Unfolding plans 98 – astronauts for boys

I’ve gone on the front foot.  I’ve started to talk as much as I can about the great things that are going on in the region, trying to change perceptions and break down stereotypes.  I’m doing the same with our own business.  There are some fabulous tales to tell.  Yes, we have issues to deal with but by focussing on them too much we can come across as negative, needy and even victims.

I’m not consistent though.  There are still some things I talk about from a negative perspective.  I think that getting women in to technology is one of them and perhaps it is time to change from talking about what is not happening to the groundswell of things that are.  Yes, we could do with a more even gender spread across the industry yet there are many women already working away doing good every day jobs.  I’ll stop at that to avoid straying into the patronising.

Since I last wrote on this subject we have seen a huge amount of activity.  We’re working on bringing some exciting activities to primary children.  We’ll not be talking about technology but building things and making robots do things.  We’ve had a stand at the annual Durham School Governor’s event and got some good interest.  Governors come in all different shapes and sizes with different needs and different interests.  Some came on board quickly and understood what we were trying to get across while others are going to take a bit of persuading.

We’re working with the various careers services that exist across the region as well as parents and the Further Education colleges.  There is even a thread within Dynamo focusing on this issue.  It is a multi-faceted opportunity (nee problem) and the best thing that I can do is to talk about it as much as I can and change perspectives.  The technology industry is exciting, dynamic and a great place for young people to work in, from all walks of life.

The latest piece in the jigsaw was when Sally Waterston and I presented to the Durham Association of Secondary Heads.  Our aim was to get the issue on their agenda and to get them to think about how we get more young people interested in the industry as well as the link between them and their feeder primaries.  I wanted to know if we are turning young people off from technology and to get more initiatives in schools such as code clubs, maker clubs and careers events.  I also wanted them to think about a greater involvement with business.

It was great to have Sally along.  She speaks with such passion and tells her story from the heart.  She told us how she hates ‘skewed femininity’ where girls play down their abilities to conform to some unknown norm.  For example, why is it acceptable for girls to be bad at maths?  When children are asked to draw a scientist why do they look like Einstein, old, white and male? Why is it acceptable for superstores to sell duvet covers that depict astronauts for boys and fairy princesses for girls?

We need all of our talent to think about ICT as a career choice.  Pupils have more technological ability than any of their teachers had at their age.  We are the generation that is comfortable with technology.

We got some traction and a round of applause.

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