Why girls do not opt for ICT or careers in ICT

 

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reasons why girls do not opt for ict and careers in ict this is an internationally recognised issue and there can be no definite answer however to summarise some of the thoughts on the topic the image of ict and ict professions is claimed to be repelling to women a common argument is that women associate ict with hackers and nerds leading to a view of such activities as boring asocial and only interesting to men i there are few significant differences in girls access to and use of technology within schools but at home the differences are more marked girls have lower levels of access at home compared with boys and generally use ict less girls use ict more for school work whereas boys use it more for leisure purposes a large proportion of this difference can be accounted for by boys greater use of computer/console games ii although there is little evidence that girls are less skilled than boys in the use of ict indeed in some areas they show greater skill girls generally feel less confident in their ability to use technology iii there is no evidence to suggest that ict intrinsically suits boys better than girls there is however compelling evidence that the competitive skill-based noncollaborative nature of many computer games even educational ones is demotivating for girls iv overall the evidence suggests that girls interest in ict decreases as they progress through school v the context in which girls use ict in school is crucial to realising the benefits of technology girls do less well when working together with boys possibly as a result of both their own and boys stereotypical views of technology vi at secondary level girls are less responsive to ict use than boys vii girls show less interest in and enthusiasm for ict as they get older viii girls are less likely to believe they will succeed at computer-related tasks and when they do they are more likely to attribute their success to luck rather than skill ix girls are more likely to see failure as being a result of their own lack of ability regardless of the actual cause unlike boys who tend to blame the equipment x socialisation is a theme which occurs frequently in the literature on gender and ict the influence of peers parents teachers and the media is noted as being a major factor ­ perhaps the major factor ­ affecting girls confidence self-efficacy and attitudes towards ict numerous studies have found the existence of stereotyping in relation to gender and ict which can according to cooper 2006 become self-reinforcing ­ girls learn that computers are `boys toys which increases their anxiety around ict leading to negative attitudes and poor performance this poor performance is taken as evidence that the stereotype is correct xi there is a consensus in the literature that playing computer games is the activity which accounts for much of the difference in girls and boys out of school use of ict kent and facer 2004 valentine et al 2005 found that 70 per cent of boys used consoles at least once a week compared with only 32 per cent of girls girls are less likely to be intense game players and more often play games when bored rather than as a first choice activity kirriemuir and macfarlane 2004 a bbc-commissioned report bbc 2005 of uk

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game-playing found that while the gender split amongst gamers is not that great 45 per cent female 55 per cent male those who play games more frequently are more likely to be male 27 per cent compared to 21 per cent female more recently ofcom 2008 found that boys reported higher use of games consoles than girls and were far more likely to cite games as the media activity they would miss most if it were taken away 21 per cent of 12-15 year old boys compared with 3 per cent of girls a study of pre-school children in scotland suggested that game-playing is seen as a gendered activity by parents games consoles were bought primarily for boys suggesting that girls opportunities to play games are restricted from an early age plowman and stephen 2003 the only subject in which boys were more likely than girls to use a home computer for school work was ict a subject boys tend to enjoy more this suggests that ict use is more influenced by attitudes towards the subject than attitudes towards technology itselfxii pre-school girls seem to embark on life just as interested as boys in computers but somewhere along the way the rot sets in so that only a mere fraction of the country s computer graduates are female which means that an enormous number of skilled jobs are closed to girls when they leave school and the e-skills industries in turn are finding it hard to get people of the right calibre xiii only about 20 per cent of the workforce is female and of the women who go into it many leave to have their families and so on part of the problem is the it and telecommunications image people tend to think of geeky long-haired boys playing war games xiv although teenage girls are now using computers and the internet at rates similar to their male peers they are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career or plan on taking xv post-secondary technology classes women are under-represented at all levels in the ict sector xvi o women are especially under-represented in decision-making positions in the ict o sector o successfully encouraging women to enter and stay in the sector could be a significant o part of the solution for the skills gap o a code of best practices for women in ict would be a useful start in the process of o solving the skills gap problem statistics one in five of the uk s it workforce are women xvii one in five undertaking it-related degree courses are women xviii possible ways forward as valentine et al 2005 points out girls-only computer clubs can be beneficial as they give girls a chance to use ict without the fear that they will have to compete with boys or that being seen using computers will spoil their social identities xix

