IT Now? Feels pretty much like IT past!

Taking advantage of a quiet Sunday morning, I settled down to read the latest edition of IT Now, the magazine for British Computer Society (BCS) members, to catch up on what’s going on in the digital world. 

As I read through the articles, something didn’t quite compute. I didn’t put my finger on it until around page 48 when I realised that the author of the piece I was about to read had something in common with all but one of the authors of previous articles – he was male! 

I hadn’t been aware of the gender of the authors before I read each piece. In fact, and apologies to the writers, I went straight into the substance of each story without reading the introductory preamble. But the further I got into the magazine, the more uneasy I felt. This unease was more intuitive than rational but, having been around digital technologies for nearly 30 years, I knew something was not quite right.

I was curious to find out if this was out of the ordinary, so I logged into the BCS members’ portal to have a look at previous editions of IT Now. Here’s how many substantive articles were written by women – 

  • Spring 2016 edition: 1 out of 24 – 4% 
  • Winter 2015 edition: 5 out of 24 – 21%
  • Autumn 2015 edition: 4 out of 24 – 17%
  • Summer 2015 edition: 2 out of 26 – 8%

Should I be surprised? 

Perhaps not, after all the magazine is pretty representative of the IT industry, ie overwhelmingly male! The imagery is very male (except when there are stories about women in IT) and the editorial team is all male. The latter, in itself, is not a problem if there is good awareness of unconscious bias and a genuine commitment to diversity.

Why so male? 

Maybe women BCS members are not submitting articles to the editorial team. If that is the case, it’s not good enough to accept it. Good editors will strive for balance and diversity, and proactively seek stories from women in the industry. Not in a tokenistic way, but to improve the quality of the magazine for both female and male readers, and to ensure that female BCS members and women in the industry generally identify and engage with it.

This wouldn’t bother me so much if I wasn’t aware that excluding the female voice and perspective continues to affect young women in the industry – many feeling as lonely and isolated as I did over a quarter of a century ago. 

In an era of growing digital dominance, the industry is crying out for young people and women to fill critical roles to enable growth. Progress made through initiatives to persuade women that the IT sector is right for them risks being undone if what they encounter when they enter the industry continues to be testosterone heavy!

Come on, BCS – you really must do better! 

When the numbers don’t add up …

On the news recently, I heard that Italian coastguard was trying to find and save 1,000 migrants in difficulty on the Mediterranean Sea (over 2,000 were subsequently rescued). In the same week, 300 migrants travelling in dinghies died when they ran into stormy weather after leaving Libya. According to the UNHCR, over 3,500 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in 2014. 

More than 200,000 people were rescued during the same period, many pulled from the sea as a result of an Italian operation known as Mare Nostrum. This operation was launched in October 2013 in response to a tragedy near Lampedusa in which 366 people died. It ended when the governments of EU member states voted to stop it, because they believed that the prospect of being saved was encouraging an ever increasing number of people to make the perilous journey to the European mainland.

Migration and the exodus of people from the horrors of war, persecution, hunger are not new issues. I don’t claim to be particularly knowledgeable about all the issues surrounding this highly charged, political topic. However, I do know that many politicians and political parties have a disgraceful and disgusting attitude to these most vulnerable of people, reducing them to numbers and dehumanising them in the process. 

The UK Coalition Government’s commitment to reduce the number of immigrants in the UK from the hundreds to the tens of thousands was a cheap attempt to capitalise on the ignorance and fear of a large proportion of the population, who believe the number of immigrants in the country to be far greater than it actually is. And, the closer we get to the UK general election, the more likely it is that the numbers don’t add up!
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Almost without exception, the press can’t get enough of stories about large numbers of immigrants ‘taking our jobs’ and ‘draining our resources’. Very rarely are distinctions made between asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. There is some honest coverage, notably in the Guardian, where the numbers start to reveal themselves as human beings. Human beings like Moaaz, Majd, Rasha, Kinan and Khalid – friends who fled war-torn Syria on a perilous trip to reach Europe. They filmed their journey which you can watch here

Giving the unheard ‘numbers’ a voice

Poet Holly McNish has written a few hard-hitting poems about immigration, including Ocean Floor which is specifically about the plight of desperate people who take to the sea in search of a better life. Have a listen here.

