Sixty Melbourne schoolgirls are bound for California’s Silicon Valley next week, in what sounds like the excursion of a lifetime.
But aside from being an awesome field trip, the Melbourne Girls Grammar students, aged between 11 and 13, could be the change Australia’s tech bosses have been calling for.
Encouraging more women to consider tech careers option is a task the industry’s leaders have championed, including Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.
Similarly, Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie has said computer education and coding needs to be taught from the early stages of school.
The lack of women working in Australia’s tech sector has been flagged repeatedly by both sides of the gender divide. Data out of the US, released in various company reports last year showed that women hold between 10-20% of the tech related jobs in tech companies.
In companies such as Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn, women make up about half of the non-tech jobs, and about one-third of the total workforce.
Melbourne Girls Grammar e-learning director Mary-Lou O’Brien said at school technology is embedded throughout the curriculum and students have the opportunity to participate in programs focused on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), something she hopes will foster a strong skill set in these young women.
“We are so fortunate at Melbourne Girls Grammar to have the opportunity to engage girls with STEM at such a young age. Starting at the higher levels is far more difficult but if they are led to believe that playing with technology, engineering, coding and robotics is completely normal for girls, they grow up, not just believing but actually knowing that they can do anything,” O’Brien said.
Training and encouraging women into the tech sector could be one solution for filling the skills shortages.
While on the science and enterprise tour in the US, the girls will visit the Bill & Melinda Foundation head office in Seattle, The Chabot Space Centre, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Stanford University, Google Headquarters in Mountain View, and a highlight is expected to be the student conference: “Young Women for Enterprise and Innovation”.
The students will also participate in a number of computer science workshops led by former Google employee Pamela Fox.