How tech can learn from the Lionesses

England Women's Football Team - Lionesses

Article by Amy O’Donnell

Watching the Lionesses win the Euros was a game changing piece of history. I cried at how momentous it felt.

The atmosphere and excitement felt not only significant for a sport where we traditionally only see men on the prime TV spots, but because feels like the winds of change for how women are perceived in the UK.

The ban on women’s football by the Football Association was only lifted in the UK in 1969. At primary school in the 90s, I remember the boys had our male teacher referee their football game as they played on the flat, professionally marked out pitch with the best quality ball. Us girls had bumpy scrubland with a half-flat netball and were left to our own devices. Speaking with young women in the youth group I run, the lengths they go to at school to get equality in sport makes it feel like not much has changed.

Unlevel playing fields

Women and girls face similar unlevel playing fields in other areas of society, including the tech industry. I can’t help but think what the industry I work in could learn from the Lionesses’ momentous journey.

With an all-time high of 870,000 UK tech vacancies in a world where females hold 17% tech jobs, there are huge repercussions – not just for filling this gap and equity of opportunity to attain a highly paid tech job.  It’s bigger than that – who designs technology impacts how our society is shaped and how decisions get made.

Role models

For me the first lesson we can learn from the Lionesses centres around role models . I watched Alex Scott’s documentary The Future of Women’s Football where Simone Magill (striker for Northern Ireland) said: “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”  Role models are powerful in showing what is possible and inspiring others “who look like me” recognising barriers are often confidence over capability.

In our Nominet Digital Youth Index, we found female respondents were less likely to want a career in tech than males and Tech She Can research found 3% of females cited technology as their first-choice career.

This comes down in part to a lack of role models and the way careers in tech are perceived as just coding when in fact, there are diverse inspirational applications digital roles in fashion, in the environment, in charity and beyond.

The documentary also spoke to lack of diversity in the women who make the team – the same goes in tech. Just 4% of technology professionals are women of colour. In both tech and football, we have to recognise women do not have homogenous needs and barriers, and there is a gap in well researched intentional strategies for inclusion.

Inspiration from a young age

The second lesson is starting young. I think the whole country has enjoyed getting to know schoolgirl Tess Dolan dancing to Sweet Caroline at the semi-final as a symbol of inspiring the next generation. Ian Wright asked her on BBC breakfast “After watching the match, does it make you think you can do that?” and Tess said: “Yes, definitely.”

Ian Wright spoke about this milestone moment for girls getting to play football in schools.  Likewise in tech, it’s about having the opportunities – it shouldn’t be just those at private schools swanky computer labs who get an early introduction to learning digital skills.

There are some starting points in tech we’ve made in tech around girls in STEM Micro:bit are getting minicomputers into primary schools, and Brownies are gaining coding badges with Google giving the opportunity to learn skills and shift attitudes about girls in tech. Stemettes run intersectional programmes, impactful events and inspirational platforms to support young women and non-binary people ages 5 to 25 into STEM and related careers.

Last night, Jonas Eidevall – the Arsenal women’s coach- said “We need better talent academies… the players you see here are not here because of the system, but despite the system.” Likewise, while this collection of universal initiatives offer a great start, there is a gap in the pathway of support for young people into digital careers at a systems level – to help them understand their options, entry points and support around mentoring and professional development.

Male Allies

There is also a role of male allies. Are men’s voices strong enough in advocating for women in tech, similar to the way Ian Wright speaks out in support of women in football? In 2015 Owen Barder invited people to sign a pledge to boycott men-only speaking panels (known as #manels). A great start – but what could the 2022 pledge look like to have men displace privilege? Standing up for better diversity in recruitment processes or team dynamics and supporting women’s leadership not just at public events but every day in the workplace.

Changing norms and narratives towards sustainability

Finally, and most crucially, mindsets matter for what is perceived in society as important. It leads to investment and commitment which is fundamental for sustainability. The London Olympics in 2012 transformed sports like cycling a decade on – how do we do that for women in tech?

The post-match discussion centred around investing and putting resources behind women’s football and how the early adopters will reap the rewards and tech is the same. The companies that go the extra mile to attract diverse talent and support early careers will come out on top. Diversity is more than a tick box, and solutions from teams with better gender balance are more likely to appeal to a diverse audience.

Two years on from the UK Equal Pay Act, women in STEM careers typically expecting to be paid £7,107 less than men. Lewes FC is the first club to guarantee equal pay and the same ticket prices for women and men. If men and women received equal pay in tech, it would be easier to attract women into the sector.

The Lionesses have inspired me in my life. They are doing so much for women in sport and beyond in other areas of society too. The journey over 15 plus years has shown what it takes to counter norms. It’s now important to make this legacy last, not just for women in football but for women in tech too so we can all have our lioness roar moment.

Amy O'DonnellAbout the author

Amy O’Donnell is Senior Programme Manager, Social Impact, at Nominet where a large part of her role is to support partners in navigating the way digital technology is impacting young people in the UK. She leads on strategic pillars exploring digital transformation in mental health and widening participation in digital skills and careers.

With over ten years’ experience supporting social impact initiatives, and helping to design inclusive approaches in the context of new digital realities, she has played an active role in the strategic direction of the Nominet Digital Youth Index, offering interactive, annual benchmarking data and insights about young peoples’ experiences both on and offline.Amy is passionate about privacy by design, ethical good practice, diversity and intersectionality.

With previous experience as Digital in Programme Lead at Oxfam and Project Director for FrontlineSMS:Radio, Amy joined Nominet in 2021 and has brought with her vast international experience as a champion for responsible data and countering inequality in a digital world.She is also dedicated GirlGuide Leader and co-District Commissioner in Headington, Oxford, which most recently has involved running activities connected to Safer Internet Day 2022.


Girls in tech, STEM

International Girls in IT Day: Why the future of tech depends upon girls

Girls in tech, STEM

From using online classrooms to applying for jobs and entering work with the tech skills employers expect: digital skills have become essential to thrive.

