How to Encourage Women to Study IT

The latest UCAS application figures revealed that 361,510 women have applied for a place at University this year, compared to 276,263 men.

The statistics also revealed that 57,920 prospective students have applied to study Computer Science with 12,095 seeking to take Technology courses.

But according to the e-skills 2011 report ‘Technology Insights’ only 9% of students studying A-level Computing and 15% of those reading the subject at university are female.

In March 2011, the European Commission utilised the hype surrounding International Women’s Day to raise awareness of the lack of women working within the IT sector.

European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, called for efforts to be strengthened to attract women to the sector, starting in schools by encouraging more girls to study science and technology.

The way in which Information Technology is taught in schools may be the first stepping-stone towards boosting the amount of girls willing to study the subject beyond the compulsory stage.

The director of online job board Women in Technology, Maggie Berry, has revealed that a separation of sexes within the classroom may be the answer. Within a recent blogpost she explained that a teacher who decided to separate his class into single sex groups found that his female student’s interest in the subject increased considerably.

This theory is backed up by recent research conducted by Dr Sylvie Kerger from the University of Luxembourg, who found that the girls surveyed had a significantly higher interest in IT, statistics and physics when concepts were presented in a female friendly way.

But according to the April 2011 Oftsed report, the battle to encourage women to study the subject from a young age may be rooted too deeply to overcome purely through academic means.

The findings of the report found that the majority of the girls surveys held conventionally stereotypical views about their access to future careers throughout their schooling.

The overwhelming concern among the industry is also founded on the common perception that the female brain is not designed to study the subject, despite the fact that the first developer, Ada Lovelace, was female.

So how can these stereotypical views be challenged to encourage more girls and women to excel within the subject throughout secondary school and beyond?

Within her speech on International Women’s Day, Neelie Kroes pointed to the importance of strong female role models within the ICT “hall of fame”. She emphasised that the use of such figures would inspire women to consider the subject and point to “a sign of balance in the sector”.

The UK’s largest IT graduate employer, FDM Group, believes very strongly in challenging common stereotypes and leading by example.

The most important testament to the company’s belief in female talent is its inclusion of six women on its Management Board, which creates a majority of over 50%.

And with phenomenal international achievements as the 11th fastest growing company in Europe, the female majority across its board further highlights the importance of women within the sector.

Chief Operating Officer at FDM, Sheila Flavell, explains, “To hold a female majority on any managerial board is unusual but within the IT sector it is almost unheard of. We believe our recent achievements under this board emphasise just how important a strong female presence is to the future of the sector. We hope that more women will take note of our accomplishments and be encouraged to study the subject beyond the compulsory stage.”

However it’s not all bad news for the sector. The ITMB (Information Technology Management for Business) degree, which was created by the industry, is attracting over twice as many women compared to other IT related degrees and UCL has more women than men taking the degree course.

Across the pond, Harvard University also recently revealed that a record number of female sophomores are currently studying Computer Science at the prestigious University.

FDM is calling for more female candidates to apply for its graduate programme. To find out more visit: www.fdmacademy.com

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