Why has a successful, national IT club for girls been stopped?

Why has Computer Clubs for Girls, one of the few initiatives energetically working to get young girls interesting in technology, decided to include boys as well?
Ask just about any woman in IT today what needs to be done to increase numbers of female tech staff, and the answer will almost always include, “Get them interested at a young age”.  

The club did just this – it was run by e-skills, the council that champions IT skills in the UK. And it was a real success story for the organisation, with over 100,000 girls involved and evidence that it was changing lots of attitudes.
So the news that it was being changed to include boys, with the CCG now standing for the slightly vague “connect, create, go” wasn’t received all that well in some quarters.

The problem is, despite the club’s good work, it hadn’t been going long enough to start having an impact on the number of women applying for IT-related degrees or jobs. By changing the clubs to be gender neutral it almost seems to suggest e-skills thinks it’s dealt with the gender problem.

Josie Fraser, a social and educational technology consultant, disagreed with the change. She said, “Neither CC4G or any other agency are currently able to demonstrate significant impact of publicly funded initiatives on the numbers of girls engaging with ICT, or on the nature and potential long term impacts of that engagement. There is a necessary role for initiatives which focus on girls and women.”

She added that, while the work CC4G has done so far is no doubt valuable, we need to see some research on its impact before changing its remit.

“Given the current industry figures and evidence of gender segregation, I strongly believe in supporting programmes and activities which focus exclusively on issues around girls and young women. We simply have not done enough yet.”

We asked e-skills’ for its reasons for the change, and they were three-fold. It wanted the club to fit into the national curriculum, and this, it said, “naturally meant making it gender neutral”. Second, it said teachers had asked them to allow boys to get involved.

And thirdly, it said, “With the overall decline of students going on to study IT at university we wanted to help change attitudes and perceptions among all young people – and the success of CC4G with girls clearly indicates that there is demand for activities which present IT in an exciting and inspirational way.”

Hopefully the new clubs will be successful, and get more young people excited about technology. But there are far more social influences working on girls than boys, pushing them away from technology and science – the numbers still prove this. While e-skills’ new venture sounds like a good one, it’s a shame it had to come at the expense of a much needed female-focused initiative.