International Women’s Day: Girls need better role models and a technology curriculum that appeals to their interests, say female EdTech entrepreneurs

Business Sector, Education Sector, Government & Policy

More girls would be attracted to the EdTech industry if the school curriculum appealed to their interests and strengths, and if they had better role models, some of EDUCATE’s leading female entrepreneurs have said.

Commenting on International Women’s Day, they said girls were often put off from careers in science and technology because of gender stereotyping that began in the home and continued during their school lives. Girls were more likely to be ‘protected’ from failure and encouraged less to take risks, than boys.

But they also believed that the EdTech industry and working in start-ups were an ideal environment for women to thrive, because of the smaller scale of projects and the need for a combination of creative thinking and science and technology knowledge.

Female entrepreneurs currently make up about 27% of the UCL EDUCATE programme, and some of its best known and most successful companies are run by women.

Emma Rogers, CEO of Little Bridge, said: “Role models – such as Rose Luckin – are hugely important. I was one of only two girls in the physics class at school. Today, there’s still a bias away from science for girls. We should be encouraging girls to see how they can use their creativity and make an impact with science, since when you talk to girls these are the kinds of things that matter to them.”

Sandra Sobanska, business development and growth manager of Oyalabs, said start-ups were an ideal place for women to begin a career in EdTech. “In this environment where the results matter and agile collaboration is the default mode of working, women feel more empowered to take the initiative and progress through the ranks if they bring forward solutions that worked.

“Unfortunately, the home environment and stereotypical upbringing still remain a barrier to girls thinking of themselves as potentially suited for a technical role.”

Heather Lyons, director of blue[shift], said the messaging around science and technology in schools needed to be more appealing to girls.

“Computing and technology needs to be made relevant to girls,” she said.

“We need to communicate why girls should be interested in technology. If you tell a girl that she’s learning skills that could help her design a better version of Snapchat or Instagram, or that you’re using it to solve real world problems such as inclusion or the environment, it’s more compelling than telling her she’s learning ‘Python’.

“Currently, there simply are not enough women studying computer science and related subjects.”

Becky Sage, CEO of Interactive Scientific, suggested more project and challenge-based learning, for which technology is an enabler for change, would encourage a wider group of people to engage with technology careers.

“Girls are very proficient technologists, but they need the opportunity to experience what it is like to apply technology to applications that they care about,” she said. “There needs to be a closer link between technology skills and content taught in schools and real world/working skills.”

Meanwhile, Nukhet Vardar, founder of Brands Whisper’g, also believed stereotyping and differences in opportunities for women in education was a cause of girls considering some careers over others. “If gender inequality in eradicated from education, we will observe a much wider improvement across sectors,” she said.

Priya Lakhani, CEO and founder of CENTURY Tech, said “role models, role models and more role models” were needed to show girls they could succeed in EdTech, and that parents and teachers needed to “stop raising girls to fear failure”.

She added: “I know that many girls and women feel like technology isn’t for them, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Through my work I’m lucky enough to meet hundreds of girls in schools across the world, from Basingstoke to Beirut, and there’s a real sense that things are starting to change.

“Women are finally feeling able to achieve whatever they set their mind to, in whichever field they choose.”

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