geekEquality Survey of 217 Undergraduates: What makes them apply for jobs in the technology sector?

geekEquality surveyed 217 UK female undergraduates to ask them what factors would influence them to apply for graduate jobs. The aim of this report is to convey the opinion of female undergraduates who are currently applying for jobs in industry. We asked them about recruitment, the interview process and general feelings of applying for graduate jobs.

 

Buying a pink laptop

Technology devices such as laptops or mobile phones have been reduced in specification and given a pink/girly color. I agree with this.

I do not think that a pink laptop should have a reduced spec just because of it’s color.

I LOVE PINK. I do not think that there is anything wrong with buying a pink laptop. I had one and I loved it. Not because of the color but because of what it can do (the colour was cute also).

geekEquality have created a guide for you to help you get the best laptop for your money. We want you to feel empowered when deciding what laptop to buy and tell you it is OK to get a pink laptop if you want to, but just make sure it does what you want it to :-)

Computer Science outreach for computer scientists

One question which I am often asked is ‘how do we do outreach’. Outreach is not easy. When you spend a massive portion of your career doing things which only a handful of people can understand, it is really difficult explaining those things to people who do not have a background in your area of expertise.

Using demos to explain complex ideas works well. Great examples are at http://csunplugged.org/ .

I have made a resource sheet available at:

http://www.geekequality.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/tips_outreach_pdf.pdf

Let me know your outreach thoughts.

 

Ada Lovelace Post: Dr Hannah Dee

Identifying a woman to blog about for this years Ada Lovelace day has been really difficult as so much has been going on this year. I have had a difficult time of it and Hannah Dee (lecturer at Aberwyswth) took me under her wing and helped me through it whilst I was in Wales.

Whilst at Swansea I found my job and life in Wales difficult (basically I now know because of illness as well as other factors). It was nice having someone who I could email with a rant or someone I could ring who was supportive. She also understood what it was like to be in a long distance relationship so that was also helpful.

Hannah and her partner Roger, arranged it so I could have some time out and stay in Aber with them and do some work over there also.

I don’t need to write a post to say how accomplished Hannah is as an academic – because everyone knows she is! I don’t even need to say what a great advocate she is for women in tech as everyone knows she is.

This post is basically to say that you can be cool, intelligent and supportive but also be moral and not be two-faced!

To find out more about Hannah, go to: http://www.hannahdee.eu/

Timeline of ICT Education in the UK and Gender Impact

There are many reasons for the lack of women choosing to study computing: perceptions, experience or confidence. We have created a timeline of important milestones regarding the presence of women in computing in the UK. This has an emphasis on IT education in the UK and on the introduction of the national curriculum.

Our youtube timeline provides a new way to explore the events that have affected the curriculum up to the present day, especially with the current changes being made to the UK education system. Take a look and see what you think.

This is also an interactive timeline: click on the links to read the various reports and publications. Please let us know if you would like anything else adding to this timeline, or if you would like a downloadable PDF version.

Science: What The Girls Think!

I am sure many of you have seen Science: It’s A Girl’s Thing, produced by the European Commission in order to encourage young girls into science. The negative reaction to this video has been covered by The Telegraph. Many have described it as degrading and patronizing, and that it sexualizes science. However, a majority of those making these claims are not the target audience for this video. As a researcher, I find it very uncomfortable to assume how young people will react to certain things: we need to ask them. So I did!

I devised a small, non-academic, questionnaire about the video, which was given out at the end of a Stagecoach performing arts club session.  The group consisted of 38 girls, aged between 9 and 13 (with an average of 10.8). 11 of these girls had parents who worked in a scientific job. The group was asked about their perceptions of science careers before and after watching the video. The results are surprising but also very insightful into the mindset of this age group. Before I go on to present these results, I want to emphasize that the results of this study are not indicative of every child in Europe but instead suggest that these trends and results are something we need to explore further.

Before Viewing

  • 13 out of 38 girls stated that they enjoy science lessons at school.
  • 11 out of 38 girls stated that they want a career in science. Only 2 of these girls had parents in scientific occupations.

After Viewing

  • 30 out of 38 girls had positive comments about the video.
  • 25 out of 38 girls said that the video made them motivated to look into science as a career. This is an increase of 14 girls: from 29% to 66%! 

Interestingly, the girls were generally positive about the video: it’s difficult to argue with the numbers.

25 out of 38 girls said that the video made them motivated to look into science as a career. This is an increase of 14 girls: from 29% to 66%!

The girls were free to write down their comments. The next sections will expand upon the numbers given above.

Feelings about Science

Before watching the clip, participants were asked to state if they were interested in having a career in science and, if so, what they wanted to do. If they weren’t interested, they were asked to give their reasons.

  • Participants who were interested in science careers said that they wanted to be doctors, nurses, a medical engineer, and a science TV presenter, and that they wanted to find a cure for cancer, find cures to illnesses, or, in one case, have a career using Bunsen burners (!).  A wide range of careers was mentioned.
  • Participants who were not interested in science careers said it was because “it was boring”, “it was for nerds”, “I like drawing”, “I am scared of explosions”, and “I don’t want to dissect frogs”. The ‘boring’ reason was the most common reason for not wanting a career in science.

