Girls in ICT Day 2015 – Expand horizons, change attitudes

girls_in_ict_2015_banner_0_2_page_6International Girls in ICT Day takes place on the fourth Thursday in April. This year, it will be celebrated on 24 April with the theme Expand horizons, Change attitudes. Lots of activity takes place across the world in the weeks around this day to promote the importance of attracting more girls and women into computing study and occupations. Ayrshire College is fully behind this initiative and here is a flavour of how we are encouraging girls and women to expand their horizons.

Scotland needs programmers!

Industry body e-Skills UK forecasts that there could be up to 11,000 job opportunities in Scotland each year in technology roles and the skills investment plan for the ICT and digital technologies sector, endorsed by the Scottish Government, sets out a vision of Scotland as a world-class location for the industry to develop, invest and grow. However, women are under-represented in ICT occupations, with the rate of females in the workforce declining over a ten-year period to 2011 from 30% to 17%. Current figures show that women represent just 11 percent of IT specialists within the IT sector.

Scotland can only achieve its full potential if more people, particularly girls and women, develop computing skills. At Ayrshire College, we offer an extensive range of computing courses which are relevant to industry needs. We also work with schools to stimulate interest in computing amongst young people, particularly girls. This includes organising CoderDojo coding clubs.

CoderDojo coding clubs for girls (and boys)

Want to develop an app, write a programme or build a website? We are helping young people across Ayrshire fulfil these aspirations through CoderDojo computer coding clubs. These are free and open to seven to seventeen year olds who want to learn about coding. In partnership with CoderDojo Scotland, the College ran Ayrshire’s first ever CoderDojo club in November 2014 and has supported four more since then. Two took place in our Skills Centre of Excellence at Irvine Royal Academy – one for first year pupils (12 year olds) in the school, the other for a mixture of first, second and third year pupils (12 to 15 year olds). Other CoderDojos ran at the College’s Kilwinning and Kilmarnock campuses, and the first club in Ayr will take place on 30 April at the College.

All clubs have been oversubscribed, which shows how eager young people are to be more than just users of technology but creators too.This year, on the days before and on Girls in ICT Day, we are hosting two all-girls CoderDojo clubs. An after-school club will take place at Irvine Royal Academy on 22 April and an evening CoderDojo event is happening on 23 April.

Brother and sister give CoderDojo a big thumbs-up
Hear from different voices in computing

Throughout the week that International Girls in ICT Day takes place, we will be posting daily blogs from women in computing – some in senior positions in IT, others at the start of their careers in IT. Read posts from:

  • Dr Hannah Dee, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University and BCSWomen National Committee member
  • Loraine Johnston, Curriculum Manager for Business and Computing at Ayrshire College
  • Maggie Morrison, Director of Business Development, Public Sector at CGI Scotland
  • Lisa Watson, Apprentice at CGI Scotland
  • Caroline Stuart, Scotland Director for Oracle Corporation Ltd
  • Lynsey O’Connor, Computing Lecturer at Ayrshire College
  • Jean Anderson, former Ayrshire College IT student now working at North Ayrshire Council
  • Carol Maguire, HND Web Development and Interactive Media student at Ayrshire College
  • Colin Crook, one of the organisers of SMART STEMs 2015 aimed at 12-18 year old girls
  • Jackie Galbraith, Vice Principal at Ayrshire College and a member of the Scottish Funding Council’s Gender Action Group.

Learn about computing’s female pioneers 

Most people don’t know that women were a major influence in the early years of computing. Have you heard of Ada Lovelace or Grace Hopper? These women changed the course of history with their computing expertise yet most people haven’t heard of them – despite one having a computer programming language named after her (Ada) and the other being instrumental in the creation of the COBOL programming language! Not bad when you consider that Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago, and Grace Hopper was born in 1906.

Ada Lovelacenow referred to as the mother of programming, was a Victorian mathematician who wrote the first computer programme – yet she lived 100 years before electronic computers were built! Instead, she worked with nothing more than plans for a mechanical computer called the Analytical Engine, which was being designed by Charles Babbage. Ada’s understanding of the Engine and her imaginative approach led her to write the first computer programme and to describe a future for computing that was both visionary and amazingly accurate. She saw that a computing machine could create images and music, and not just do complicated sums. 

Grace Hopperknown as the queen of code, was born in 1906 and started computing as a 37 year old in the 1940s when she joined the US Navy during the Second World War. In the Navy, she was assigned to a project where she learned to program a Mark I computer. In 1952, her team created the first compiler for computer languages, a precursor for COBOL which was a widely adapted programming language that would be used around the world. 

Thankfully, the legacies of these women live on in initiatives to encourage new Adas and Graces to make their mark on computing. Ada Lovelace Day, which takes place every October, is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in science and technology and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference is the world’s largest annual gathering of women technologists.

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