In general, the western world is having a tough time getting teenage girls excited about technology beyond the apps on their mobile phones, with advanced studies in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at times proving harder to concentrate on than a game of scrabble.

In 2017, Microsoft carried out research indicating that while girls are as keen on these subjects as their male counterparts at age 11, by the time they are 15, they are seriously losing interest. A 2019 study by the US research group, Engine, found that only 9% of US female students between the ages of 13 and 17 wanted to pursue a STEM career, against 27% of male students.

According to King’s Group’s Head of Digital Learning, Carlos Lázaro, only 30% of the seven million people working in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Europe are women. Carlos adds that technology is displacing more women than men in the workplace – according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 26 million women are at high risk of being made redundant in the 30 countries pertaining to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s study, Women in the Digital Age, has found that incorporating more women into this sector could be worth “up to €16 billion euros per year for the joint GDP of the European Union.” One of the findings of the 2017 Microsoft research was that there is not enough practical hands-on experience in the classroom, particularly important when the concepts are complex and abstract, and easy to introduce when students are young.

“At King’s College we know that girls are most likely to pursue Computer Science when they are exposed to it early on in their lives and we believe that those obstacles should not be present in today’s inclusive education,” says Carlos. “We encourage all our pupils to excel in STEM subjects no matter their gender, having the opportunity to be true digital citizens and bridging this gender gap in the technology sector in education.”

Breathing life into the theory, Secondary Maths, Computer Science and ICT teacher at King’s College Murcia, Eva Fendekova, recently guided her students through the process of printing 3D whistles that were more than just a pretty picture.
“The best part was that if they followed the instructions properly, the whistles actually worked very well!” says Eva.

A similar exercise was carried out by King’s College Madrid’s Year 12 students when they visited the Microsoft Offices in Madrid as part of their Business Studies subject. “The students were arranged in small groups and briefed to design a usable object that could be printed out,” Business Studies teacher Heather Carpenter explains. “Each group had to present their design, explaining the key features and using software to display and rotate their design.”

When technology did appear to be considered a no-go area by some of the female Secondary students at King’s College School La Moraleja several years back, Dawn Akyürek, who was Headteacher at the time, organised a coding festival at the school and invited women coders to come and get the girls involved.

Of course, there is no reason at all that women should feel technology is masculine territory. After all, the world’s earliest programmer was Ada Lovelace, a woman who wrote the first line of computer code back in 1840! And Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has been pivotal in shaking up the gender issue. Back in 2016, she wrote a piece for the female glossy magazine Cosmopolitan, saying, “I didn’t always dream of working in tech, but I wanted to have an impact and there’s no better way to do that. Technology is an agent of change — a force that shifts the way we live for the better. Today, all women need tech. And tech needs women.”

King’s Group’s success in this field has been rubber stamped by Google, which has awarded King’s College, The British School of Alicante, with the distinction of being the first British school to be a Google School of Reference in Spain, applauding its use of Google’s educational programme and how it has been woven seamlessly into the fabric of the classroom. “This recognition is not fortuitous and summarises the great work of our students, teachers and managers who have been devoted to technological innovation in the classroom from the very beginning,” says Carlos.

Girls face countless obstacles in pursuing education in science, technology, engineering and maths, a group of subjects collectively known as STEM. Those obstacles include stereotypes of what girls should and shouldn’t study, gender biases and an often unreceptive climate for female students in Science and Engineering departments at colleges and universities.

 

This is why we would like to recommend a few books to encourage them to engage with STEM and coding, what great reading for the summer! 

Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani
The Friendship Code #1 by Stacia Deutsch
Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser
Lauren Ipsum by Carlos Bueno

 

Heather Galloway