#MissMakesCode #CyberSecurity #GirlGeekGames
No, these are not Twitter hashtags but are STEM disciplines [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] programs offered to girls between the ages of 5-17 by social enterprise Girl Geek Academy in Australia and the US.
While the 5-8-year-olds immerse themselves in programming and coding in the #MissMakesCode workshop the 9-13-year-olds explore various STEM activities including coding, robotics, programming and code breaking in the #CyberSecurity workshop. This also opens their eyes to their role in online safety as well as the potential career of cybersecurity – one of the most in-demand professions in Australia.
In the #GirlGeekGames program girls aged 13-17 learn about making games or learning to play them.
While less than 1 in 8 engineers in Australia is a woman (12.4%), women account for just 16% of the total STEM workforce. The statistics are just as low within the Australian video game development industry with only 18 % of employees who are women, yet they are consuming games [47%] just as much as men [53%].
Girls and women face countless obstacles in pursuing an education in STEM which may include stereotypes of what girls should and shouldn’t study, gender biases and often unreceptive climates for female students in science and engineering departments in institutions such as universities and colleges.
A Google-Gallup study based on 2015-2016 surveys found the disparity between girls’ and boys’ involvement in STEM starts early. Girls’ interest in computer science drops between the ages of 12 and 14 just when boys are becoming more interested in the field.
The study also found that there are notable discrepancies between the classroom experiences of boys and girls. ‘Boys are much more likely to have been told by teachers they’d be good at computer science, according to the study. Girls are also less likely to feel they’re skilled in STEM or express confidence in their ability to learn computer science.’
So what is stopping girls and women from exploring subjects and careers in STEM?
Many girls don’t have access to female role models and mentors which can influence what they think they are capable of achieving.
Women are also turned off by the tech industry’s reputation for fostering a culture that empowers a toxic male workplace. Commentators have pointed out that men often dismiss women or talk over them, sometimes taking credit for their ideas. At other times, companies simply fail to promote women to leadership roles, despite their performance.
But the future looks brighter for the next generation of girls. In the 2018 Australian STEM Video Game Challenge the winners of three of the six categories were teams made up entirely of girls – the highest proportion of female winners in the competition’s history.
According to Monica Mizzi in an article published on Girls Who STEM, ‘Great strides are being made every day by organizations big and small that provide invaluable resources, guidance, and advocacy for girls and women to engage with and pursue careers in STEM.’ She shares 40 such organisations [mostly US based] who advocate for girls and women in STEM within the article.
Another article published on the Girls Who STEM website reviews the best toys and games for girls ‘that develop their interest in STEM from a young age and are the perfect way to encourage planning, critical thinking, and problem solving’.
‘The key to getting more girls interested in STEM is to encourage and expose them to making. Whether it be through designing, building, coding, or the arts, making provides them with a pathway to learn and explore new ideas and technologies.’ Tynker Coding for Kids.
Registrations are open for 2019 – The Australian STEM Video Challenge ‘Emergence’