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Program to help empower young women pursue a future in IT

Steph Clayton + Jill Brandsema

Two University of Tasmania lecturers will soon be leading a learning initiative to help break down gender barriers and empower young girls interested in pursuing IT.

The School of Education's Stephanie Clayton and Jillian Brandsema, in partnership with the Cradle Coast Zonta Club, have secured a Tasmanian Community Fund grant of more than $10,000.

It will be used to establish the Girls' Programming Network (GPN) in Tasmania for the first time, rolling out in locations across the State’s North-West.

The national initiative provides opportunities for adolescent girls to attend free coding workshops, learn new skills, and network with peers and industry role models.

It also works to dismantle the stereotype of computer science being a predominantly male career by providing girls with positive and engaging technology experiences to spark and fuel their interest.

Dr Clayton said bringing the program to the region would help create supportive, encouraging and positive female-focused technology experiences.

“The Girls’ Programming Network is all about having a go at something new and experiencing those ‘I can do this’ moments,” Dr Clayton said.

“It is about creating a sense of belonging and meeting peers with similar interests, as well as mentors, and seeing what career and future opportunities there are in computer science.

“These free workshops will provide opportunities for young girls living in the region to experience programming activities and extend their prior knowledge.

“The great thing about GPN is that it is inclusive of all adolescent girls, regardless of experience, and each workshop is a standalone event which will see them complete a project in a day.

“It is a great opportunity to be working with the Zonta Club of Cradle Coast to deliver these workshops. They already support initiatives for further education for women so this project aligns really well with their mission.

“As a university that it is committed to its communities, we are excited to be supporting the establishment of the network in Tasmania, particularly in a region where there can be less extracurricular educational opportunities.”

Subject to COVID-19 developments and Public Health guidelines, it is hoped the program can commence later in the year.

A total of eight workshops will take place in Burnie, Circular Head and Latrobe over a 12-month period, with almost 200 girls to benefit.

Ms Brandsema said it was essential to provide such opportunities to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM education and careers.

“If we do not offer engaging social opportunities for girls to have positive experiences with computer science, they will not enrol in these subjects during their secondary and tertiary education, and will not pursue careers in this field,” Ms Brandsema said.

Both Stephanie and Jillian are members of the Zonta Club of Cradle Coast.

Pictured from left; Dr Stephanie Clayton and Ms Jillian Brandsema

Published on: 28 Jul 2020 11:52am