Yet, the stark reality of the gender digital skills gap means women and girls continue to be excluded.  It’s why initiatives like the United National Girls in ICT Day celebrated every 28th April are so important to shine a spotlight on opportunities for girls to thrive in their digital lives.

The context of exponential technology growth and digital transformation should allow for greater opportunities across society. But the benefits are more likely to be reaped by a small portion of the population, as women continue to be underrepresented in tech. A recent report on the Global Gender Gap by the World Economic Forum found women make up just 18% of Europe’s IT specialists.

Research from the Nominet Digital Youth Index, our annual report offering insights into young people’s digital experiences, shows the appeal of technology-related jobs is higher among young men – 78% vs 64% for young women and girls. Young people’s aspirations in this space are shaped by norms, stereotypes and a lack of role models. As a woman who has been in tech for over 10 years, I find I have to work harder to prove my expertise and encounter stereotypes, particularly around practical digital skills and capabilities.

Why does this matter? Firstly, this is an issue of equality and fairness in the opportunities to fulfil your potential – no matter your gender, background or personal characteristics. But it’s even more than that. Attracting more women in tech contributes perspectives and knowledge, bringing inherent value which is crucial to a diverse and thriving society and digital economy.

18%

of women pursuing degrees in tech-related subjects

Breaking the bias from an early age

With only 18% of women pursuing degrees in tech-related subjects according to Girls Who Code, schools, civil society groups, families and the media have a role to play in inspiring girls to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. We know that interventions which introduce digital early and actively counter stereotypes play a huge part in enabling girls to feel confident pursuing a career in tech later in life. This is underpinned by more general gender norms illustrating the importance of building confidence in girls, as studies have shown that girls start to lose their self-esteem from as young as 12 years old and to believe that ‘brilliance’ is a male trait from as young as six.

Nominet’s recent research with Catch 22 uncovers some of the systemic barriers to attaining digital skills. We found a need to overlay interpretations of barriers to digital skills uptake with an understanding of the factors of social disadvantage in order to drive change.

Digital Skills in Schools

School is a logical place to start when it comes to unpacking digital skills. Almost one in two (47%) UK teachers lack the adequate technology to effectively teach their pupils according to Tech4Teachers. This presents a challenge to educators to rethink what is being taught to children to prepare them for the future.

Outside projects provide valuable support for teachers with hands-on technical learning. For example, with support from Nominet, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation is running an initiative to teach tens of thousands of primary school children in the UK to code using pocket-sized computers, demonstrating how early stage tech skills can be introduced.

Research has found that teaching physical computing with the Micro:bit breaks down barriers for girls, increases student motivation and fosters broader skills such as creativity, teamwork and resilience. If children are to gain the skills required for a future digital career, there needs to be a fundamental curriculum shift in the way tech is taught.

3%

of women in the UK say a career in technology is their first choice

Making women in tech visible for the next generation

Research from PwC shows just 3% of women in the UK saying a career in technology is their first choice which is reflected in the tech workforce. When girls relate to “someone who looks like me” it is powerful for their self-belief and demonstrating what is possible. This is something I have seen first-hand in my role as a youth leader in my group of twenty five 11-14 year old young women.

For Safer Internet Day, we spoke about perceptions of careers in science and tech.  While girls expressed perceptions about “what kind of person pursues a career in the digital space,” we went on to discuss how many aspirational female role models are inspiring the next generation. It struck me how many of the barriers are around confidence over capability.

Technology as a catalyst 

Flipping the conversation, technology has the potential to be an enabler and to catalyse change. The Nominet Digital Youth Index found that over half of young people are teaching themselves digital skills. While we could interpret this as formal education not landing, it is also evidence of enthusiasm and willingness to troubleshoot and self-teach.

More diversity in those who take up tech jobs can help translate the aspirations of unique spectrums of society into the digital world. This will create representative perspectives in design resulting in more innovative, appropriate solutions, in turn leading to more inclusion. It’s the mantra: nothing about us, without us.

Diversity in tech requires a collective response and collaboration from industry, education, civil society and government to unlock the opportunities for digital skills today to realise equitable and thriving digital economies of the future.

Amy O'DonnellAbout the author

Amy O’Donnell is Senior Programme Manager, Social Impact, at Nominet where a large part of her role is to support partners in navigating the way digital technology is impacting young people in the UK. She leads on strategic pillars exploring digital transformation in mental health and widening participation in digital skills and careers.

With over ten years’ experience supporting social impact initiatives, and helping to design inclusive approaches in the context of new digital realities, she has played an active role in the strategic direction of the Nominet Digital Youth Index, offering interactive, annual benchmarking data and insights about young peoples’ experiences both on and offline.Amy is passionate about privacy by design, ethical good practice, diversity and intersectionality.

With previous experience as Digital in Programme Lead at Oxfam and Project Director for FrontlineSMS:Radio, Amy joined Nominet in 2021 and has brought with her vast international experience as a champion for responsible data and countering inequality in a digital world.She is also dedicated GirlGuide Leader and co-District Commissioner in Headington, Oxford, which most recently has involved running activities connected to Safer Internet Day 2022.


Women working with computer for design and coding program

Why we need to encourage more girls into coding and STEM

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO and Founder, Cypher

Think Different. A great Apple ad campaign from 1997. The fact that we all think differently is at the very root of why girls – and everyone for that matter – should be encouraged to get into coding.

The reason we should encourage girls into coding is not just about feminism or equality, it’s not just about fairness or a ‘level playing field’, it’s not just about opening up glass ceilings and filling quotas. It’s far more important than that. It’s about solving problems for the future of our world.

Talking about the ‘female’ mind or ‘male’ mind is fraught with difficulty – so I’m not suggesting these are two different opposing gender-based options, but broadly painting a picture of a rich spectrum of the diversity of thought amongst individuals. A bit like we use ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ ways of thinking. It’s the combination of this diversity, facilitated through inclusivity, that leads to the ability to solve problems in new and unpredictable ways.

