It's not clever to be clever

I attended the Westminster Education Forum National Curriculum this week, where IT professionals, teachers and educational bodies discussed the government’s decision to remove ICT from the school curriculum two years before a new computer science curriculum is rolled out.

During this forum the issue of gender was raised several times, with speakers and members of the audience sharing their experiences of working with young girls.

The overall view was that young girls do not think it is cool to be seen as clever – they think being seen as intelligent and bright means they are social failures. A female member of the audience said some girls who are viewed as clever will try to hide their light under a bushel.

Thankfully there were several women in the room that disagreed with girls hiding their intelligence and so shared their experiences. One of these was Sarah Lamb, founder of Girl Geek Dinners. She said: “I was one of those girls that decided to continue with ICT and chose computer science.” She didn’t view herself as being a social failure, by picking a ‘geeky’ subject to study. Women like Sarah find it empowering to be in a male dominated industry, as it gives her more drive to succeed.

She stressed that girls need more positive female role models to look towards, instead of the negative stereotypical images of women that are often portrayed by the media.

It seems that young girls need to be caught early and encouraged in areas where they seem to naturally shine – especially if this is in subjects that are usually considered to be taken up by males.

One audience member asked Ian Livingstone, life president of gaming company Eidos, if he felt it was the gaming industry’s duty to stop stereotyping women in derogatory roles through video games. As the creator of Tomb Raider, Livingstone naturally defended the games industry saying they are working on this issue.

Interestingly on my way to work this morning I read an article in the Metro detailing uproar over the new Tomb Raider video game, which sees Lara Croft badly beaten in an ‘attempted rape scene.’

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