair and styling and also doing facials
  • Because I was interested in it
  • I like hair and beauty because I like doing my sister’s hair and friends and you get to do different hairstyles and make-up
  • I picked hair and beauty because I like trying new things with make-up and hair
  • I enjoy it because I have had experience before, it’s interesting and a good match for me
  • I chose hair because I want to progress to next level and do media make-up

Creative Media

  • When I came to this college I did not speak English. I chose this course to improve my English
  • I chose this course because I like to be creative and I want to be a film-maker

A levels

  • English – because I have a natural talent for it, Sociology -Always found interesting, Psychology -The course appealed to me and the topics sounded interesting
  • Sociology, English and Media- I chose these subjects as I enjoyed doing them in secondary and others such as media was because it was new and different and I wanted to explore subject


  • I chose it because it’s something part of daily life now. It interests me and it’s something that I feel I can express my skills on
  • I chose to do technology because I was fascinated about the way computers work and I also thought it will be useful to know how they work
  • Unsure

Q4 What do you perceive to be the job roles in technology?

Rationale: Girls do not usually receive sufficient information on the wide range of jobs (including salaries and what vacancies there are) that exist in the field of Technology.  Teachers, Parents and Careers Educators are not well informed about this field. Students are unaware that technology can be used to develop systems and products which help people, as research indicated that girls are more socially aware than boys. Limited information is given at school and in College regarding the different job roles there are in technology companies. It is unusual that an example of a well-known female working in the technology field is presented to girls. Where parents are interested in or work in STEM subjects girls become more interested in science/technology and develop more knowledge about technology and its relevance to everyday life. 

The responses highlighted that the student’s understanding of the job roles in the technology sector is very limited which affects how they view the industry and potential careers. Only the girls studying technology had a good understanding of the job roles available.

11         Computer technician

6          Teacher/lecturer

5          Web Developers/Designer

5          Reception/Bookings/Gyms/Leisure Centres

3          Owning or Working in an Apple/Computer shop

2          Programmers

2          Game Developers

2          Software Engineers

2          ICT in Media/TV/Advert making

2          Business workers/Administrators

2          Graphic Designer

1           Many jobs

1           Photography

1           Network Engineer

1           Computer Forensics

1           Animator

1           IT Manager

1           Computer/Tech manufacturer

At the end of the session the students were asked to create posters to encourage more girls into technology which will be published on the website www.techwomenuk.com