As a teacher I have observed children approaching tasks in different ways which reveal different mindsets. Early on in my experience of teaching children to learn to code, I taught a class of boys a lesson about making a space invaders game. The lesson taught concepts about coding and computational thinking. The boys picked up the concepts fast, were highly competitive, designed efficient invader killing programs and were totally goal orientated. Soon after I had the opportunity to teach the same lesson to a group of girls. I was fascinated by the alternative way of working that they displayed. This group took twice as long to complete the task. However, they were collaborative, discussed different options, considered the design and colour scheme of the game and even considered the wellbeing of the aliens – providing ways for them to get food. They completed the task differently.

This got me thinking about the value of different approaches to problem solving. And also the very evident fact that there are less women working in technology than men. Women make up just 17%  of IT specialists in the UK. While the concept of computer science was invented by a woman, once it was turned into an academic subject to fit into an educational system designed largely around how boys learn, it lost it’s connection with the ‘poetic science’ displayed by Ada Lovelace’s mind. Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician working with Charles Babbage in around 1843, first developed the idea that computers had the capability to go beyond mere number-crunching.

The benefit of learning computational thinking, the core concepts behind developing code and algorithms, is that it gives students the tools to both think around problems and promotes the idea that there are many ways to solve a problem. Thinking computationally isn’t just about the questions you answer, but about the questions you ask. What I might call a male approach might be to set the question ‘What is 2×2?’ We can all do that – 4. But what if we ask the question, ‘How do you make 4?’ Immediately the mind expands and starts thinking of different angles. How about  8÷2, 1+1+1+1, 22, 60÷15, √16……there are so many ways. With different people working together – different genders, different heritages, different social backgrounds – the approaches are instantly diversified. And women tend to bring together a range of approaches rather than stick to a straightforward path.

In my own career I have an example where my approach, bringing together two different principles, led to a new and exciting solution. With my background in both computer science and architecture, I have developed the code to create a space planning app to improve office space usage. It was also the result of a great partnership with my husband, Bruce. By putting together two types of algorithms, a particle based system and a graphical based system, I was able to create algorithms to solve the space problems faster. Bruce, interestingly, says that’s something he would never have done and credits my ‘female mind’ as being able to think in a more lateral, pick’n’mix way. When it came to getting the algorithms patented however, he was the one to drive that process through and get it registered. Teamwork.

So how have we managed to put off so many girls going into computer science? Just 9% of female graduates in 2018 studied a core Stem subject – science, technology, engineering and maths. Some girls are keen on computing and I’m the last one to stereotype anyone into a particular role. I was both the president of the Computer Science club at high school – and the Cheerleaders. I love gaming. But I love other things too. I’m a Mom, and I like being in charge of how my home is, what the kids do and getting to know their teachers and the other school Moms. It’s my choice to take on that role in our marriage (as well as being CTO of our company). We just don’t make computer science sound that attractive to most girls. What’s the point? How does it relate to me? I read an Instagram post only yesterday from a woman who’d just got a house to herself after being brought up with three brothers – doesn’t this just paint a picture of what life can be like for some girls?

“There has always been noise, there has always been things everywhere that were the possessions of others, that weren’t for me, and I wasn’t to touch…amps, wires, guitars, drum kits, video games and televisions that I was never interested in but wasn’t ever allowed to use anyway – the year PlayStation came out was really shit, just saying.”

It’s not encouraging!

Things have to change. Everyone needs to get to understand technology better. The 98% of people who don’t want to be computer programmers have to have an elevated level of understanding of technology to be able to function in today’s and especially tomorrow’s world. An understanding of how computing works, what computational thinking is, how algorithms work – takes away the fear of technology. Technophobia is only overcome when you have a go, you discover it’s not so clever, it’s just about giving a machine a few instructions. And wow, those instructions can make a real difference.

By broadening the understanding of technology we can also help increase the numbers of women working in and understanding technology. When I spoke at a conference for International Women’s Day last year I was impressed by the recognition of the breadth of what ‘women in tech’ means. The marketing team was proud to stand up and say, “We are women in tech’. No, they aren’t labelled CTO but they do run the Facebook campaigns and understand the algorithms, they do run the website, they do analyse the data from all the technological interactions with customers.

How do we encourage girls into coding and STEM? By creating environments that welcome women. By appreciating that not everyone thinks the same and that there are many ways to peel an orange. By showing that they can tap into their creativity when learning computational thinking. That it can help their creativity. I set up my company, Cypher, to inspire children to learn the language of the future – code. From the outset, I wanted to make it as girl friendly as possible. The whole premise of Cypher is that we teach through creative themes – we want to catch a kid’s imagination and curiosity with subjects that mean something to them – whatever their gender. Our themes range from exploring marine ecology and conservation, to a virtual world tour meeting robots and building pyramids, to making magic, to fashion shows and composing music. And whatever the theme, we connect it to technology, learning to code and developing computational thinking. STEM by stealth if you like. The greater the range of children we can excite about coding now, the greater the diversity of thinking and problem solving that will be in the next generation of leaders, designers, thinkers – bringing new and surprising solutions to the problems we face in the future. As we say at Cypher, getting the next generation future ready.

Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO CypherAbout the author

Elizabeth Tweedale is a computer scientist, has a master’s degree in architecture, has written six books for children explaining different coding languages and is the Founder and CEO of Cypher – an edtech startup inspiring children aged 5 to 12+ to learn and apply the language of coding through creative and interactive camps and clubs. She’s also a mother of three young digital natives.

While working for Foster & Partners’ Specialist Modelling Group in 2013, she spotted the educational potential of coding. She explains: “My team used computer coding to design buildings, including the Apple Campus and the Gherkin. I saw many colleagues teaching themselves how to code and hitting stumbling blocks because they didn’t have a basic understanding of computational thinking and had never learned how easily code fits together.”

