"We have been running these days for girls aged 11-16 for some years," says BCS member Roger Cook. "This year one daughter's remark, 'IT is just about being a glorified typist,' was a bit of a stunner. We have a large and serious IT department here, with a whole range of activities, so how did this view arise?"
Cook puts it down to the way IT is presented in schools. "Pupils see basic office software and the Internet. Usually they cover most of this in primary school and feel they are just repeating a large part of it in secondary school. They get no serious introduction to computing, such as elementary programming. It is as if children are being taught that computers are glorified typewriters," he says.
"We can all help to dispel this myth and encourage schoolgirls to understand that IT is alive and dynamic."
Denise Ramsden, the main organiser of the event, says, "A daughters at work day takes some organising and it must show the IT unit complete, warts and all - but it has the potential to show the real world of IT. Staff involvement from top to bottom is needed, and strong female role models certainly help.
"We hope our efforts may encourage one or two to take up IT careers. It was a major boost to hear several say they had not realised we did so many interesting things; some talked of pursuing options needed to work in various IT fields.
Cook says, "Give it a go. You can show that you really do a valuable job, you can overcome prejudices about IT, and maybe you will plant the seeds of a career that will result in a fundamental advance in computing around 2010-2015."
Ramsden has some practical advice for firms considering such an event. "Decide your target age. Send out details, set a deadline for applications and, if possible, offer more than one day," she says. "Involve all sections: this will show that you are all part of the integrated IT field.
"Give visitors a chance to create or process an item - a form, a draft record - to give them a practical example to take home. Explain all jargon and avoid it where possible. Give out notes about areas visited: visitors can remind themselves of what they saw and show their school what they did.
"Ask fellow workers with experience of the age range for advice - for example, anyone involved in youth work or Guides. Give out a goody bag. If this contains practical items such as pens, pads, T-shirts and mouse mats, the day will be remembered long after the event. Your suppliers may help here - Parity was a great help with our goody bags."
More ideas can be found at www.guides.org.uk/daughters/index.asp
Tips for organising a daughters at work day
- Decide on a target age group
- Send out details, set a deadline for applications and, if possible, offer more than one day
- Involve all sections of the IT department
- Offer the chance to create or process an item to give them a practical example to take home
- Avoid or explain technical jargon
- Give out notes about the areas they visit and what people do there
- Ask fellow workers with experience of the age range for advice
- Give out a goody bag of items such as pens, pads, T-shirts and mouse mats - suppliers may be able to help with this.