Why we set up TECgirls, our goals and how we hope to challenge unconscious bias to inspire girls across Cornwall.
Within the world of technology and engineering there is a well-known lack of women. Women make up less than 17% of the workforce at tech companies and just over 10% of the workforce in engineering. There is also a lack of women in a lot of the creative sectors with similar ratios for women working in gaming and film. If you trace the trends backwards, the issues start much earlier. Last year in the UK only 21% of computing and 30% of Design and Technology GCSE’s are undertaken by women.
In Cornwall we’ve seen similar trends not only in education, but also within engagement with programs and initiatives in place to encourage kids into STEM based education. There is a very small percentage of girls attending events like Software Cornwall Tech Jams or Mission To Mars work experience weeks. We’re also seeing very low numbers within code clubs and secondary school programs. So a group of us got together to do something about it.
Women make up less than 17% of the workforce at tech companies and just over 10% of the workforce in engineering.
Start ‘um young
From Microsoft DigiGirls to Stemettes, there are already established international and UK programs working to encourage secondary school girls into STEM subjects. However, these programs are mainly “up country” and only look at girls 12-16 year-olds. Talking to a few schools around Cornwall, we realised that the problem starts way before year 7. Girls were ruling themselves out of clubs and groups as early as year 1. We decided to tackle that gap and focus our efforts around encouraging and inspiring girls who are 6-12 years old.
This is an age where girls are first forming their ideas of what they might be when they grow up and is likely also when they first start to encounter gender bias. As early as 4, kids start to talk about boy jobs and girl jobs. From social pressures from classmates through to toys and clothing, girls are constantly exposed to gender stereotyping that can have a major impact on how they see themselves in the world. For example, just in animated moves alone, out of the past 120 animated films made, only 17% have female leads. There is also a well used phrase, you can’t be what you can’t see. If young girls only see boys or men in engineering, coding, and gaming roles on TV and in society; they could start to form their own ideas on women working in these spaces. And this is where TECgirls wants to help.
TECgirls is born
As a group of mainly women ( and some very supportive men) who work in tech, we wanted to set out to show young girls in Cornwall that technology, engineering is a girl thing. The project is supported by Software Cornwall, in alignment with their education outreach goals. While we have a lot of ideas on what the group could do in the future, we've decided to start small with a website, an event, a magazine and a report .
Our website's goals is to provide a reference hub filled with ideas and events to help support girls and their parents. We will be promoting the existing free digital, creative, engineering and technology clubs and opportunities to girls across Cornwall. With a key goal of increasing the amount of girls to take part in these activities.
We wanted to set out to show young girls in Cornwall that technology, engineering is a girl thing.
We are also putting on an event in Truro called TECgirls Live on the 4th of April. Supported by the Cornwall Technology, Engineering and Creative sectors, this day will be dedicated to inspiring girls and giving them a chance to play and explore. We have a number of exciting activities planned from rocketships to robots, all aimed at making TEC fun for girls as young as six. Our core aim for the day is to help them see that this is something they can do, that they are good at it, and that is it something they could consider for their future. To support this we will be joined by a number of the clubs around Cornwall as well as the colleges and Universities, who will be sharing how girls can get level-up their tech skills as they get older.
To run TECgirls Live we will also be working with out TECgirls Mentors, girls who are 12-18 who want to help support and encourage younger girls. Our mentor program will ensure we are also supporting older girls as they carry on their TEC journey.
Alongside the event we will be creating a free print magazine which we will distribute throughout Cornwall, sharing inspiring stories and fun activities for Girls. This will help girls and their parents to continue to learn at home.
Finally, we will be working to product a TECgirls Annual report. This informal report will pull together feedback from girls and their parents around their thoughts about TEC. We are trying to better understand how people really see the sectors in Cornwall and identify any blockers. This information will be shared with schools and other organisations across Cornwall and a summary of the findings will be published on this website.
At the moment we don't know what the future will hold for our project. But we have a lot of exciting plans, some very passionate people on board, and a very supportive community around us, so we know good things will come!