Joan Baez recorded a heartbreaking version of ‘Deportees’, about migrant Mexican workers dying in a plane crash while being deported from the US after their work contracts had expired. The media of the time (particularly the New York Times) dehumanised the tragedy with a dismissive reference to 28 deportees dying in the crash whilst naming the crew members who died. Listen here.

Helping asylum seekers

I’ll end on a positive note.

There are many people and organisations providing support and hope to asylum seekers who reach our country. United Glasgow Football Club was formed in 2011 to provide a point of access to regular, structured football for those who would usually find themselves excluded; financially or by discrimination. It was formed primarily to help refugees and asylum seekers, and anti-discrimination and financial inclusion are the club’s guiding principles. By keeping costs to a minimum, and not charging players for games or training, the club brings together individuals from communities who otherwise may not have met through a shared love of football. Find out more about United Glasgow FC and the ethos it promotes by watching the following films.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=876093669118167&id=398313606896178&_rdr

Recent publications reinforce the importance of work experience for school, college and university students

One of the consequences of the economic recession of the late 2000’s, which resulted in large rises in youth unemployment across the world, was a renewed focus on how well education systems were preparing young people for work. An important aspect of this was on how schools, colleges and universities could work better with employers, for example in relation to work experience.

Numerous reports since then have reinforced the value of work placements for students and unemployed young people, and this article summarises the conclusions of three recent publications on this topic.


Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge

February 2015 saw the publication of the latest youth employment challenge report Catch 16-24 from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). Its 2014 Employer Perspectives Survey found that the young people employers recruit are generally well prepared for work – the main thing they lack is experience rather than literacy or numeracy.

The UKCES report reminds us that many young people remain caught in a Catch-22 situation when it comes to getting on in today’s labour market – they can’t get work without experience and can’t gain experience without work! This is compounded by the fact that the proportion of 16 and 17 year olds combining full-time education with a part-time job has halved in fifteen years – less than a quarter of teenagers now combine school with work!

Two thirds of employers say work experience is a significant or crucial factor in their recruitment, yet most aren’t engaged with schools and colleges to offer the placements necessary to enable young people to gain experience. Who you know and where you live impact significantly on the work experience opportunities available to young people, and there are significant regional variations as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 Whether establishments have had a student on placements in previous 12 months, by region IMG_0974

The UKCES reports reinforces the need for the worlds of education and employment to be better connected to prepare young people for the world of work. It stresses that all schools, colleges and universities should have links with local businesses to help inform and inspire young people about the breadth of career opportunities available to them. Importantly, it recommends that contact with the world of work should be an ongoing part of every young person’s education. In Scotland, the Invest in Youth Groups, which will be funded by the Scottish Government, will play a critical role in linking employers and education.

Work placements in university degrees

National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) published a report in January 2015, Growing Experience: A Review of Undergraduate Placements in Computer Science.

The report provides evidence that work placements improve the employment record of computer graduates in the UK. However, not all universities offer placements and, despite efforts to support work placements for undergraduates, demand from students in computer science is low, especially for sandwich placements.

There is an increasing demand for shorter placements from students and employers, and NCUB recommends that universities should focus on increasing demand and monitoring the impact of all placements. In Scotland, a range of placement programmes have been introduced to fulfil demand in areas like computing and engineering. For example, e-Placement Scotland is an industry-backed programme run by Edinburgh Napier University, e-skills UK and industry body ScotlandIS, funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Careerwise is a Scottish Government funded programme which aims to encourage more women to pursue STEM careers through the provision of paid work placements key sectors like engineering and technology.

Author’s aside – Sandwich satisfied my hunger for understanding

In 1987, I returned to full-time education to do a computing degree. Aged 25, with a new baby and an even newer mortgage, my motivation for this was very simple – to get a decently paid job in the growing IT industry!

