8 200 Danish children were asked their opinions on whether girls can become programmers. The results have shown an overwhelmingly positive response. The study, carried out by the Centre for the Evaluation and Development of Natural Science (NEUC), revealed that 9 out of 10 Danish girls aged 10-11 believe that coding is not just for boys, but for girls as well.
The issue of getting more women into tech jobs has been a hot topic for some time. Today, women are still underrepresented in the tech industry. In the U.S. a mere 20% of actual tech jobs are held by women.
The Girl Scout Research Institute published research that showed how a vast majority of girls are very interested in science, technology, engineering, and maths, collectively known as STEM. However, their perceived gender barriers are still high, which may explain why STEM fields are so underrepresented by women.
Outdated stereotypes and feelings of inadequacy can hold girls and women back. The research stated that as soon as girls are aware of the stereotype that they are not as good as boys at maths, they start to perform poorly. At the same time, if they are told that boys and girls perform equally, then there is no gender difference in the results.
According to the report, experts in STEM education have observed that mothers interact with their children in science museum settings differently. They found that mothers would encourage their sons more than their daughters to engage in hands-on activities in museums.
Outside of the U.S.
It is not just parents in the U.S. who are reinforcing the stereotypes. A study carried out by Epinion showed that approximately 1 in 5 Danish parents believe that girls have no interest in programming.
The underrepresentation of women in tech means that there are few role models for young girls to look up to. This issue is amplified by the stereotype that female entrepreneurs to perform poorer than men.
Research by the Lulea University of Technology showed that venture capitalists were making decisions based on these outworn gender stereotypes, even though there is evidence to the contrary. Prejudice of this kind contributes to the unbalance of men and women in tech. It is worth noting that, of the $1.4 billion venture capital invested in Swedish startups in 2017, all-female companies received less than 1%. Companies that were entirely male received 88% of the capital.
There are organisations and companies that work to empower girls and women in tech. Tech Network for Women (TENK) is a Norwegian organisation that inspires girls and women learn to programme. They run workshops and activity days for school-aged girls and recently held Girl Tech-Fest as part of Oslo Innovation Week.
In Denmark, DR and the NEUC have launched a project named ultra:bit. The project aims to give every child in an entire school year a unique opportunity to learn coding, technology and digital design. All students who started in the fourth grade in the summer of 2018 received a personal microcomputer that they will use to develop digital skills through play and teaching. The ambition is to transform children from being mere users of technology to being creative makers.
Ultimately, these projects share one common goal. To break down the existing stereotype that tech and coding is a boys-only club.
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