Her experience sparked a question. Shouldn’t we be teaching our young children how to code? And so she set up a company to do just that.


Girls in tech, STEM

Let’s inspire a new generation of Sara Seagers

Girls in tech, STEM

On March 8, we’ll celebrate International Women’s Day, and I’m sure it means different things to different people. To many women, it will be a platform to redress the gender imbalance in so many areas of our lives.

For me, it’s an opportunity, when the topic of conversation is inclusion and diversity, to talk about a subject close to my heart: the need to encourage more young women into STEM subjects. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths, of course. And it will not surprise WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen readers to hear that women are woefully under-represented in STEM courses and careers.

You may have seen this already but according to UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) data, the female proportion of graduates in core STEM subjects has flatlined at around 26%.

In tech, the figures look even more unrepresentative, according to government data. Of the 300,000 more people working in tech jobs now than in 2009, just 55,000 are female. This means the percentage of tech professionals who are female has remained stuck at roughly one in six.

I’m a female CEO of my own tech company and one of those one in six, and I’m passionate about providing tech solutions to employers, training providers and learners. But I’m also a STEM ambassador who believes that we must do much, much more to attract young women into STEM subjects.

A question might be why? Why is it so important to have a gender balance in technology, for example? Are men stronger in some subjects while women are better in others? The old cliche of science subjects being better suited to males, and creative subjects or humanities more suited to females may be easily dismissed, but it’s still the perception of many young people. In a study of KS4 pupils, only 33% of female pupils considered themselves to be best at a STEM subject compared to 69% of their male classmates.

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For me, the need for more young women to enter into STEM careers is not just a question of fairness, or even of challenging an age-old cliche. Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s a question of how we can get the best possible outcomes from science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If the single aim that draws the practitioners of these disciplines together is to make our lives better in some way, then they stand a better chance of doing so with inclusive, equal, diverse professions.

Because I know it best of all, I will use the example of technology. I develop tech to help employers manage apprenticeships. About half of apprentices in England are female, but 87% of developers are male. How can we build software solutions that work for females if they are being developed by men and will have gender bias built in?

According to a global software developer survey in 2021, the vast majority of developers are male, accounting for 91.7 percent of all respondents. Female developers amounted to only five percent of all respondents, demonstrating the male-dominating reality of software development jobs.

But the truth is that women’s voices in tech will always add new and unique perspectives to products and services. One study of more than 100 teams at 21 companies found that teams with equal numbers of men and women were more likely to experiment, be creative and successfully complete tasks.

So, how do we get more young women pursuing fulfilling careers in STEM subjects? I think it’s about inspiring them and providing more female role models. This is why communities such as WeAreTechWomen are so important. The media can also play its part by providing inspirational content fronted by talented women.

And I agree with others that there needs to be more female role models in STEM subjects in our national curriculum. Research by one teaching charity in 2020 found no mention of any women in its Department for Education science content at GCSE level, but 14 mentions of male scientists. So, no Marie Curie and her contributions to science. No Sara Seager, who has found 715 planets in her time working with the Keplar Telescope. No Jane Goodall, the most famous primate scientist in history.

The list is endless. But how can we expect there to be a gender balance in these subjects when young women see only successful men as examples?

Women make great scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. It’s time we started to tell their inspirational stories.

Kerry LinleyAbout the author

Kerry Linley is CEO and founder of Rubitek, a tech firm that specialises in developing software to help employers manage apprenticeships.  Kerry is also a STEM ambassador and a passionate advocate for encouraging more young women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Avye Couloute

Inspirational Girl in Tech: Avye Couloute | Maker, coder, Tech Advocate, Social Entrepreneur & Founder, Girls Into Coding

Avye CoulouteAvye Couloute is a maker, coder, Tech Advocate, workshop leader and Social Entrepreneur.

She began attending coding & physical computing workshops at 7. Nowadays she is very active in the tech & maker community, dedicating a lot of her spare time to exploring & learning about coding & technology.

Among other activities, Avye led a regular coding & physical computing workshops for Coder Dojo at Kingston University & the University of West London and have entered and won competitions with the robots which she designs and makes.

Avye is enthusiastic about sharing her skills & experiences with others and she is an Arm ambassador, part of the GenArm2Z program which enables young people to talk to tech leaders about how technology is being used & shaped for the future.

Aware of female under-representation in STEM education & careers, Avye was motivated to found Girls Into Coding to encourage more girl involvement in tech, to offer them the opportunity to develop their digital and making skills. She has received the Diana Award, the Diana Legacy Award and the FDM EveryWoman Tech Award in the “One To Watch” category for her work to create opportunities for girls to engage with tech and for fundraising to provide girls with microcontrollers, physical computing kits & STEM themed books.

You can follow Avye and Girls Into Coding on Twitter.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

My name is Avye and I’m 13. I started coding & attending physical computing workshops at 7. They were fun, so I began joining loads of similar events and continued to explore what I was learning at home. To share my skills & experiences I started co-running coding workshops alongside two adult mentors & soon took on the responsibility for preparing & leading my own for CoderDojo at Kingston University and at other community tech events.

I noticed that the majority of attendees at my workshops were boys and so, almost three years ago I founded ‘Girls into Coding’ to get more girls into tech. I also design & build robots, and have won a couple of competitions with them. One of my wheeled robots has gone through a tonne of iterations and I use different versions of it in my different robotics workshops.

What sparked your interest in Technology?

I’ve always loved making stuff with unwanted objects, stuff from the recycling or anything that was going. I remember making a Time Machine  (not a real one). I got the family involved & together we conjured up this contraption which had loads of dials, levers and the insides of old electronic devices glued all over it. Later I would start adding basic electronic components like bulbs, buzzers & switches to make my creations more interesting. This sparked it all off and when I later discovered the microbit and components like servos and motors I saw how tech could really bring my creations to life.