I was offered places by two universities and two technical colleges, and quickly discarded the two universities because they didn’t offer a sandwich placement. I chose what was then called Glasgow College of Technology (now Glasgow Caledonian University) and spent my third year as a Trainee Systems Analyst at Motorola Ltd.

I have no doubt that I learned more about computing in my year in industry than in my first two years at university. The skills and experience I gained built my confidence, enhanced my knowledge and developed my expertise in the subject, all of which led to me winning the IBM prize for top student in my final year. And my salary of around £7500 for the year was a very welcome addition to our family income at a time when interest rates were hitting the roof and we were struggling to pay our mortgage!

Developing the Young Workforce

In December 2014, the Scottish Government published Developing the Young Workforce, which sets out how it will implement the recommendations from the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, established in January 2013 to explore how to develop a modern, responsive and valued system for vocational training. The Commission’s final report Education Working for All! was published on 3 June 2014 and set out 39 recommendations.

Developing the Young Workforce sets out how the Scottish Government aims to implement the recommendations of the Commission. Work experience for young people in school and college is a key aspect of this, and the strategy includes plans for a new standard for work experience in schools, as well as a new focus on work experience and the quality of careers guidance as part of secondary school inspection programme. For colleges, it wants young people to benefit from better work-related learning experiences, supported by a new standard for work experience for colleges.

The strategy sets out plans for engaging with employers on a more systematic basis by engaging with existing industry-led groups and establishing new industry-led groups in parts of the country where they do not currently exist. The hope is that these Invest in Youth groups will play an important role in coordinating the involvement of employers in schools and colleges.

Conclusion

Work experience matters. Few disagree with this. But more commitment from all concerned is needed, so that all students and jobless young people have access to high quality work placements.

Links for further reading

  • Developing the Young Workforce, Scottish Government Youth Employment Strategy, December 2014
  • Growing Experience: A Review of Undergraduate Placements in Computer Science, National Centre for Universities and Business, January 2015
  • Key issues in employer engagement in education: why it makes a difference and how to deliver at scale, UK Edge Foundation and Skills Development Scotland, January 2015
  • Catch 16-24, UK Commission for Employment and Skills Youth Employment Challenge Report, February 2015

  • STEM doesn’t need a ‘girly’ image to attract females but its image does need to change

    Every October, individuals, groups and organisations across the world celebrate women in science, technology and engineering by remembering Ada Lovelace, who is acknowledged as a pioneer of computer programming.

    As well as reminding or introducing us to women in history and the present who have or are making major contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the week is also about encouraging more girls and women to choose to study and work in STEM areas.

    From an economic perspective, this drive for female recruits is neither altruistic nor based on an equalities agenda. The UK needs an additional 87,000 graduate-level engineers each year between now and 2020, and there are predicted to be 11,000 IT job opportunities each year. Yet women represent only 7 per cent of the professional engineering workforce according to the Institute of Engineering and Technology and just 17 per cent of the IT workforce.

    Filling these job vacancies won’t be possible without persuading tens of thousands of people, including women to join these industries. But, there’s a problem. Despite significant efforts in recent years, there has been very little improvement in the numbers of women choosing STEM as a career. Indeed, the percentage of women in IT is reducing and is lower than it was twenty years ago!

    In a recent article, Guardian journalist Jess Zimmerman summed up the problem of getting women into these sectors and keeping them.

    We tend to talk about the “pipeline problem” of women in science and technology as if the only difficulty is funneling girls into the pipe, at which point they can just waterslide into the pool of gainful employment. But the problem isn’t (or isn’t only) the flow of girls into the pipeline. The problem is that the pipeline is leaky. The even bigger problem is that the pipeline is plugged. Anyone who slides all the way to the end will fetch up against a blockage of lazy, retrogressive attitudes about how women should behave.

    Very few disagree that this is a problem and in the past year there has been a large spike in the number of studies, reports, campaigns and government policy commitments seeking to reverse these trends.

