It has always been a male thing…adolescent boys hunkered down in their dim, fetid bedroom fantasising about computer generated heroes…no interpersonal skills and no hope of a girlfriend. Why is it always boys? When does it start? Why do they always seem to “get” IT?
At the risk of upsetting our female readers, I suppose most men like gadgets and geeks just take this to the extreme becoming the early adopters in society. To turn this around then, they are smart, aware and engaged with technology. This is a stereotype that girls just don’t seem to enjoy, either as potential IT users themselves or by having geeks as friends.
In the mid-2000s, Geek Chic became fashionable and there was a slight surge in girls wanting to look nerdy. TV programmes like “The Big Bang Theory” though, have done nothing to encourage girls into technology as they portray girls in the industry as plain, desperate and un-dateable.
But girls are missing a trick here, as research by eSkillsUK, the sector skills council, shows that 1 in 20 of the total UK workforce is employed in IT…jobs in the sector are growing nearly 5 times faster than the UK average…over half a million new entrants are needed to fill the jobs over the next 5 years.
Over a number of years eSkillsUK have made inroads into understanding the psyche of young girls, finding that 11-14 years old is where their interest in IT gets closed down. Whether this is down to the school syllabus, the subject matter or purely down to the scarcity of other girls in IT to relate to, is up for debate, but eSkillsUK have tackled the problem on all fronts.
The first indications that female students are beginning to show an interest in Information Technology were probably missed by most of us, but figures released this week by the Joint Council for Qualifications show that more girls in total took the ICT GCSE qualification this year: 38,608 in 2013, compared to 32,994 in 2012.
Girls have also excelled from an achievement perspective: 30.9% of female candidates achieved an A* or A grade, compared with 23% of males. But less of the male ego bashing, the ICT entrants as a whole did well, since only 21.3% of all GCSEs receive an A* or A.
ICT GCSE entries have risen by 25% in 2013, with 87,788 candidates sitting the exam this year, compared with 70,420 in 2012. This is the first time since 2005 that the number of candidates has increased.
While there is a long way to go, if you believe as I do that the IT talent in UK plc is worth developing because its output is likely to drag us out of recession, give a girl geek a pat on the back.