(This post is based on an article written for the Somerset Times: 4 August, 2017)
This year I have been coaching 4 teams of girls (18 females in Years 7 to 11) in the Tech Girls are Superheroes 2017 competition. I submitted their work yesterday. The hard part is over! Now we can look forward to attending the Brisbane Showcase later this term. I attended the 2016 Showcase with my 8 year old daughter and I remember the overwhelmingly positive feeling of ‘Girl Power’ at this event. It was wonderful to see a variety of school entries from around Queensland. There were so many young innovative women in the audience and it was awesome to witness the excitement in the room when the winners were announced. The best part of this event was the acknowledgement that females CAN be entrepreneurial, they CAN DO tech! This is such an important message for our girls and young women to hear. Too often girls learn how they ‘should’ act from socially prescribed stereotypes and norms that simply are not true and not OK anymore.
There are many reasons why we need to increase female participation in digital technologies and startups. Governments, businesses, educational institutions and the media around the world are pushing to increase female participation in computer science. Some reasons for this is to improve gender equality, to increase diversity in the IT industry, to alleviate increasing IT skill shortages and to ensure that ALL citizens are prepared for an increasingly digital workplace. It makes sense that a diverse workforce will be better able to cater to the needs/wants of a diverse society! What might be the social potential if there were more women computer science graduates working in data science, software/app development, artificial intelligence, IT security and game design?
The advantages for females to participate in the Tech Girl Superhero competition
- Females learn that they CAN DO technology and they CAN think of & create solutions that can help their community.
- Teams meet every week and they ‘hang out’ in a positive group setting. They know that everyone is ‘new’ to this experience and it’s OK if they don’t know it all yet.
- Students learn to collaborate online using OneDrive, Slack, etc.
- Students learn how to research whether a solution might be feasible and they learn about the importance of competitive analysis.
- They learn about startups; they identify a need in their community, brainstorm app solutions, research competition, identify a target audience, consider costs and potential impact and revenue.
- They learn basic computer programming skills and apply them to develop an app solution. Some students may surprise you and start to learn to code in a different computer language all on their own! Team Blue Screen did this; one team member was very keen to create an iOS app using Swift code.
- Role-model coaches and mentors from industry tell these girls that they are awesome and eventually they believe it! This year the teams had lovely mentors; Ayla Soutar from TechnologyOne and Amy Byrne from Vodafone.
- Teams have fun!
- They make mistakes; they learn that it hurts when a team member lets them down but they also learn to forgive and to work harder as a team.
- Each team creates a Pitch Video and they learn best ways to pitch their product. They use previous team pitch videos as a guide.