Tell us a little about your social enterprise, Girls Into Coding?

I founded Girls Into Coding in 2018 and since 2020 my mum Helene has been project managing and giving the mission the full time attention it deserves. Girls into Coding offers girls aged 10-14 free opportunities to explore Coding, physical computing, robotics & 3D printing. – developing confidence & a sense of belonging in tech settings, while enabling girls to see their potential. Our overarching objective is to contribute towards a situation where girls & women are engaged in STEM activities, education & careers, equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers.

To promote inclusivity and keep our workshop events hands-on through the pandemic, we developed materials & resources, designed & manufactured a range of robotics kits suitable for remote workshops.  We post these out to the girls along with other hardware, so they all have everything they need at home to participate in our live online workshops led by myself & our team of dedicated mentors.

What has been a highlight for you since working on Girls into Coding?

I am really proud of what I’ve accomplished with Girls Into Coding, we’ve helped to inspire more girls to give tech activities a go. I’m delighted to see more girls engaging with STEM  and that these opportunities have been  accessed by hundreds of girls throughout the UK and internationally, including girls from India, Kenya, Canada, USA, France, Ireland, Spain, Nigeria, Singapore & South Africa.

How do you manage your time with your schoolwork?

At times it’s very challenging because I have a lot to prepare, but once it’s done, it feels good. When you’ve prepared, you focus more on the outcome, and if you decide to put lots of effort into it, the outcome is going to be a better experience for all.

You have won lots of awards for your work, how does that make you feel?

Winning awards is a great feeling, it’s always a massive boost and reminds me that what I’m doing  with GIC is important and has real value. The awards always allow me to reflect on all the support & opportunities that I’ve benefited from – from different groups & individuals in the wider tech & maker community. Winning the awards really helps to raise awareness of issues that we’re trying to change.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on an IoT project for my Girls Into coding workshops.

I am also working on a personal AI project linked to reducing our use of plastic food & drink packaging . It’s very challenging, quite a slow process but I am learning a lot.

I am also working on a voice recognition project.

If you could change one thing in the world to create a better society, what would it be?

I would like people to work together to ensure that everyone can benefit from new developments more or less at the same time, so no one gets left behind.


Girls into Coding crowdfunding campaign

Help Avye empower girls through tech!

Girls Into Coding aims to engage at least 1000 girls every year with hands-on workshop opportunities and inspiring talks. This is to contribute towards addressing the gender gap in tech and to sustain girls’ interest, initially so that they continue pursuing Tech activities and ultimately, so they are engaged to consider STEM education & careers.

Crowdfunding to help give at least 1000 girls FREE access to Tech Opportunities

For Girls Into Coding to continue to make these opportunities inclusive and accessible to girls from a diverse range of backgrounds we work tirelessly throughout the year building relationships, applying for grants securing sponsorship, and fundraising.

Our target is to reach at least 1000 girls per year and so far this year we’ve reached just under 500 girls.

Through this campaign, we want to raise £10,000 to help us achieve or exceed our goal of reaching at least 1000 girls a year.

The money raised will contribute towards:

  • Delivering FREE Girls Into Coding workshop events
  • Buying components, materials, and equipment to develop new hands-on activities & resources for the workshops
  • Posting  the kits out to the girls (including return postage) for the hands-on workshops
  • Providing coding kits for girls to continue their STEM journey at home and beyond.
  • Providing STEM-related books for the girls.
  • Covering Project Management & Logistics Cost

FIND OUT MORE & DONATE

Tech She Can Charity Announcement

Tech She Can becomes a charity, inspiring more young girls and women into technology careers

Tech She Can Charity announcement

Tech She Can has become a charity with over 200 members – helping inspire more young girls and women to pursue a career in technology.

As a charity, Tech She Can, working together with its board of Trustees and member organisations will be able to extend its reach and impact.

Tech She Can was created in 2018 with 18 founding organisations following a research initiative into why girls and young women are less likely to study technology-based subjects, and pursue tech careers.

Today, it is a charity with over 200 member organisations, with the Tech She Can Strategic Partners being: PwC, Google, NatWest, Centrica, Credit Suisse, UST, Morgan Stanley, Tesco, Nationwide and Zoopla. Other members include the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Channel 4 and come from a wide range of industries committed to collaborating to address the gender imbalance in technology roles in the UK.

Sheridan AshSpeaking about the announcement, Sheridan Ash MBE, Tech She Can Founder and co-CEO, said, “Tech She Can is going from strength to strength.”

“It is inspiring girls and young women by showing them the exciting opportunities provided by technology and the great careers it offers.”

“At the same time it is addressing the problem of skills shortages in technology and giving voice to female perspectives in the development and use of the technologies that we all use.”

“By becoming a charity we will supercharge all the determination and passion that our members bring and the collaboration that underpins all we do.”

“Our objective is for women to play an equal role in creating the technology that shapes our world.”

Tech We Can

How Tech She Can helps


In 2019, Tech She Can launched an online portal – called Tech We Can – following two successful pilots with schools across the UK. The online portal provides lesson plans for teachers which can be taught to girls and boys aged 9-14, with the aim of inspiring school students across the country to consider a career in technology, and boost the diversity of future technologists. The lesson plans are designed for teachers to adapt based on the technologies available at each participating school and showcase the breadth and depth of tech careers and highlight real life role models, especially females, from across the Tech She Can signatories. Tech We Can now reaches 630 schools across the UK.

During the pandemic, Tech We Can at Home was launched giving parents and carers access to lesson plans and a series of shorter online sessions, ‘Tech Tuesdays’ were run for 10 consecutive weeks, designed to be viewed on demand in the classroom or at home. There have now been over 1,300 home users of the lesson plans and over 7,500 total views of the Tech Tuesdays. Students and homeschoolers have taken part across the globe from the UK to Australia, Greece, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand, the USA and Qatar.

