The Tech Partnership

girls and tech

Research shows that girls need to see a context for learning about technology that reflects beneficial and altruistic use of IT, such as, how it can be used to make a difference in people’s lives and solve contemporary problems.

We can do even more to get girls into tech education

By Karen Price, CEO at the Tech Partnership

30.06.2017

We can do even more to get girls into tech education

By Karen Price, CEO at the Tech Partnership

30.06.2017

Last week, watchdog Ofqual’s figures revealed that 67,800 pupils were due to sit the Computer Science GCSE exam in England this year, up just 6,500 from the 2016 figure. This small increase suggests that interest in the new course is waning. The Computer Science GCSE was brought in as an improvement to the existing ICT GCSE – and there has been a significant decline in entrants to that qualification over the past three years. The Ofqual data shows that there were 58,600 Year 11 entrants in 2017, a significant drop from the 97,580 figure back in 2015.

There are further concerns that just 20% of female students took the GCSE and with less than 17% of women working in the UK’s tech industry we need a quick resolve. Females account for only 16% of current digital specialists, 12% of computing degree students and 8% of those taking A-level computing.

Research carried out by the Tech Partnership on girls’ interests in technology at both primary and secondary level, shows that girls need to see a context for learning about technology that reflects beneficial and altruistic use of IT, such as, how it can be used to make a difference in people’s lives and solve contemporary problems. This explains the success of an initiative such as Apps for Good which routinely attracts much higher percentages of girls than the GCSE – by offering creative learning programmes in which students use new technologies to design and make products that can make a difference to their world. The new Computer Science GCSE does not include applying knowledge and skills for the benefit of others. There is a case for addressing this issue, as well as finding other ways to include these key skills in other subject areas which could attract girls into IT.

Furthermore, with regards to interest and attractiveness, there are possibilities for teachers, parents, and guardians to help guide girls towards choosing IT subjects and/or tech careers as they are the people with the greatest influence. They need to know what skills and characteristics are needed and indeed what opportunities the tech industry offers. As an industry, we need to work with schools to help break down barriers and show girls just how fascinating and creative this subject can be.

Our sector can show how technology is used in different forms and tap into girls’ interests regarding creativity, inventing, and even campaigning for social good. We need to make it clear that technology based careers can help ‘make the world a better place’. Our research suggests that this is likely to be motivating for teenage girls who are becoming more aware of global and social issues, and are keen to be part of the solutions to some of these issues.

Yet this is not a quick fix and we need a range of activities to address this gender imbalance and interest in IT. We have a list of recommendations in our ‘Girls’ attitudes to Technology’ research, supported by Dr Amanda Gummer a leading authority on child development, which industry and educationalists should consider.

The industry needs thousands of young people to fill vacancies in a range of fields, including cyber security, data analytics and emerging technologies. This is a critical time for industry as there are 138,000 new entrants needed to fill digital roles in the UK each year and this number is predicted to rise in the future. The reality is that the low number of girls choosing tech education means that the industry is missing half the talent pool.

I am keen to hear from employers, community groups, educationalists, and other partners to understand how we can get more girls interested in IT and tech careers. No one organisation can address the gender imbalance alone. But together, we can create the national momentum and impact that is so badly needed.