What do teens think about tech subjects?

GUEST BLOG: The tech industry is notorious for being heavily male, with many blaming the early pipeline for deterring girls from choosing to study tech-based subjects or consider tech careers later on. In this guest blog post, GCSE student, Rebecca Flinders, discusses the differing opinions of teen boys and girls when it comes to tech subjects, and whether this highlights some of the reasons behind the uneven gender split later in the pipeline.

From a teenage girl’s perspective, I rarely find tech-based subjects interesting as the way they are taught at my school makes them extremely challenging. I’ve never really considered IT as a future career, and I never engaged in computer science classes pre-GCSE. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because teenage girls aren’t encouraged to pursue this career choice as much as teenage boys are, and if my view on tech would be different if I was encouraged more when I started secondary school.

I began to explore this topic in more depth by asking some of my friends if they enjoyed learning about tech, and if they could see themselves taking it on as a career in the future. My friend Jaylen, 14 years old, said: “I’d do it as a job because it’s something I have a passion for. I love the challenge and also being able to see your creations come to life.” Similarly, my friend Venus, 15 years old, said: “I currently find computer science interesting and it’s one of the fields I’m considering.”

However, not everyone considered IT as a possible career. My friend Zara, 16 years old, said she’d “love to” if she were “good at science/tech” but felt she wasn’t really interested in these subjects.

Likewise, when I asked my friend Sofia, 15 years old, if she would consider a tech career, she said: “Probably not because I’m not that interested in computer science related stuff and it seems over complicated.” Although a lot of my friends enjoy computer science, the majority are unsure about whether they would consider it for their future.

On the other hand, I also interviewed some boys about IT and if they enjoyed learning about tech-based subjects. One of the boys interviewed, Dylan, 12 years old, claimed to be interested in artificial intelligence (AI).

He said: “I think there is a good chance I could end up in IT.”

Likewise, Anton, 17 years old – who is currently studying A-Level Computer Science – said: “I would definitely say going into IT can be a very exciting career to go into right now, as it has endless opportunities and incentives driving investment and job security, and is definitely a pathway in the future.” He also talked about whether he would take on a career path associated with IT, saying: “One thing I can be certain of is that what career I do decide, IT and computing will be heavily involved.”

These results were rather surprising, as I did not expect so many of the people I asked to be interested in a career in IT. While both the girls and the boys I asked are mostly keen on learning about IT, the girls pointed out the hardship of it being ‘over complicated’ and challenging. As a teen who goes to an all-girls school, I believe that this could be because of the lack of excitement and encouragement in the way they teach tech-based subjects to young women. The boys interviewed rarely mentioned any struggles with learning about IT, possibly they are more likely to be encouraged to take on this type of career than girls.

Why is it that so many young girls across the UK find the concept of tech so challenging? Past research by Accenture found more than half of 12-year-old girls say science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are “too hard”, but women then regret not taking them later in life.

I think that the prominent issue of a lack of women working in IT is mainly caused by a lack of inspiration and not being pushed enough by their schools to take on this career path. Women tend to be less confident in themselves and very modest when talking about STEM, often pointing out the challenges and how they don’t believe they are good enough.

This clearly needs to change, as women deserve to be confident in themselves and passionate about the things they enjoy. There are so many inspirational women in IT, but they are rarely talked about in schools or amongst the public. Why don’t we talk more about them? Women should have more representation for the struggles they went through and the accomplishments they made. This would encourage more young women to believe in themselves and consider IT as a possible career path. Representation is key.

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