How to celebrate International Girls in ICT Day

Teacher Helping Female Pupil Line Of High School Students Working at Screens In Computer Class

International Girls in ICT Day, an initiative backed by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), the UN’s specialised agency for information and communication technologies.

Girls in ICT Days aims to encourage and empower girls and young women to consider studies and car​eers in the growing field of ICTs,​ enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.

International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April.

Over 357,000 girls and young women have already taken part in more than 11,100 celebrations of International Girls in ICT Day in 171 countries worldwide.​

Government ministries, national ICT regulatory authorities, ICT companies, academic institutions, UN agencies, and NGOs around the world are all encouraged to join the global effort and ​​celebrate International Girls in ICT Day.

So how we can encourage more girls into STEM?

Currently in the UK, women make up only 17 per cent of the technology workforce. This is statisticly lower than any other industry sector.

So how can we encourage more girls into STEM?

Start early

Currently only seven per cent of students taking computer science A-level courses are female. Further to this, just half of the girls that study IT and Tech subjects at school go into a job in the same field.

According to studies, girls are more likely to be put off taking STEM subjects at school, due to the gender stereotypes of ‘boy’s subjects’.

There are currently a number of campaigns aiming to tackle to gender disparity and to encourage more women into technology roles.

The Tech She Can Charter is a commitment by organisations to work together to increase the number of women working in technology roles in the UK. It aims to tackle the root cause of the problem at a societal level by inspiring and educating young girls and women to get into tech careers and sharing best practice across the organisations involved.

The Tech Talent Charter is a commitment by organisations to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater gender diversity in the UK tech workforce.

Tech She Can and the Tech Talent Charter are working closely together to address the gender imbalance in technology roles.

Alongside this, the WISE campaign calls for gender balance in scient, technology and engineering, from the classroom to the boardroom.

However, more work needs to be done at an early age to encourage girls into STEM and tech and to combat the stereotypes.

Showcase women in tech role models

By highlighting inspiring women in tech, girls can see what careers and achievements are open to them. WeAreTechWomen has showcased some awe-inspiring women as part of our Inspirational Profile series – below are just a select few examples:

Discover more inspiring women

Get involved

There are a number of women in tech charities and not-for-profits that aim to get girls interested in ICT and STEM. You can find out more on our volunteering page here.

Stemettes new logo featuredStemettes

Stemettes aim to inspire the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths(STEM) fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes.

All girls will be able to make informed decisions about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), so that eventually women can be proportionally represented in the field. So that we can have 30 per cent+ of the UK’s STEM workforce being female, as opposed to just 13 per cent.

TeenTech featuredTeenTech

TeenTech run lively large scale but sharply focused events to help young people, their parents and teachers understand the opportunities in contemporary industry. TeenTech is aligned with STEM – all activities are designed to help students understand the context for subjects they are learning at school.

TeenTech events across the UK with a supporting award scheme so students and teachers can take their interests further. Many events are deliberately sited in areas of greater social need and TeenTech encourages schools to bring mixed ability students. Each event brings together 10 students from 30/50 different schools and 30/50 organisations and universities for a day of challenges and experiments that are carefully timetabled.

Students are then encouraged to run their own projects to ‘make life better, simpler or easier’ with support from industry in the TeenTech Awards. These projects are structured so they are a valuable experience for every single student who participates, not just those who reach the final at The Royal Society or the winners who are invited to Buckingham Palace.

Code Club featuredCodeClub

A nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11

CodeClub create projects for volunteers to teach at after school coding clubs or at non-school venues such as libraries. The projects they make teach children how to program by showing them how to make computer games, animations and websites. CodeClub volunteers go to their local club for an hour a week and teach one project a week.

Each term the students will progress and learn more whilst at the same time using their imaginations and making creative projects. Terms 1 & 2 use Scratch to teach the basics of programming. Term 3 teaches the basics of web development using HTML and CSS. Term 4 teaches Python and so on.

encouraging girls in to tech, STEM featured

Bring the women back to tech

encouraging girls in to tech, STEM

Eleanor Bradley, Managing Director Registry & Public Benefit

At Nominet, we talk a lot about the Domain Name System (DNS), or the ‘telephone directory’ of the internet.

This system allows users to type in memorable words that link them to the corresponding IP address, avoiding the need to remember a long and complicated string of numbers. The DNS is critical and underpins the whole of the internet, but did you know that, in the early days, the domain names were largely managed by a woman?

