Flossie 2012: Girls in ICT

Michael Gove's official deprecation of school ICT has given me a problem in as much as I blog about school ICT and its soon-to-be absence (at least at GCSE) kind of puts a dampener on the topic. I have, as my last post made clear, a ‘Monday morning’ scenario of the first order.

Casting around looking for news I found some via Twitter which says my old open source firm is sponsoring FLOSSIE 2012. FLOSSIE as I remembered it stood for Free, Libre Open Source Software in Education and when I last went in 2009 it featured the late Richard Rothwell and two established Computerworld notables as keynote speakers. Those were the days, FOSS was about to take schools by storm ... only it never happened as we know.

Heading over to FLOSSIE.org I fear a senior moment...it is is now about women in open source software. This does not obviously help me out with Monday but maybe I can salvage something?

Why? Because I have just seen the numbers for our students opting into the new now non-compulsory GCSE ICT/computing (with extra computing and some coding) next year. Yes indeed,, as expected there are far fewer taking the subject ( duh! it’s not compulsory) and yes there are only a handful of girls in that smaller group.

It does not take a genius to work out that this bodes ill for the number of girls taking ICT/Computing at advanced levels and university. Fewer girls exposed to computers surely can only aid the downward trend of girls taking Computer Science at university. It is already in free fall, the numbers halving in five years (down to 16%) but even more tellingly, last year, of the 2,271 students taking AQA’s Computing A Level only 148 were girls!

Apparently the problem is one of image. You may be smart, you may have the maths but if you are a girl and someone calls you a geek...well it’s all over for you.

FLOSSIE the site for women in open source software may have a cringe-worthy ex-acronym of a name with an unfortunate girlie-esque diminutive version of FLOSS but if it can make the ‘girl-geek’ an attractive soubriquet then more power to its elbow.

Lets just hope FLOSSIE does not fall foul of sexist cliche and represent ‘girls in IT’ as mere sales bunnies or secretaries rather than hard-core engineers. That won’t help. Just how do we make male and female software engineers sexy? I think we need a TV show like CSI featuring Clooney and Jolie as Linux engineers hunting evil bugs in health care software saving patients every week … that’ll get the kids on board.


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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