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How To Get Girls Into Tech, by Researcher and CEO Dr Jenine Beekhuysen

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Published

27 Nov 2016

Segment

from the ecosystem

Duration

6 minute read

One day Dr Beekhuyzen had an idea: we need a more effective way to encourage girls to get into the tech industry.

Diversity is key to us creating a workforce that’s capable of building the technology of the future.

Why? Here’s one reason:

What happens if women join the tech industry? Different perspectives. Have you seen the patronising pink-ified apps for women? How about Twitter’s harassment standards and Facebook’s real name policies? These are just some instances of problems caused by blinkered perspectives on how tech should cater to people. It’s harder to understand a problem if it doesn’t happen to you.

That’s just for starters...

After a decade as a researcher in the tech space, Jenine wanted a new challenge. She was curious about the lack of women in tech and began a long investigation.

One thing she noted as a student was that all of the girls who stuck through her university courses, both as a student and a lecturer, were all above average students. The mediocre women left early, and some brilliant women left with them.

But, all of the men stayed.

Jenine wanted to know why. How much more determined do you have to be as a woman to stay? How can media, communities, schools, industry, etc. help change these attitudes?

What deters girls from computing?

✽ Teaching styles that discourage collaboration

✽ Lack of opportunities to take risks and make mistakes

✽ Limited knowledge or inaccurate perceptions about computing careers

✽ Lower confidence than boys, even when actual achievement levels are similar (stereotype threat)

✽ Irrelevant curriculum and reliance on lecturing instead of hands-on projects

Source: https://www.ncwit.org/infographic/3435

The results of Jenine’s research became the awesome Tech Girls Movement, founded in 2014. The organisation is all about breaking down stereotypes around who belongs in the tech industry, and challenging traditional femininity at the same time. Jenine found that many societal definitions and barriers hold us all back, and she’s embarked on a fantastic and inspiring mission to knock them down.

Stereotypes are one of the biggest challenges in getting girls interested in STEM. Stereotypes are defined as “producing expectations about what people like and how they will behave” (Aronson, et. al. 1999).

Jenine presents valuable information she finds in an easily digestible format on the TGM website, which we highly encourage you to check out! If you’re a teacher, we recommend you have a look at Classroom Resources. Her research can be found here - Our Research. It’s a wealth of resources into the Women In Tech question.

What can you do to beat stereotype threat in the classroom?

✽ Promote a-typical role models in ICT – both male and female

✽ Be conscious of gender biases in teaching practices and curriculum

✽ Promote ICT activities and tasks that have a clear social benefit

✽ Discuss the historical contributions of females to our ICT industry

✽ Don't mistake prior experience for ability

✽ Ensure that your own organization employs inclusive practices that will retain young women who choose computing.

✽ Talk with girls about why they should consider a computing career

✽ Talk with girls and others about unconscious biases and how to handle them

✽ Talk with school personnel about the need for computing education

✽ Provide girls with early technology and computing experiences

Source: https://www.ncwit.org/infographic/3435

These are just the main activities the TGM organisation works in.

The TGM Program Overview

Inclusion: We support all women, from Kindergarten to adulthood to learn digital technology skills to build their own futures.

Role models: We present real-life women in STEM as superhero characters in our free Tech Girls Are Superheroes book series - with 40k distributed in 2 years, and one in every school in Australia.

Entrepreneurship: Our Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero currently has 500+ girls across Australia building apps & learning business skills.

Mentoring: Each of our teams of tech girls are matched with industry mentors (110 currently), supported by their coach (parent or teacher).

Technology for Social Good: Their apps solve local problems

All of this said, we’re very proud to officially announce that we support the Tech Girls Movement as a partner! Be on the lookout for Coder Academy in the upcoming edition of Tech Girls are Superheroes 3, as well as many more exciting collaborative events between TGM and CFA over the coming year.

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Large quotes are from Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen, as well as our fellow TGM sponsors/partners.



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