Research by Search Technology & Transformation has revealed that despite an appetite to go on to study tech-based qualifications, only 1 in 5 GCSE ICT students are girls.
With the average class comprising just 20% of females, these numbers mirror the industry as it currently stands, with women making up just 17% of the UK’s tech workforce. However, 3 in 5 school girls intend to study ICT or Computer Science at GCSE, with 2 in 5 saying they intended to pursue tech subjects in university and as a career.
Our research reveals a clear gap between expectations, intentions and reality. While girls may have the desire to study the subject as younger children, there appears to be a reduction in engagement levels once they reach high school.
The findings emerged following the Cyber Girls First event which took place in Manchester over February 2019. Supported by Search Technology & Transformation, the event was attended by school girls between the ages of 11 and 14, with the aim to inspire them to pursue tech at GCSE and as a career.
The teachers in attendance also revealed that students spend an average of two to ten hours per week studying ICT and computer science subjects, expressing significant disparity across high school approaches to the subject.
Our respondents also identified a range of stereotypes and misconceptions which often deter young girls from pursuing tech as part of their studies. These barriers included the perception of tech as being ‘geeky’, boys taking over the classes and girls feeling reluctant to join because none of their friends are doing so.
Some of the comments included:
“There are mostly boys in the classroom, so it sometimes feels like girls are not allowed.” – Student
“Girls tend to lean more towards the arts, and generally find tech boring.” – Teacher
“None of my friends study ICT or computer science, so I don’t want to be the only girl in the classroom.” – Student
When the school girls were asked whether they had ever been involved in tech-related courses prior to the Cyber Girls First event, 35 percent answered in the affirmative, highlighting a number programmes including Python, Breakthrough, Airbus and the CyberFirst competition for girls.
Of the event, Cyber Girls First Founder Pat Ryan said: “While it was very inspiring to see the pupils get excited about the wealth of opportunities in tech, it was clear to see that we still have a ways to go in motivating girls to pursue tech as a career. Events such as this will become crucial to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions highlighted by the pupils and teachers alike.”
“They say the future is female, and I truly believe that if we continue to consistently raise awareness at grassroots level, we’ll be looking at greater numbers of women leaders across the sector in the next decade.”
Managing Director for IT recruitment at Search Technology & Transformation, Kate McClorey added: “It was great to see the girls come alive over all things tech. However, nurturing developing talent should not be a one off exercise and we all have a role to play in continuing to motivate, inspire and support girls as they set out to achieve their full potential across the sector.”
“The demand for skills across the tech industry will only continue to increase in the years to come. Therefore, we must act now and do everything we can to nurture budding interest and developing female talent.”
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