Feelings about the Video

After watching the clip, participants gave feedback as to how they felt about the video.

  • Participants who gave positive comments wrote comments such as: “I thought it was cool”, “it was lively”, “I learnt a lot”, “I enjoyed the music”, “it was artistic”, “it was girly”, “it made science for me”, and “it appealed to me”. The phrases for this signified that the girls felt it was important that the video appealed to them and felt they could relate to it. They enjoyed the music and thought the clip was girly and lively, and this drew them in and kept their interest.
  • Participants who gave negative comments wrote comments such as: “It is not real science, what does make up have to do with science?” , “its [sic] too girly for me” , “there was maths in the video and I find maths difficult”, and “I don’t want a science career”. The negative comments were just as interesting as these reinforced that they did not think that make-up was part of science. I felt that this video may not have reached these participants in the same way as the more positive participants. Participants also mentioned that they did not think it was real science, and it would be interesting to understand their perceptions and experiences of science.

Participants were also asked if the video made them want to research further into science careers. Again there were positive and negative comments:

  • Participants who gave positive comments: “I didn’t realise it was for me”, “It looked like they had fun doing the science”, “It was made for my age group”, “We like experimenting with make-up and that’s how it got my attention”, “I am going to show it to my friends”, “It gave me a different perspective to science”, “Something which is more for my age group”, “I liked the video because it had make up in it and I like trying make up”, “It makes science better”, “It made me want to go on the website after to see what else there is to do in science other than medicine”, “I want to be a make-up artist but that is difficult to get into so chemistry looks like it might be interesting”, “I know that making beauty products they need to make sure that they don’t harm people with the wrong chemicals”, “I like the idea of using science to help people feel nice about themselves”, and “It has made me interested in learning about how make up is made using my science skills”. These comments were interesting, the girls did not hold back!
  • Participants who gave negative comments said the following: “I enjoyed the video but I was more interested in the other videos [on the EU site]. But I wouldn’t find the other ones without the make up one”, “Because it is wrong, make up isn’t scientific”, “It is tested on animals”, “I find maths hard and maths was in the video”, “I don’t see the point of it”, “I think its helped made me think about other options in science”, “I like the hot man”, and “I don’t want to have a science career”.

Other Comments

Participants were asked to provide other comments about the video. They said:

  • I enjoyed watching video! My mum said we can go on the website at home.
  • I want to learn how lipstick is made. I didn’t know it was made with science skills.
  • We are going on the main website after stage coach.
  • I liked learning about a different side to science than what we do at school.
  • I like biology so my mum said we could see what other things they have.
  • I am going to look at the website when I go home to see more videos.
  • I am deciding whether to do triple science so it was good to learn more about it.

The girls wrote about visiting the EU website afterwards, which has other videos about women in scientific careers.

Conclusions

As a community we need to accept that what appeals to us may not appeal to young teenage girls. If this video appealed to ‘grownups’ it would not be doing its job.

The results of this informal study are interesting: they oppose the majority of the views of the ‘grownups’! From a kid’s point of view, it seems like the video acted as a bridge for further research. It was important that they could identify with the video, and from the comments it would appear that they did.

This video is not going to change the world: it’s one of many factors that could influence career decision making. However, this study demonstrates that it has enthused a significant number of girls into thinking about science careers in a positive way. While the context of the participants (from a local theatre group) may affect these results, one message is clear: as a community we need to accept that what appeals to us may not appeal to young teenage girls. If this video appealed to ‘grownups’ it would not be doing its job.

How do the top 10 Universities in Computer Science perform in terms of attracting female students? And what can universities do?

Last week the Guardian published their university league tables. These tables are really useful for prospective students who want to see where a university may rank in the league tables. I have no doubt as to the quality of these courses so I thought it would be interesting to see the gender breakdown for the students taking part in these courses, using data from Unistats. It is clear from the graph below that the highest rated institutions may not have the best numbers of female applicants.

The University of Liverpool, rated 9th, has 21% female students, while Bristol and York rate higher in the league tables but at the bottom when it comes to gender.

League Table Number University Male Female Gender for Ranking 1 = highest.
1 University of Cambridge 86 14 3
2 St Andrews 87 13 4 =
3 University of Southampton 85 15 2
4 Imperial College 88 12 5
5 University of Bristol 92 8 7 =
6 University of York 92 8 7 =
7 University of Birmingham 87 13 4 =
8 University of Glasgow 87 13 4 =
9 University of Liverpool 79 21 1 (Highest!)
10 Shefield University 89 11 6

What can universities do?

It is obvious that their courses are great, but it’s also apparent
that they do not seem to be attracting a diverse range of genders.
Here are some ways that universities can attract more female students:

1. Target your outreach to Maths A-level students: there are more
girls there to choose from.

2. Be encouraging in the interview and prospectuses by saying that
programming is NOT a pre-requisite to studying computer science.

3. Provide lots of information about computer science societies and
women’s groups you may have.

4. Have a good prospectus and an easy-to-navigate website.

For a more detailed discussion, take a look at my publications or email reenapau@gmail.com for a chat.

