BaraBrithCamp in Swansea

Photo of two slices of fruitcake and a cup of tea

Women in tech

We run a regular get together of innovation and improvement types called BaraBrithCamp. Normally this takes place in Cardiff but we are keen to take it on the road. So we were delighted to be invited to Tech Hub in Swansea.

We asked Alice Gray and Stewart Powell to share their thoughts and then we had a wide ranging discussion. We were covering a broad subject area. For ease of blogging we’re going to use the term STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics) to describe this wide area

What we heard in the course of the evening

  • There is evidence that by age three, British children have developed clear ideas of which jobs are appropriate for men and women.
  • We can’t separate the choice of subjects from other aspects of identity. Science and mathematics are associated with “geeks”. This identity seems to be more acceptable to boys than girls.
  • Overall girls outperform boys in all subjects except maths and science. And girls report a lack of obvious female role models in STEM careers. Girls underperform in STEM classes which contain mostly boys compared to all female classes.
  • It’s not clear why this is, possibly unconscious bias on the part of teachers, possibly classroom dynamics.

These biases can persist between generations and so a number of initiatives are looking at helping parents change their views of STEM and women in STEM. A few we heard about include:

  • Women and children tech camps, encouraging mothers to be more confidence with STEM and support their children
  • Techniquest after dark. A chance for adults to try the hands-on STEM exhibits without having to make way for children (with added wine).
  • Women only co-working or start-up clubs. These are seen as a useful way to support women at an early stage in business development before moving into mixed spaces.
  • A lecturer in computer networking gets the attention of potential female students by pointing out there is no gender pay gap in computer networking.
  • Computer science education in schools has morphed into technology usage. The curriculum is changing back to teach more fundamental coding and computer science skills. Many teachers need upskilling on this curriculum and we heard about some interesting projects doing this. 18 days (spread out) is the sort of commitment needed.

Overall what can we do?

The discussion honed in on four broad areas for action

  • Identifying and promoting role models & encouraing inspiring teachers
  • Creating and supporting female only spaces
  • Addressing communications and branding in how STEM is positioned but also in wider culture: films and games for example.
  • Get mothers on board

If you’d like BaraBrithCamp to visit your town or city then drop into the GovCampCymru Slack team and talk to us about it

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