Elizabeth Feinler, an American information scientist, led the Network Information System Centre at Stanford Research Institute from 1972 to 1989, the place that managed the use of domain names in the years before registrars. In her time, women represented a far greater percentage of the technology workforce than we see today. In the US for example – something of a global hub for early technology – the number of women in computing tripled from 1971 to 1985 to become 38 per cent of the labour force.

So where have all those women gone? Today, technology is a male-dominated environment. Women make up just 17 per cent of the technology workforce in the UK, with similarly uninspiring percentages across the world. More worrying is that too few girls are studying STEM to offer any hope of a future pipeline; just 31 per cent of STEM undergraduates are female, many of whom do not specialise in technology.

What is turning girls away from studying STEM, and from technology in particular? Recent PwC research, that surveyed over 2,000 A Level and university students, found that only 27% of women would consider a career in tech and a mere 3% think of it as a first choice. This is despite there being no evidence that females lack the appropriate skills for a role in the tech sector or appetite for the healthy salaries available to them.

There are various theories for the lack of interest, from the ‘macho culture’ that has grown up around technology roles putting women off, to the proliferation of video games that mostly appeal to boys, shutting girls out from an early age. Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK and a vocal supporter of diversity, recently mused on Desert Island Discs that the marketing of computers to men – and the fact they were designed by men – could have gradually excluded women from the technology revolution. This can even be accurate at a literal level. For example, some research suggests the virtual reality experience tends to make women feel sick, but not the men who largely designed and tested the technology.

Some have spoken about girls’ lack of confidence dissuading them from pursuing school subjects wrongly seen as hard, such as maths, science and technology. Studies have shown that girls start to lose their self-esteem from as young as 12 years old and begin to believe that ‘brilliance’ is a male trait from as young as six. There is also a clear lack of female role models in the technology sector; the PwC research previously mentioned found that only 22 per cent of all students could name a famous woman working in tech.

Thankfully, both industry and Government are now proactively working to turn the tide and tackle all these issues. For example, the National Cyber Security Centre runs a CyberFirst Girls Competition while various organisations – such as Girls Who Code UK – offer programmes that work with school-aged girls to equip them with useful skills and nurture an interest in technology.

Further up the pipeline, the Tech Talent Charter is working with organisations in the technology industry (including Nominet) to promote gender diversity across their businesses. It can be quite easy to make changes, such as considering the wording of job advertisements carefully to attract female talent and trying to create a work culture and environment that is more appealing to women. The organisations who sign the Charter share best practice ideas and support one another to improve their ratios.

Encouragingly, many women working in technology are proactively trying to be more visible too. This is something that Nominet gets involved with: our CISO, Cath Goulding, delivers talks about her work in schools, while we use our corporate blog to tell the stories of the talented women we have in the workforce. These blogs emphasise our employees’ different career paths, backgrounds and skills to demonstrate the diversity of opportunity available in the technology sector.

We have also been involved in a Takeover Challenge during which students ‘take over’ a job for a day to learn more about a potential career. In November, we welcomed 11-year-old Izzy Kenny into Nominet to spend the day with Cath. It was an interesting experience for both, and Izzy was adamant that “more women need to be doing this sort of role”. Events like this are great opportunities to offer young people a glimpse into the realities of a role during their formative years, allowing them to keep their options open and ensure they don’t discount industries such as technology.

While there is no silver bullet, the only way to make progress towards gender parity is to keep it in the public domain while committing to do all we can, in whatever capacity we can, to consciously make a difference.

It is only by working together that we can we have any hope of changing the status quo and unlocking a valuable talent pool that the technology sector sorely needs. It’s time to start bringing the women back into technology to finish the great work they started and continue the legacy of inspiring women like Elizabeth Feinler.

Eleanor Bradley mid 1About the author

Eleanor Bradley is COO of Nominet, the technology company known for running the .UK internet infrastructure and which is also the founder and funder of the charitable foundation Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading social tech funder.

Eleanor has over 20 years’ experience in the internet industry and in her current role leads the teams responsible for commercial activity related to Nominet’s registry business as well as the company’s corporate services.

In 2016, she was named as a role model in the category of Board Level & Senior Executive of the Year at the Women in Business awards, and is a keen champion of women in IT and advocate of encouraging more girls to explore STEM subjects. She sees the internet as a force for good and, as Nominet is a public benefit company, is developing a number of projects designed to empower and upskill young people to help future-proof the hiring pool of the UK’s digital economy.