New initiatives

Tech She Can piloted its very first apprenticeship scheme during the pandemic when Zoopla took onboard 10 trainee software engineers who participated in a 10 week virtual bootcamp. Findings from the boot camp were also used to help Centrica increase their share of female engineering apprentices to 40%. More recently, PwC, Zoopla, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley joined up to deliver Tech She Can’s first ‘Career Insight Programme’ for Year 11

students to find out how technology is used, the types of tech careers that exist, and meet role models from these organisations. The charity is looking to scale these initiatives with apprenticeships, career insights, and work experience weeks becoming a core part of its strategy.

Tech We Can Champions is a newer initiative which allows the employees of the member organisations to receive training in order to give back to their local schools and communities.

Partnerships helping give Tech She Can a greater impact

With the UK facing a critical technology skills shortage, Tech She Can has formed joint initiatives with a number of key partners including the DCMS and the Digital Skills Partnership, Future Dot Now, STEM learning, and Tech Talent Charter. In addition, Tech She Can has sponsored the establishment and participation in an All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) on Diversity & Inclusion in STEM with the British Science Association.

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Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level, GCSE

GCSE Results Day: Science gender gap closing fast

Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level, GCSE

GCSE results day brings postive news for girls in STEM, as the science gender gap is closing fast.

Statistics released today show that the number of girls taking key STEM subjects has increased this year, including Physics, Biology and Chemistry.  The gender gap is closing fast, with more girls comprising over half (50.27 per cent) of the total number of students taking the three key science exams.

Figures also show that while there was a decrease in the number of girls taking Maths, there was an increase in girls taking the more rigorous Further Maths exam.

However, there is more work to be done. The number of girls taking Computing GCSE has fallen for the second year in a row, with the gender gap increasing – the proportion of girls taking Computing has fallen to 20.7 per cent in 2021 from 21.56 per cent in 2020. A silver lining is that girls did outperform boys in the top two grade bands 9-7/A and 6-4(C).

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftSpeaking about the latest figures, Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA, Skillsoft said, “GCSE results day is the pinnacle event on the school calendar.”

“This year, with lockdowns, homeschooling and the scrapping of exams, it’s been a tumultuous time – one that many students will not soon forget.”

“Following on from the A-Level results earlier in the week, it’s disappointing to see that the number of girls taking GCSE Computing and Engineering has decreased this year.”
“There are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas, but we need to go further to challenge and eradicate the old fashioned views that are clearly still very much ingrained in the public consciousness.”

“It’s no coincidence that while most girls show some interest in STEM subjects at 10 or 11 years of age, this tends to wane by age 15.”

“Schools must continue to find new ways to keep girls engaged in STEM subjects, by providing the opportunity to build websites, learn to code or use robotic toys.”

“By showcasing female role models, organising technology-related events and working with schools to find new ways to inspire students, businesses can also continue to encourage involvement.”

“After all, female uptake in STEM has the duplicitous advantage of closing the gender and skills gaps, what’s not to lose.”

The results follow a second year of teacher-assessed results, after exams were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students were assessed only on what they had been taught and were assessed on multiple pieces of work, giving them their best possible chance to show what they can do.

Students receiving results will have the opportunity to move on to a range of high-quality options. This is the second year that young people can move on to study T Levels, with seven new subject choices available from September, including Healthcare, Science and Onsite Construction.

Speaking on GCSE results day, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “Students should feel proud of their achievements and will now be looking forward to taking their next steps.”

“I am also hugely grateful to teachers and school leaders for their hard work to ensure students get the grades they deserve and need to progress to the next stage of their lives.”

“There have never been so many great options available for young people, whether that’s going on to study A levels, our pioneering T Levels, starting an apprenticeship or a traineeship.”

“Whatever option young people choose, they can do so with the confidence it will give them the skills and knowledge to get on in life.”

Getting girls into STEM


Below are just a few of the campaign groups encouraging and supporting girls and women in STEM and tech.

Next Tech Girls

Next Tech Girls is an initiative brought to you by Empiric with an aim of sustainability and strategically increasing the number of women in technology by securing meaningful tech work experience for girls.

1.46 Million people are employed within the technology sector in the UK and only 17% of them are women. We want to help change this.

Companies are increasingly recognising the value of diversity, leading to tactical solutions of hiring more women. This often results in merely moving existing talent around, shifting the problem from one company to another and having no long term impact.

There is a need and opportunity for strategic and early intervention.

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The Tech She Can Charter

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.

As a group we know this is an important problem to solve as technology is set to influence every aspect of our lives. We need to ensure that the people creating our technology solutions are representative of the population and that females have an equal opportunity to take part in the jobs of the future.

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Step into STEM

Step into STEM is an award-winning mentoring and work experience programme delivered by Girls Talk London and funded by O2, BT, Vodafone & Ericsson. This programme provides individual mentors to females aged 16-18 who study a STEM subject and want to work in technology. Mentees on the programme attend a two-day Tech Summit in the summer which gives them access to talks by Senior executives, demos on the latest products and technology such as Virtual reality and Robotics plus a chance to meet all graduate recruitment and work experience teams across all businesses. To date 150 girls have been mentored via this programme.

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Stemettes

Stemettes is an award-winning social enterprise working across the UK & Ireland and beyond to inspire and support young women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers (known collectively as STEM).

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Code First: Girls

Code First: Girls works with companies and with men and women directly, to help increase the number of women in tech.

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Girls Code Too

Girls Code Too UK is an organisation hoping to encourage young girls and students who identify as female to pursue tech careers through exposure to tech resources and role models. To do this we are providing workshop tutorials, materials, advice and support for volunteers to use to host their own workshops at local schools and community clubs in order to reach girls all over the UK (and beyond).

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three women in tech working on laptops, gender diversity

Now is the time to change the game for women in tech

three women in tech working on laptops, gender diversityThe past 12 months has challenged humanity in ways not seen since World War II. But with the devastation comes a wave of opportunity to solve problems that matter.