    In the 1970s, American folk singer Peggy Seeger wrote a song called I’m Gonna Be An Engineer which makes fascinating listening about the low expectations of women just a few decades ago. What strikes me most about the tone of the song is the determination to fight against all the odds – parents, husband, teachers, employers – to pursue the ambition of becoming an engineer. You can listen to Peggy singing this song here. The lyrics are included at the end of this post.

    Although things have changed to some degree in the four decades since the song was written, it’s depressing to think that the concept of being an engineer is still such an alien and unattractive one for women. As a woman who started her career as an IT specialist in the mid 1980s, I’ve seen many cycles of campaigns to persuade women to choose computing and other STEM areas. Such are the odds stacked against them, most of these campaigns have been remarkably unsuccessful. In the IT sector I chose to enter, the numbers of women choosing computing science went into freefall in the mid-1980s, the decline continued through the late 1990s when it levelled off only to drop significantly again in the first decade of this century. This podcast discusses how the image of computing contributed to this decline.

    Getting the image right

    The remainder of this article offers some observations on the role that stereotypical images play in turning women away from choosing to study or work in STEM.

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    A lot of fuss was made this year when Lego launched its Research Institute set which features three female scientists. On the plus side, at least it didn’t resort to ‘girlifying’ the characters the way that they did when the company introduced the Lego Friends series where the girl characters morphed into something more akin to junior Barbie! Going large on pastel colours, these sets reinforced gender stereotypes of girls as carers and home makers, rather than creators and engineers.

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    What a departure from the company’s original approach when it was all about building wonderful constructions out of small plastic bricks in glorious primary colours! And what a shame because, as the advert below shows, at the outset Lego was a non-gendered toy marketed in the same way to girls and boys. Indeed, included in the “10 Characteristics for LEGO” set out in 1963 was that LEGO was ‘for girls and boys’.

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    Challenge negative images

    In October 2014, engineering company Aerohydraulics caused a bit of a twitter storm when the cover of its 2013-14 product catalogue caught the attention of the Women’s Engineering Society and ScienceGrrls (the 2014-15 catalogue wasn’t much better!) who encouraged people to contact the company to express their discontent.

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    After being contacted by a number of women, the company responded within 24 hours, apologised and agreed to adopt a new approach to marketing its products! The letter from the company below demonstrates some real learning. Let’s hope the company follows through.

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    Should have known better – must do better!

    More alarming in my opinion are those who should know better, who indeed do know better, but unintentionally portray stereotypical imagery to promote the STEM sector. The following examples are visual imagery from organisations very conscious of the absence of women in the sector. Indeed, two of the three examples are/were intended to encourage more women into science, technology and engineering!

    The most recent example is the latest poster from the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). WES has done a very good job in its 95 year history to encourage women to become engineers, scientists and technologists. And, as you have just read, they were instrumental in gaining a commitment from Aerohydraulics to stop using negative images of women in its promotional material. However, its campaign to encourage girls and women into engineering based on a pink cupcake is deeply disappointing, patronising and borderline offensive.

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    Much worse was the video produced by the European Commission a couple of years ago to support its Science: It’s a Girl Thing initiative. More akin to a trailer for a ‘Charlie’s Angels’ film, the Commission was forced to remove it due to the overwhelmingly negative feedback it received. Did the commissioners of this video really believe that lipstick and catwalk poses would persuade young women that science was a girl’s thing? Incredible!

    The final example is not an image designed to attract women into the IT sector; it was about attracting people to a major conference. However, the IT sector is desperately short of skilled people and attracting women is acknowledged in the recently published Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s ICT and Digital Technologies Industry as a way to tackle this skills shortage.

    ScotlandIS is the trade body for the digital technologies industry in Scotland, with a remit that includes raising the profile of the industry. The image of this sector is particularly unappealing to women if the falling number of women entering it is anything to go by. Unfortunately, the posters used this year to attract people to Scotland’s largest annual IT conference, ScotSoft, reinforced this image by failing to show that women might have an interest in the sector!

