Unfolding 49 – more women into ICT

Getting more women into ICT has been made a key objective of Dynamo.  Charlie has produced an excellent infographic which lays out our plans and objectives in an easy to understand and very saleable chart.  It is a wheel or a roundel, with the Executive team the Main Board and Work-stream Leaders in the middle surrounded by the five key areas we are trying to address: skills; collaboration; advocacy; engagement and; events.  ‘Women into ICT and diversity’ is within engagement.

I’m glad as it’s something that needs to be addressed hence the event we held in early March.  I’m also glad that it’s not just gender that is to be looked at but rather making the use of all the talent that we have.  I guess that I already am but I volunteered to be involved going forward.

At our event (Unfolding Plans 41) we had several speakers, Sally who runs Waterston in Durham, Liz a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland, Carly the partnership manager at CfBT Education trust, Charlotte the managing director of FIRST Face to Face and me.  Each had an interesting story to tell and had arrived in the industry from different directions.  Sally had studied English at University and had fallen into computer programming while Liz had developed a particular interest in using software tools to assist in the interaction between the rider, saddle and horse.  Carly’s focus was on informing young people about the world of work, raising aspirations and addressing skill shortages while Charlotte was engaging young people to deliver projects with them at heart.

And that highlights the issue.  Getting young people and in particular women into ICT is not a binary problem.  There is not one magic lever to pull or silver bullet to fire that will solve the issue.  The needs of the industry and the opportunities it presents are widespread and diverse.  We need people with all sorts of disciplines.  I’ll throw in my own Zoology degree for good measure.

Sally told us that when she started learning to programme there was a fifty split between women and me. It surprised us all that things are getting worse.  No one could really put their finger on what was the cause yet Sally got use thinking.  Waterston take on people depending upon their attitude, aptitude and knowledge, not their gender.  If they have the first two then can teach the third.

It seems though that technology is no longer seen as a tool, it is seen as something shiny and new for its own sake.  Girls perceive technology as a means to an end while boys see it as an end in itself. Girls see it as feminine and attractive to be bad at maths though they wouldn’t admit to be bad at reading.

We asked the audience a couple of questions.  What are the barriers that prevent young people and especially girls coming into the ICT industry?  At what age do we need to address these barriers and what actions can we take?  There were some great responses and I’m waiting for them to be written up.

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