Computer Weekly recently reported that ‘the number of girls taking GCSE level computer science [had] fallen since the computing curriculum’s introduction in 2014.’ The article explained that a study by the University of Roehampton found the number of girls taking Key Stage 4 level computing subjects was ‘30,000 less in 2017’ than in 2014. BBC also reported that in 2017, girls made up ‘only 20 per cent of GCSE [computer science] entrants’.
I have to admit, after reading both articles I felt quite sad.
Why are girls still so reluctant to engage in computing? It’s such a cool subject and one that can open doors to amazing experiences and careers! If it’s because after giving it a go (and I mean a real go! More than just a few classes. This is key!), they simply don’t have any interest or passion for it, then that’s perfectly OK with me; however, if it’s because they think it’s a ‘boy’ subject or if they question their own ability to ‘keep up’, then that’s certainly not OK, and it shouldn’t be accepted by their parents, teachers or peers!
Working with numerous schools across the country, it is reassuring to see that they are well aware of the gender bias that exists when it comes to computing, and as such, are increasingly doing all they can to break the stereotype of it being a male-dominated subject. Clearly, however, if these stats are anything to go by, there is so much more to be done! Not only to help close the glaringly obvious gender bias, but also to address the skills gap that the country is currently facing.
Technology is consistently changing and the computing industry is crying out for more fresh talent; in order to keep up with the demands of both we need a varied base of talented people with different skills and experiences, male and female!
I can’t help but think that one of the main reasons for the gender bias in the field lies in the way tech is ‘sold’ to children in the media. How often are gamers portrayed on TV adverts as young boys? How often do the ‘gifts for her’ guides in magazines contain reality headsets or games consoles? How often does Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s name appear in the news, by comparison to, for example, Assasin’s Creed producer (and awesome programmer!) Jade Raymond?
Shining a spotlight on women in computing and demonstrating how boys and girls can strive for rewarding careers in the tech industry is the only way in which we can hope to see more girls take up the subject, and finally shift the persistent gender stereotypes that have plagued the field for so long.
Monday 17th September marks the start of ‘National Coding Week’, which aims to give adults the opportunity to learn some digital skills. I’ll certainly be checking out the training on offer, and I’ll be encouraging my friends (my girlfriends in particular!) to do the same!
Blog by Rebecca Rocca