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    Let’s take gender out of science, technology and engineering

    Attempts to lure girls and young women into science, technology and engineering will ultimately fail if they are dressed up in lipstick, pastel colours and high heels. Well-meaning at best, they completely miss the point.

    Olivia Jones, Project Manager at the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) explained recently why we have to stop trying to ‘girlify’ engineering. Her research shows that young women don’t have an innate dislike for engineering. She claimed that when you emphasise the creative, people-based problem-solving, and environmental aspects of engineering they start to see the appeal.

    We have to stop treating engineering like a hated vegetable, to be snuck in under a thick coating of sickly sauce, and talk to girls about engineering honestly and in a way that they conveys how relevant and exciting it actually is. When girls are presented with real women who are engineers they can see that engineering doesn’t need to be dressed up to be interesting and that engineers are normal men and women who they can relate to.

    The image of STEM is a major, although not the only, barrier to attracting female talent. In presenting an image which would be attractive to females and males, let’s remove gender references and focus on the positive aspects of what it means to be an engineer, computing scientist, etc.

    A report from the Royal Academy for Engineering this year, Thinking like an engineer: Implications for the education system, offers fresh insights into the ways engineers think. It suggests ways in which the education system might be redesigned to develop engineers more effectively. It argues that engineers make things that work or make things work better, and that they do this in quite particular ways. The report identifies six engineering habits of mind which describe the ways engineers think and act: Systems thinking; Adapting; Problem-finding; Creative problem-solving; Visualising; and Improving.

    I can see some great visual imagery based on these habits of mind, can you?
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    I’m Gonna Be An Engineer Lyrics

    When I was a little girl I wished I was a boy
    I tagged along behind the gang and wore my corduroys
    Everybody said I only did it to annoy
    But I was gonna be an engineer

    Momma told me, Can’t you be a lady
    Your duty is to make me the mother of a pearl
    Wait until you’re older, dear, and maybe
    You’ll be glad that you’re a girl

    Dainty as a Dresden statue
    Gentle as a Jersey cow
    Smooth as silk, gives creamy milk
    Learn to coo, learn to moo
    That’s what you do to be a lady now

    When I went to school I learned to write and how to read
    Some history, geography and home economy
    And typing is a skill that every girl is sure to need
    To while away the extra time until the time to breed
    And then they had the nerve to say, What would you like to be
    I says, I’m gonna be an engineer

    No, you only need to learn to be a lady
    The duty isn’t yours, for to try and run the world
    An engineer could never have a baby
    Remember, dear, that you’re a girl

    So I become a typist and I study on the sly
    Working out the day and night so I can qualify
    And every time the boss come in he pinched me on the thigh
    Says, I’ve never had an engineer

    You owe it to the job to be a lady
    It’s the duty of the staff for to give the boss a whirl
    The wages that you get are crummy, maybe
    But it’s all you get cos’ you’re a girl

    She’s smart (for a woman)
    I wonder how she got that way
    You get no choice, you get no voice
    Just stay mum, pretend you’re dumb
    That’s how you come to be a lady today

    Then Jimmy come along and we set up a conjugation
    We were busy every night with loving recreation
    I spent my day at work so he could get his education
    And now he’s an engineer

    He says, I know you’ll always be a lady
    It’s the duty of my darling to love me all her life
    How could an engineer look after or obey me
    Remember, dear, that you’re my wife

    As soon as Jimmy got a job I began again
    Then, happy at my turret-lathe a year or so, and then
    The morning that the twins were born, Jimmy says to them
    Kids, your mother was an engineer

    You owe it to the kids to be a lady
    Dainty as a dish rag, faithful as a chow
    Stay at home, you’ve got to mind the baby
    Remember you’re a mother now

    Every time I turn around there’s something else to do
    It’s cook a meal or mend a sock or sweep a floor or two
    I listen in to Jimmy Young, it makes me want to spew
    I was gonna be an engineer

    Now I really wish that I could be a lady
    I could do the lovely things that a lady’s s’posed to do
    I wouldn’t nearly mind if only they would pay me
    And I could be a person too