In the next few days keep an eye out as I will be doing a comparison with all the universities in the league tables. keep your eyes peeled for where your university ranks!

Addition (added 18th July) Raw data for the universities in the top ten of league tables can be found by clicking here.

Sources:

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2012/may/22/university-guide-computer-sciences-it

2.http://unistats.direct.gov.uk/

Off to Pastures New

Bye bye Swansea, hello again Southampton!

For the past nine months, I have been working on a wonderful project at Swansea University called Technocamps. The project aims to encourage 11-19 year olds to study computing and technology.

There are various different hubs around Wales and they all hold
different workshops based on their expertise within their computer science
departments. Swansea held workshops on Programming and will be holding
workshops on digital electronics. My role was to develop the workshops and
help deliver them. It was very rewarding to see the workshops I made inspire
young people.

However, I missed independence and my life in Southampton so I have returned
to start new exciting challenging adventures. I have a couple small projects lined up with Southampton University and with the <GoTo> foundation

I am keen to get involved in new projects to do with enhancing the computer
science experience for all age groups and genders so please get in touch if
you would like a hand with anything or if you would like to have a chat about
outreach in computer science. I am currently consulting on projects that enhance the computer science experience for all age groups and genders. Please get in touch if you would like to have a conversation about how we can drive outreach in computer science. My PhD investigated how to get more girls into computer science and I have held successful outreach and public engagement events to also help this cause. I am looking to help organisations improve their marketing and outreach activities, and to assist with their overall image when reaching out to female students.

I have experience in:
* Teaching complex computer science concepts to young people.
* Girls and Technology
* Diversity in STEM
* Diversity in Higher Education
* The student experience
* Survey design
* Interview Design

Do get in touch if you would like to discuss these points further.

Computing at schools? What about the teachers?

As a workshop developer for a Welsh project called Technocamps, I spend my  working life trying to encourage young people and teachers into computing nad computing careers. So imagine my utter joy when I hear that ICT in schools will be replaced by computer science. My initial reaction: YIPEEEEEEEE.

Then FEAR. Who is going to teach this? A high majority of our future computer science teachers do not come from a computing background, let alone an ICT background.  According to the general teaching council of the 28,000 who became teachers in 2010, only THREE had a computing related degree.

Before I started work on the Technocamps project I did my PhD looking at why there aren’t enough women in computing and then did my postdoc looking at something similar. I published papers, researched and was seen as some sort of expert in the area of getting kids into computing. However, I had only been seeing things from one aspect. I did not realize the amount of support and encouragement that schools will need to teach a computer science curriculum. Schools which I had observed, have issues with the current ICT Curriculum.

In order for this reform to work we need to upskill teachers, not a one day training course or a light evening session, they need consistent support. It takes computer science graduates three years to be experts in the subject computer science, teachers need a similar type of training. We need to remember that computing is not as easy as ICT and therefore need to make sure we do not put young people of by having unskilled teachers.

When computers were first introduced into secondary schools, teachers did not know what to do with them and a lot of money was pumped into teacher training and equipment. This training was a session on computers, however this was not enough to increase their confidence in teaching computers. Young people know more about computers than teachers and are able to tell if the teacher is not confident in teaching a subject, which is why its important the right training and support is given.

I am really glad that we are looking up and taking an interest in IT education, however I hope it isn’t a one off speech and I hope that thought has been given about the consequences in terms of the quality of education out young people receive.

 

[updated 11th January 2013, 16:07 - minor grammar issues!]

Three tools to help teach programming to young people

The tools below are what we use in Technocamps to get young people enthused about computing. So far our feedback has been really positive. For ideas on how to incorporate these into the classroom please go to: http://www.technocamps.com/resources . Do you use other tools? I would love to hear about them. Feel free to comment below.

Scratch

Scratch is aimed at 9-11 year old students, although we also use it for 12-14 year olds. Scratch is a fun program to teach. Its drag and drop and does not expose the user to errors. It does not take much to get things happening. E.g. getting a cat to move forward 10 steps is a case of using two drag and drop boxes and pressing start. This is great for younger pupils who are impatient and looking for results straight away. It is free to download and does not take too long to learn. For my experiences on teaching scratch click here. 

Alice

Alice is very different to Scratch, in that the application deals with concepts such as objects, methods and properties and relies on the user being able to think ‘independently’. It is a drag and drop program, so it’s a good follow on from Scratch. The approach we have used to teach Alice is by getting participants to go through the Alice tutorials before getting them to make their own 3D animation. This is an excellent way of getting participants to get to grips with its concepts and the vocabulary involved in object-orientated design. It is satisfying when 15 year olds are leaving the room discussing objects and methods! Again this is free to download and it helps with concepts. For my experience on teaching Alice, click here. 

Green foot

Greenfoot teaches object orientated design using Java. It is recommended that this is taught to students who have had prior programming experience and/or doing A-level / A/S Level computing. They allow users to create ‘actors’ which are in ‘worlds’ to make games, animations and simulations. Its interactive and interaction tools are built into the Greenfoot environment. Unlike the two above, this introduces students to common syntax errors and is a lot more real than the other two.