Today I held my first Code Club at my current school. I have held coding clubs under various guises before, so when 15 boys and 3 girls came in I was disappointed but not particularly surprised. Once again, girls were outnumbered 1 to 5.
This is something that has continued to frustrate me as the ‘techie’ female teacher. Not only are women underrepresented in the STEM fields, and in ICT in particular, but that this segregation is happening very young. It is not at all surprising that girls are not going on to STEM careers when they are even underrepresented in STEM extracurricular activities from the age of 9, 10 and 11.
There are obviously a number of factors that contribute to the small amount of girls and women who choose to participate in STEM activities and, eventually, careers. In my particular situation, however, is is doubly as frustrating. These girls do have female role models involved in STEM in this school. A number of the people working in the technicians’ office are women, and they currently have a female ICT teacher (albeit for a limited time).
So what else is going on? I know it could be any number of things – not seeing ICT as a welcoming environment for girls, not thinking that they are capable, lack of confidence, never seeing ICT as an option for girls in popular culture and media…the list goes on.
In my experience, however, girls equal boys in loving to create using ICT. In class they love using different apps to express themselves, to create eBooks and videos and music. If given the opportunity they would stay inside at lunch to continue to create using technology. But the minute it becomes coding, they leave. In ICT, you can not be more creative than when coding: you have complete control over your creativity, rather than being limited by a software.
Unfortunately, I do not have a simple answer. I suspect that there is no one answer, given that the issue is caused by a number of factors. What I will do is continue encouraging girls to pursue their interest in STEM, hopefully set an example by being a woman whose passion is technology, and continue searching for ways to improve the current situation.