If you’re anything like us, the thought of technology fulls you with horror. In fact, for years women have told themselves that they’re not ‘technical’. But is this true?
The problem with technophobia, is that we can’t ignore technology. It’s everywhere today. and unless we embrace it and learn to make it work for us, we risk falling behind and missing important opportunities.
And maybe more importantly, with technology playing a bigger role in our schools’ national curriculum, we could find ourselves unable to help our children with even their basic technology homework, or even holding them back with our attitude.
Freelance writer Sarah Bennett is on a mission to take the fear out of technology for women – and to show us that we might not just like it, but even be good at it.
I’m no technology guru
Before I begin, I first need to reassure you that I’m not a technology guru, an engineer or innovator. I’m simply a mum of two who decided that I needed to get to grips with technology, having ignored it for years. And I mean years.
My family is full of IT professionals, and for years I just used to tune-out during conversations, off into a dream world: “What’s that Mr Darcy? Cloud Computing? No idea. Fancy ruffling my petticoats instead?”
It’s only recently that I have decided to overcome my own fears and learn exactly how things work.
Women are lagging behind in technology
And it’s not just me who has been avoiding technology. In 2013, women accounted for just 13% of computer science undergraduates in the UK. Only 6.5% of the A Level computer science entrants were female, and just 13% of GCSE students.
So despite the huge advancements in technology of recent years and the empowerment of women in our society, why are us ladies lagging behind? Why are we not advancing here?
While researching this article I approached old school friends to reminisce about our experiences of computing at school. The general consensus was that we messed about playing games, occasionally printed things off and used one particular piece of equipment to magnify our own pubes.
Unsurprisingly, our school didn’t offer computer science or IT as a GCSE option. This was 1994. Not that long ago really.
Other perhaps more enlightened friends did study it at school, although one remembered the pupils knowing more than the teacher, and another who failed dismally is now running a successful IT business. Just one of my female friends passed a GCSE and went on to study an IT-related subject at University.
Computing as a career?
I suppose I never thought computing was a career option for me. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind. Science was encouraged at school, but it was more biology and chemistry. I told myself that I couldn’t ‘do’ physics or maths, or anything ‘technical’, although in reality, of course I could.
Is this attitude what’s holding our girls back now? I loathe to say this but are we potentially stifling our kids by our own lack of knowledge, our failure to be tech-savvy. Technology isn’t just mobile phones and social media after all.
To put it lightly, there’s now a push bordering on panic to get more women into technology. Last month, Google announced that it is donating $50 million into a Made With Code programme aimed specifically at teaching women and girls to code.
So what’s code? It’s just languages used to write computer programmes, apps and websites. There’s nothing mysterious, it’s only a language. In fact you’ve probably heard of some of them: Java, C++, Python, to name a few. Yes, Python. I’ve not made that up.
We you need to get to grips with technology
We know that technology is all around, ever-changing and let’s face it getting a bit scary sometimes. But we as mums need to get our hands dirty, roll-up our sleeves and get stuck in.
This month the new National Curriculum comes into effect for children aged 5-16. And computer science is at the forefront of a wider drive to improve standards in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) subjects.
To enable our kids to achieve what their US and Asian counterparts are achieving, they will be taught to “analyse problems in computational terms” and “have repeated, practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve a problem”. Now, are we all feeling confident that we can help out with that homework?
How to get stuck in!
My eldest child starts school this month, so this is as real for me as it is for many of you reading this article. Don’t panic though. This is what I suggest you do:
Learn basic coding.
Sorry, learn what now? Learn a language used to write computer programmes, apps and websites? Now, don’t stop reading, it’s not as hard as you think.
I signed up to Code Academy. It’s free, it’s user-friendly, all online and within 30 minutes, I was writing basic code. The instructions are clear, it’s wonderfully interactive and you can get quick results. Within 30 minutes I’d “written” a program that animated my name. Yes, my name in colourful, moving bubbles!
The potential is there for you to end-up writing the code for your own website. Putting it together, step by step. With bite-sized lessons, fun ideas and a pleasant look to the website, check it out. I have never done anything like this before. It’s really not difficult. You might even like it.
As more and more money is being poured into getting kids and particularly girls into coding there are some fantastic grassroots movements in the UK; Code Club, Girls Get Coding and CodeFirst:girls to name just a few.
There are also some real inspirational females out there. Carrie Anne Philbin, Teacher and ‘pioneer’ for the Raspberry Pi foundation and Belinda Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek and founder of Little Miss Geek are two of a growing army of women, using innovation, intelligence and balls to get out there and push our kids, our girls, into the future.
Technology is here to stay
We need to take responsibility too though. I want to be able to help my kids with their homework. I want my kids, my daughter in particular to have confidence with computing – to get involved, to understand and perhaps even end up with a career in that field.
Let’s face it, technology isn’t going to go away. It’s getting increasingly prevalent in our day-to-day lives. So let’s lead by example. Embrace your inner geek and give coding a go!
To find out more about Sarah Bennett and her drive to make technology accessible for all, visit her website.Sarah Bennett