Girls from high schools across Glasgow have been offered an insight into careers in computing science at a hackathon event at the University of Glasgow.
The event, organised by dressCode, the award-winning non-profit coding charity, aimed to help address the gender imbalance in the tech sector by offering young women an introduction to careers in computing and was supported by Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science (STACS).
Women hold fewer than one in five jobs in Scotland’s digital technologies sector, a similar gender gap to the one found in secondary education.
In 1995 35% of pupils studying computing science in high school were female, but in recent years that has dropped to 20%.
A total of 40 S1 and S2 pupils from five Glasgow high schools took part in the event on Wednesday 1 February, which was sponsored by ScottishPower and JP Morgan.
Pupils from St Andrews RC, Larkhall Academy, Kings Park Academy, Hillpark Secondary and Rosshall Academy formed teams to tackle a computing science challenge. Each team was mentored by senior pupils from St Ninian’s.
Over the course of the event, they were tasked with editing code and designing a web page to support an online campaign about the importance of renewable energy.
STACS is a teacher-led organisation which works to support the computing science teacher community. It was created and funded by the Scottish Government to improve Computing Science provision in Scotland, and is based at the University of Glasgow.
Toni Scullion is the founder of dressCode and the co-lead of STACS. She said: “A more diverse tech sector is a better tech sector in every way, It’s important to reach girls as early as possible, giving them opportunities to see how coding works which are accessible, understandable, and help them envision a career in computing science.
“At dressCode, we’ve been running these events regularly for a few years now, and it’s always fantastic to see how engaged girls are by the challenges we set for them.
“As one of the co-leads of STACS, and a computing science teacher myself, it’s also great to engage with computing science teachers at these hackathons. Hearing their thoughts and feedback on the sector, and what they’re doing to inspire and lead young people into computing science careers, is invaluable in helping us do our part to move things forward.”
Professor Quintin Cutts is leader of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Computing Science Education. He added: “Computing science isn’t just about learning how to code – it’s also about teaching pupils to think creatively and solve problems, which is a skill transferrable to every career.
“Learning computing science helps young people understand the technology which underpins our everyday lives and will transform our future. Scotland needs many more software engineers, and we hope events like these will help create a pipeline of well-trained professionals, not just in that area but also people who will work across industry and commerce with a real command of the technology that makes their careers possible.
“I was delighted to help host this workshop with dressCode and STACS. These events are great for pupils, who get to learn from industry experts and support each other, and for teachers as well, who get to see new ways of encouraging kids to engage with computing science.”
Sara Jenkins, Computing Science teacher from St Ninian’s High School, Giffnock said: “It was a privilege for our female pupils to be invited to the hackathon as senior mentors. As role models who are already considering taking their computing studies into further and higher education, they enjoyed supporting and encouraging the younger girls with the hackathon challenge. It has been a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to lead and inspire the younger generation to explore the endless possibilities of a career in the tech sector for girls.”