Is tech attractive among young girls?
I wanted to find that out by doing web development workshops at high schools, but more importantly, I tried to make it attractive.
No boredom, but curiosity and attention
When you walk into a class doing a workshop for girls, which is something extra as opposed to their regular curriculum, they are curious. Their attention is high. It’s something new for them. It’s a change from their usual lessons. They seem to be thankful for that. And even though, they may treat it as a free lesson they actually learn something, so it does the job.
I easily got their attention, they were silent and all ears. And I remember from the old days when I was at high school that, as a student, it was a pain to be silent during lessons.
Learning is awesome
When you tell teenage girls that tech skills are required in every field nowadays and will only be even more important in future they are quite surprised. They don’t see it yet and probably nobody had ever told them. But I was there to say it to them and they understood. The feedback girls gave shows that most of them want to gain tech skills.
Many of the girls also said they like creative activities during the regular computing classes at school such as audio or image editing, web development, or programming — even though not many of them had a chance to learn programming. That just conforms with what I see as appealing on the tech industry — you can do creative work, solve problems, and be rewarded by your accomplishments.
My workshops lasted for 1.5 hours including 45 minute tutorial on web development. As it was a creative activity the feedback forms say it was attractive for them and they want to learn more. I was pleased that workshops are worth doing.
Workshop is just a beginning
Obviously, you can’t learn web development in 45 minutes, so girls need to follow up and invest some more time themselves. That’s why I suggested them to finish the tutorials we started during the workshop. I sent them an email afterwards summarizing what we learnt and what the next steps are that they should do. I got some replies so we’ll see how many of them will persist.
Computing classes lack progress
The biggest lesson learnt from doing those workshops was that we need better education of teachers. At least in Slovakia. Because teachers are the ones which make a difference whether a student likes the subject or not. If they have boring lessons where they learn how to use Microsoft Word then it’s no surprise they are not interested in computing. And it’s not necessarily a teacher’s fault. It’s fault of the system.
Teachers have plenty of stuff to do like following the curriculum, marking, etc. and, admittedly, not all of them are passionate about computers. So, they will not follow the latest technology trends and learn the latest best practices in computing. They will not use their free time to learn new technologies as we, true software engineers, do. But there should be a way how they can learn those as part of their job. Without much of their effort. Because we want even those with a little interest to be teaching the latest trends. And I know they want to teach the latest cool stuff, they just don’t know what to learn and where to learn it.
Tech is cool
Tech is hot. Tech is attractive to girls. Tech is attractive to students. And we should leverage that. Let them learn cool stuff they want to learn. It would be a shame not to do it. I made a small impact, but there is more to come.