    What price – for a woman
    You can buy her for a ring of gold
    To love and obey (without any pay)
    You get a cook and a nurse, for better or worse
    No you don’t need a purse when a lady is sold

    But now that times are harder, and my Jimmy’s got the sack
    I went down to Vickers, they were glad to have me back
    But I’m a third-class citizen, my wages tell me that
    And I’m a first-class engineer

    The boss he says, We pay you as a lady
    You only got the job cos’ I can’t afford a man
    With you I keep the profits high as may be
    You’re just a cheaper pair of hands

    You’ve got one fault, you’re a woman
    You’re not worth the equal pay
    A bitch or a tart, you’re nothing but heart
    Shallow and vain, you got no brain
    You even go down the drain like a lady today

    I listened to my mother and I joined a typing pool
    I listened to my lover and I put him through his school
    But if I listen to the boss, I’m just a bloody fool
    And an underpaid engineer

    I’ve been a sucker ever since I was a baby
    As a daughter, as a wife, as a mother and a dear
    But I’ll fight them as a woman, not a lady
    I’ll fight them as an engineer

    Apprenticeships – Vital for Scotland’s Future

    On 31 March Ayrshire College Principal, Heather Dunk spoke at the national summit of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce (aka the Wood Commission). She described how the College is bringing employers and education together to make sure that the skills young people leave college with are those that industry needs.

    Not surprisingly, apprenticeships featured prominently at the summit. Even before the final report of the Wood Commission was published, the Scottish Government announced increasing annual targets for apprenticeship starts year on year to 30,000 by 2020.

    During her presentation Heather played a video showing how micro, small, medium and large companies in Ayrshire are working with the College to develop their employees through apprenticeships. Each of the businesses in this video believe in the importance of staff achieving vocational qualifications through a combination of college based learning and on-the-job experience. The young people in this video demonstrate why apprenticeships are so important to them.

    James – Apprentice at GSK, Irvine

    James wanted to study a science higher education qualification when he left school. After ruling out university, he decided to embark on a science course at college. When he saw an advert for a process chemistry apprenticeship at Glaxo SmithKline, he applied and is now combining study for an HNC Applied Science at the College with work-based learning at the company.

    Shaun – Apprentice at Dustacco Engineering in Newmilns

    Shaun knew at school that he wanted to work in a job related to engineering and went to college to study a Level 2 qualification. In his second year at college he chose to specialise in welding and secured a month-long work experience placement with Dustacco Engineering, who then offered him an apprenticeship.

    Lesley – Owner of Lesley McDonald Hair & Beauty, Troon

    Lesley achieved a clutch of Highers at school and was encouraged to go to university. However, she wanted to be a hairdresser and chose to follow her ambitions. In 2010, at just 22 years old, Lesley set up her own company and four years on she now employs six staff. A firm believer in balancing college learning with experience in the workplace, two of her employees are undertaking qualifications at Ayrshire College. Practising what she believes in, Lesley is studying an HNC to develop her own skills.

    Want to hear more from James, Lesley and Shaun?

    Find out more about these young people’s experiences via Ayrshire College’s YouTube channel http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk. For other examples of apprentices supported by the College read http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk/assets/0001/1707/Ayrshire_College_News_February_2014.pdf.

    Scottish Apprenticeship Week 19-23 May 2014

    In 2014-15 Ayrshire College will support up to 900 Modern Apprentices continue or start their training with employers in sectors like engineering, hospitality, construction, care, hairdressing and motor vehicle maintenance. The College will highlight many case studies during Scottish Apprenticeship Week, so follow the College on twitter @AyrshireColl for lots of great stories, videos and events.

    Scottish Apprenticeship Week helps showcase the value that apprentices add to businesses. It shows young people, and those who influence their choices, that apprenticeships make good career choices. Find out more about the week and get involved http://www.ourskillsforce.co.uk/modern-apprenticeships/scottish-apprenticeship-week/.

    International Girls in ICT Day 2014

    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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