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however it is worth noting that despite the success of such clubs there are those who believe that creating clubs activities and software aimed specifically at girls is actually perpetuating the stereotypical idea that `mainstream ict is the domain of boys xx mobile phones are one technology where girls are significantly ahead of boys in terms of both their use and ownership according to ofcom 2008 amongst children aged 12-15 girls show a significantly higher level of mobile phone use than boys they also use their mobile phone for a broader range of purposes xxi the 2008 ofcom media literacy audit ofcom 2008 found that 12-15 year old girls are considerably more likely to have set up a social networking profile than boys 51 per cent compared to 38 per cent the 2008 audit also found that girls make broader use of the internet than boys engaging in a wider range of creative and participatory activities online in particular there are notable differences in what may be termed `web 2.0 activities such as adding comments to a website and posting an online diary or blog cc4g celebrity projects where girls can run an interview design a fanzine and advertise and promote a rock concert sound projects where girls can use a mixing desk create a sound script for a drama production and compose riffs and jingles fashion projects where girls can plan and promote a fashion show catalogue fashion and explore accessorising dance projects where girls can create digital dance moves and plan and create disco lighting writing projects where girls can create stories with pictures words and sounds create board and computer games and build a game sports projects where girls can create videos and animations promote sports teams monitor training and fitness levels and plan a school sports event digital projects where girls can create and manipulate digital video develop codes and create a mobile phone design projects where girls can design a teenage girl s bedroom design a garden for a partiallysighted person and market an energy-efficient office organise events which will show role models of women successfully working in ict to young girls and break the geek stereotype shadowing girls lab and information days in secondary schools as well as seminars and career orientation days in co-operation with school authorities xxii

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organise projects for teachers trainers and parents in order to inform them what technology is about possible job opportunities and in general to fight technophobia as well as encourage environments conducive to ict careers both at home and school organise workshops/meetings/school visits to companies for female students in secondary education to make contacts and start mentoring processes with tertiary education students who have opted for ict-related engineering studies or with young female engineers who have already qualified sponsor initiatives where senior female engineers as ambassadors for science will train female students from major scientific study courses to promote scientific careers in schools for example in the ways described above organise sponsorship of school projects summer technical camps and finance competitions awards technology projects school film productions aiming to break stereotypes promote role models and show different facets of ict work conclusion overall though it seems that unlike boys girls are generally not motivated by the use of technology for its own sake the stereotypical notion of computers being the domain of males still exists as does a tendency for the content and design of software to favour boys interests and preferences this leads to girls lack of confidence and perceived lack of ability hence the lower numbers of girls interested in it as a career or engaging in more prolific or advanced use of ict particularly gaming and programming however that is not to say that girls do not enjoy using ict in their learning and in building and maintaining social networks ­ indeed they are more proficient in this kind of use and related creative and participatory activities than boys recent developments in social and collaborative technologies and the shift of emphasis towards the embedding of ict across school subjects would in fact seem to favour girls more than boys even in the traditionally male domain of games trends in game design have the potential to make games more appealing to and appropriate for girls this carries with it the risk that ict will widen the attainment gap between boys and girls rather than narrow it xxiii i http www.rcss.ed.ac.uk/sigis/public/theme/fun/1 how do boys and girls differ in their use of ict becta.org ed becta 2008 web http partners.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/page_documents/research/gender_ict_briefing.pdf iii ibid iv ibid v ibid vi ibid vii underwood jean impact 2007 personalising learning with technology rep becta ii

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viii sanders jo gender and technology a research review june 2005 http www.josanders.com/pdf/gendertech0705.pdf ix cooper j 2006 the digital divide the special case of gender journal of computer assisted learning 22 pp 320-334 x how do boys and girls differ in their use of ict becta.org ed becta 2008 web http partners.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/page_documents/research/gender_ict_briefing.pdf xi cooper j 2006 the digital divide the special case of gender journal of computer assisted learning 22 pp 320-334 xii valentine g et al 2005 children and young people s home use of ict for educational purposes the impact on attainment at key stages 1 4 dfes research brief no rb672 [http www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/rb672.pdf xiii why girls need to switch onto computing independent.co.uk the independent 12 jan 2006 web [http www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/why-girls-need-to-switchon-to-computing-522546.html xiv why girls need to switch onto computing independent.co.uk the independent 12 jan 2006 web [http www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/why-girls-need-to-switchon-to-computing-522546.html xv melymuka kathleen if girls don t get it it won t get girls computerworld.com 08 jan 2001 web [http www.computerworld.com/s/article/55910/if_girls_don_t_get_it_it_won_t_get_girls tax onomyid=057 xvi european code of best practices for women and ict european commission european commission web [http ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/itgirls/doc/code.pdf xvii http www.cc4g.net/en/faqs xviii ibid xix valentine g et al 2005 children and young people s home use of ict for educational purposes the impact on attainment at key stages 1 4 dfes research brief no rb672 [http www.dfes.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/rb672.pdf xx how do boys and girls differ in their use of ict becta.org ed becta 2008 web http partners.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/page_documents/research/gender_ict_briefing.pdf xxi ofcom 2008 media literacy audit report on uk children s media literacy ofcom [http www.ofcom.org.uk/advice/media_literacy/medlitpub/medlitpubrss/children xxii european code of best practices for women and ict european commission european commission web [http ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/itgirls/doc/code.pdf xxiii how do boys and girls differ in their use of ict becta.org ed becta 2008 web http partners.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/page_documents/research/gender_ict_briefing.pdf

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