Jackie Galbraith

International Girls in ICT Day 2014

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To attract more women into science, technology and engineering (and keep them there) we all need to wise up!

International Girls in ICT Day takes place on the fourth Thursday in April every year and this year’s was on 24 April.

Lots of activity takes place across the world in the days and weeks around this date to promote the importance of attracting more girls and women into ICT study and occupations. Thanks to the power of technology, it was possible to learn about much of this activity through social media and the web. One of the most inspirational stories I read this week was about 19-year-old Noor Siddiqui who is developing technology solutions to help medical professional make better decisions during emergencies http://t.co/fAFtYFPnxZ.

I work at Ayrshire College, the fourth largest college in Scotland, and we did our part in promoting the campaign as we continue to encourage girls and women to study computing qualifications. We highlighted the choices and successes of our female computing students, as well as other examples of women in technology, science and engineering. Check out https://storify.com/AyrshireColl/international-girls-in-ict-day for a flavour of our activity.

However, as a woman who graduated with a computing degree in 1991, I am disappointed that this sort of initiative is still necessary in a world driven by information and the technology which helps make sense of it. Sadly, the numbers of women opting to study and work in ICT continues to decline and, more worryingly, more of the women who do enter the ICT industry after achieving computing qualifications choose to leave it!

I started my computing degree more than a quarter of a century ago, two years before the web was invented. Unbelievably, for an innovation that transformed how the world used computers in the ensuing decades, my degree class was never introduced to the web – even in a theoretical sense!

There are long-established organisations which have played a consistent role in addressing the under supply of women in the industry. The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) campaign celebrates its 30th anniversary this year – three decades of concerted work to increase the gender balance in the UK’s STEM workforce, pushing for the presence of female employees from today’s 13% to 30% by 2020.

Women in Engineering was set up in 1919 to inspire women in engineering and allied sciences. It promotes careers in engineering, supports companies with gender diversity and speaks as a collective voice of women engineers. There’s a great presentation on their website charting their history from the First World War to the present day at http://www.wes.org.uk/files/WESHistory.ppt.

There are some new kids on the block – ScienceGrrl, GirlGeeks, STEMettes, STEMinist and many more – who seem to have more of an attitude! They appear to be more youthful, more assertive, more of the 21st century. Let’s hope they complement the consistent, committed campaigning of WISE and WES and make a difference.

Try them out on twitter @girlgeeks @stemettes @wisecampaign @wes1919 @science_grrl @steminist

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