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Inspiring young women to take up STEM in school essential to redressing gender imbalances in the tech industry, says charity

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Inspiring young women to take up STEM in school essential to redressing gender imbalances in the tech industry, says charity

Inspiring young women and girls to take up STEM subjects in school is essential to redressing gender imbalances in the tech industry, a charity encouraging young people to take up digital careers has warned.

Women make up just 23 per cent of the Scottish tech workforce, but only 20 per cent of pupils studying National 5 Computing Science in secondary schools are female, leading the Digital Xtra Fund to warn that “only by focussing on the talent pipeline from the beginning can we make a tangible difference in the end”.

With the number of computing teachers in Scottish secondary schools falling by 24 per cent between 2008 and 2017, from 766 to 582, the Digital Xtra Fund will support 22 computing projects across the country, ranging from robotics and coding, to app development and the Internet of Things, to boost participation.

It has distributed £550,000 in support of 55 initiatives, achieving an active engagement of over 20,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

Kraig Brown, partnership and development manager at Digital Xtra Fund, said: “It is essential we inspire more girls to get into tech from primary school, leading to increased uptake in secondary and therefore more women completing Higher and Further Education with a variety of technology related qualifications. Only by focussing on the talent pipeline from the beginning can we make a tangible difference in the end.

“However, despite considerable effort, we simply do not have enough computing science teachers to reach the level of engagement required to achieve this, and these numbers are getting worse.

“More needs to be done out with the classroom to support teachers and engage more girls and young women in tech. We need to show young women what is possible and make it fun by supporting accessible and relatable activities.

“Taking tech out of the classroom can also help make the link from something they enjoy and is important to them, to a future career. When you are shown how to do something, such as coding or data analysis, and also understand why the end result is relevant, it’s only natural to be drawn in.

“For example, research has shown that girls are more likely to engage with STEM subjects when there is an obvious benefit to society or their communities which is why we see a higher proportion of women in life sciences and medicine than in other areas of science and technology.”

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