Today is the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and I want to share my thoughts on why we shouldn’t lose this historic moment to think about the future of women in tech, and why there’s never been a better time to spark a generational change.

Busting the myths that hold women back

While COVID-19 has impacted everyone, there’s no doubt it has hurt women the most. McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace study found that women in the United States—especially women of colour—were more likely to have been laid off or furloughed in 2020, stalling their careers and jeopardising their financial security. But COVID-19 has also triggered a transformation, busting long-held myths that have traditionally held women back from taking on roles in the tech sector.

The first of those is the myth that where you live defines what you do. Before COVID-19, it sometimes felt like the tech sector was incredibly exclusive. You needed to live in places like San Francisco or Singapore or London to network with the right people and access enough tech roles to build a thriving career. Of course, only a certain class of people with certain lifestyles want or can afford to live in those cities. COVID-19 has triggered a huge uplift in remote working and it doesn’t look like the trend will reverse anytime soon. In fact, a Gartner study found that 74% of CFOs intend to make remote working permanent for some employees.

This trend has removed many of the geographical barriers to a tech career, which in turn means access to a larger and more diverse pool of candidates. It also applies to education. In the past, you had to go to a lecture hall or classroom to gain a qualification. Now we know that as long as you have internet access, you can dial in from anywhere in the world and learn in a virtual room. Where you live no longer defines your access to good jobs and education. This ultimately benefits women who don’t live in cities with tech hubs, or can’t physically attend classes at reputable education institutions.

The uplift in remote working has also busted the myth that managers need to see you to know you’re working. We busted this a long time ago at Xero, but it’s something that has continued to pervade the industry. Many companies still have a manufacturing mindset, where they believe that hours equals value. It’s that old notion that if a manager can see you sitting at your desk for eight hours a day, it must mean you’re producing work that’s valuable. It’s not only untrue, but also forces women—who are often caregivers and need flexible working arrangements—out of the tech industry.

Moving towards an outcomes mindset

If we ditch the manufacturing mindset, what we’re left with is an outcomes mindset. A workplace that values outcomes over hours. In 2020, our teams reported feeling more productive at work than normal (before COVID-19), and yet flexibility was far greater. We know you may have a sick child at home and need to work around their needs. Or maybe you need to take half an hour every afternoon to pick them up from school. Maybe you want to spend time on a personal hobby in the morning, and work a little later. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the outcomes you produce, not the hours you do.

COVID-19 has taught us that we can still achieve our goals, without having to take time off or negotiate a shorter working week (and it’s important to note that for many women, negotiating less paid hours does not necessarily mean they do less work than their colleagues, in either hours or outcomes). My hope is that other companies realise that remote and flexible working does not equate to lower productivity or reduced outcomes. And that women in tech approach their manager and get super clear on the outcomes they’re expected to deliver, rather than focus on the hours they work.

Solving the right tech problems

An outcomes mindset isn’t just about giving women in tech the flexibility to do the best work of their life. It’s also about bringing more women into the industry at all stages of their career (from new grads to experienced leaders), so we can think deeply about the kind of problems we want to solve. Technology impacts every aspect of society and almost every community across the globe, but we cannot possibly identify the most important problems that need to be solved if we don’t have a balanced and representative workforce.

The tech sector has made so many advancements in recent years, from space travel to electric cars. But the key players who decide where the money will be spent and what problems are solved are still a fairly homogenous bunch. It makes me wonder: what if they weren’t? What kind of problems could we identify and solve if we had a range of genders and ages and backgrounds making decisions at the highest levels? What if the advancements we’ve already made are just the tip of the iceberg?

With a more diverse workforce, maybe we could use technology to help women feel safer at night, or solve mental health issues, or bring people out of poverty and connect them to meaningful work. Maybe we could create new forms of community care, or solve the enduring challenge of having a career and caring for children. The possibilities are endless, and yet without equal participation in the workforce, the problems we solve are only ever going to help a small portion of the community. It’s time to make sure that women in tech have a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions being made.

Sparking curiosity about a tech career

So how do we bring more women into the tech sector? There’s no simple answer. But you can’t be what you can’t see. Early on in my career, someone asked me what women in tech influenced me, and I had to scratch my head to even think of one. Thankfully, there are a few more of us now. I’m proud that 50% of my product leadership team at Xero are women, and that we have programs in place to foster an inclusive and equitable workplace. It’s why Xero is included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for the second consecutive year. But all women in tech need a clear path in front of them and role models to follow.

The second obvious solution is education. Knowing what problems we should be solving is one thing, but we also need women to have the technical skills to be able to jump in and help us solve them. We are blessed to live in an age where there are a huge number of courses that women can take to upskill in tech (and I should note that when I talk about tech, I don’t just mean learning how to code. The breadth of roles available in tech is enormous—we need women doing everything from product design and research to data science and business insights).

Many of these courses are available online for free on sites like Coursera or Skillshare. And as long as you have access to the internet, you have an opportunity to join the tech sector. We need to show women the variety of career paths available to them in tech. We need to encourage them to upskill in those areas, and—importantly—we need to keep them in the workforce with diversity and inclusion policies, and flexible working arrangements. There has never been a better time to seize this opportunity, and make sure that we are challenging the status quo.

Talking to the women in your life

Tech will enable us to solve most of the challenges that the world currently faces. But if we don’t act now and get more women into the tech sector, the gender gap in tech will become irreversible in our lifetime. The McKinsey Global Institute once suggested that advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global growth. But then COVID-19 hit, and in the US alone it has set working women back by more than three decades—to levels of labour force participation last seen in 1988.

So this UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, I challenge you to have a conversation with the women in your life. Women of all ages and in all stages of their career. Women of all cultures and backgrounds. Women of all skills and abilities. Tell them about the possibilities that a career in tech offers—an opportunity to solve real problems and make a positive impact on people around the world. Because the more women that understand what’s possible, the more women we’ll have in tech to help us make the world a better place.

