Last week, over 170 volunteers congregated at Deakin University’s Burwood campus to welcome school girls to Go Girl, Go for IT, an event designed to encourage more girls to consider a future career in IT. The free event, organised biennially by Vic ICT for Women, is the eighth instalment, and the largest ever, with more than 2,000 girls coming from over 70 schools across Victoria.
The push to attract girls into STEM has been stronger than ever, with an increasing number of events such as this across Australia. And it’s timely. Studies have shown that fewer than 3 per cent of school girls are considering a career in IT. Despite an estimated 70 per cent growth in total projected jobs in the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) workforce, women account for only 16 per cent of ICT roles.
The number of women studying technology has also dipped from one in four to one in ten. This is troubling, given ICT is considered an emerging future field– without more adequate skilled professionals, we could face a crisis in human capital in the near future. In addition to this, a study conducted by ACS in 2015, revealed that gender inequality in ICT may also be a result of unconscious gender bias and stereotyping at play.
This is something recognised by Vic ICT for Women as we encourage more and more girls to consider a career in ICT. We have invested in a range of programmes to help every step of the way; starting with Go Girl, leading on to Go Grad, Go for IT, Go Grow and finally Go Lead, supporting women as they embark on an IT career as young adults. We’ve realised the need to start the interest young and keep the momentum going and so this year, we opened up registrations to year 5 and 6.
When I personally chose to pursue a career in Technology, I found I was often the only female in the room. I realised then, as I do now, that diversity in ICT is paramount and we need to engage girls early on to look into these opportunities.
At Go Girl this year, attendees took part in a number of engaging and dynamic experiences such as creating a voice activated app with Alexa, learning about robots in banking with Robogals, 3D car design, digital aviation, ethical Artificial Intelligence and so much more.
They also had the chance to hear from leading role models in the field, including Ally Watson who has been pivotal in inspiring girls of today to become tomorrow’s women in technology. She said, “We know that technology is a big part of building the world of the future. There are so many reasons why it’s vital and beneficial to have women in tech, from future proofing the workforce and tackling unemployment, to addressing sexism within the sector, to providing role models for girls and young women to look up to, to securing long-term profitability for businesses and organisations.”
The concept behind Go Girl was always to build awareness of all the career-options available in technology: some existing today, some just around the corner, and some envisioned for the future. The possibilities are endless, and we want girls to feel excited about it.
I can’t emphasis enough how important it is that young girls have idols they can look to for inspiration. This is what we look for when we reach out to ambassadors for Go Girl. Girls need to be told that they can succeed in ICT. It’s not enough to plant the seed– we need to nurture it.