About the author

Anna Curzon is the Chief Product Officer of Xero, a global small business platform that has changed the game for its 2.45 million global small business subscribers. She has recently been appointed to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council, by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

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Girls in tech, STEM

Why a “big bang” moment is key to getting girls into tech

Article by Sinead O'Donnell is Director Human Resources at Raytheon UK

Girls in techLots of children will remember a “big bang” moment from their youth, when the world exploded into excitement, chock-full of possibilities.

That moment might be sparked by a shared experience, a new moment of learning or – in my case – a gift that spoke to a new world of technology.

Even now, I distinctly remember unwrapping my Sinclair Spectrum 48K computer, complete with a full suite of games and a manual the size of a telephone book.

I was just 10 years old at the time, and although it was a big unwieldy thing, it felt like the stuff of dreams. Whilst my siblings and friends were desperate to play the games, I was desperate to grasp how it all worked.

From the outside, it all seemed so mysterious, but there was clearly some wonderful technology at play here. And if I could understand it, who knows what it could do or what could happen? It was a lot for me to contemplate but it helped that I had some wonderful people around me to help ask the right questions.

I had a fabulous maths teacher at the all-girls grammar school I attended. She encouraged her students to think outside the box and to apply maths in our everyday lives. She also introduced a GCSE in Computers to the school, and I was therefore able to study for that and a Computer Science A-level.

The strong support and encouragement at school meant that I was not aware that tech was often considered a “masculine” profession. But I was one of just seven women on my Computer Science course at university – out of 70!

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Spectrum computer represented my first steps towards a lifelong love of technology and a career that has revolved around those early questions: How does it work? Can I understand it? What if I did this?

These questions played a vital role in my former role as a software engineer and are still relevant as I lead human resources for Raytheon UK. Even in a role that is ostensibly less technical, I’m still using the same engineering and development mindset. That might mean understanding how and where to add value, or agreeing requirements up front, and making sure to support creativity within the framework of what the deliverables should be.

We’re always looking to continually improve our HR offering and being an engineer has undoubtedly helped me to have a better understanding of how HR adds value across our organisation and the defence sector more broadly. But do many other girls and women understand that a background in technology or software development can take you beyond the obvious tech jobs like coding?

The variety of careers available to women who have a background in STEM is hardly obvious. Ultimately you can’t be what you can’t see. Although I was oblivious as a child and young adult about the gender divide in technology, it became obvious that I was in a minority when I undertook an industrial placement during my third year of university.

After a month of being treated differently on the placement- being asked, for example, to undertake more administrative tasks than my peers- I explained to my boss that the status quo was failing to teach me anything of value and could leave me unable to either to complete my degree and or become employable in my chosen field. It might sound extreme but this approach paid off– my boss became a great mentor and helped me learn how to navigate office politics.

In HR, a key part of my role is to enable entry points into STEM for women later in their careers. I have taken on as a personal challenge to ensure that we are giving a new generation of female talent a sturdy leg up. We need to mentor the next generation of women in tech by reaching out, sharing our experiences and offering networking opportunities. We must challenge unconscious bias where we see it.

I'm proud to be the executive sponsor of Raytheon Women's Network. Open to all employees – male or female – we work to address common issues in the workplace and to encourage greater equality, not only tech, but in all roles.

I hope these efforts will help broaden the tech talent pipeline. Because we don’t just need more women in tech, we want more women with technical mindsets in other roles too. Let’s strive to spark those “big bang” moments in the next generation of young girls.

Sinead O'DonnellAbout the author

Sinead read Computer Science at the University of Ulster, before spending over a decade working in software engineering.

In 2007, she transitioned into a more HR focused role. Today, she is the UK Director of HR at defence and cybersecurity firm Raytheon.


On Wednesday 22 January, Raytheon will be sponsoring the inaugural ADS Women in Aerospace and Defence Summit, as part of its commitment to promoting greater diversity within the sector.


InnovateHer featured

InnovateHer teams with Sony to launch technology bootcamp for girls across the UK

InnovateHer

InnovateHer has teamed up with Sony to bring its eight week technology programme for teenage girls to more locations across the country.

The Digital Bootcamp programme aims to give girls aged between 12-16 valuable tech and interpersonal skills, whilst encouraging them to consider STEM subjects and careers in tech.

Unfortunately, current statistics show that girls make up only 20% of computer science entries at GCSE, and just 10% at A-level, with nine times more boys than girls gaining an A level in Computer Science this year. InnovateHer, whose mission is “to get girls ready for the tech industry, and the industry ready for girls”, has promised to tackle these figures by working with schools to reach over 1,000 girls by 2020.

The after school programme will teach girls technical skills, build confidence, and highlight local opportunities within the tech and digital industries. The collaboration with PlayStation has allowed InnovateHer to extend the programme to new locations, including Guildford and London.

The bootcamp is set to launch in selected schools in January 2020, and graduates of the programme will have the opportunity to showcase the work they have produced at next year's Develop conference in Brighton.

Chelsea Slater, Co-founder of InnovateHer has spoken ahead of the launch, saying:

“We’re proud to be working with PlayStation again on our tech programme for girls. The issues we see around the gender pay gap and low numbers of women in the tech community are the culmination of the seeds that get sown early in young women’s academic careers. Our mission is to get girls ready for the tech industry, and to get the industry ready for girls, and a huge part of this is challenging the misconception that girls “can’t do” STEM subjects like Computer Science, equally that the STEM industry doesn’t cater for women. That’s why it’s important for us that our programme reaches girls not just locally, but nationally, too, and that it aims to show young women just what opportunities are open to them. Thanks to PlayStation’s support and recognition, we are able to do just that.”

If your school is based in London, Liverpool or Guildford and wishes to take part in the InnovateHer programme, then an expression of interest form can be found here: http://bit.ly/iher2020