Girl Geek Dinner lady: The IT Crowd is putting schoolgirls off tech
Real girls don't think Googling Google breaks the internet
Sexism in The IT Crowd and other TV shows that chronicle of life in the tech industry is preventing women from considering a career in IT, said Sarah Lamb of women-in-tech-group Girl Geek Dinners.
The IT Crowd's Jen: Not an
inspirational role model
The portrayal of IT workers as sexist and women as technically inept and foolish in the programme was unhelpful, she said, speaking at the Westminster Education Forum yesterday.
The girls in those programmes are always being teased and always being picked on, it doesn't help. It happens in the press, it happens even in schools, and it happens on the net – you see flame wars against girls that are putting across sensible comments. That culture is prevalent worldwide.
The low number of young women selecting Computer Science at school was one of the top issues on the Forum's agenda yesterday in a session dedicated to ICT education.
Lamb said that girls' lack of interest in IT was not just a UK problem, it was a trend globally, mentioning a recent UN initiative on getting more females into ICT and entrepreneurship.
But while stereotypes have a big impact on children's decisions, teen attitudes didn't help either, Lamb said. She said a culture of not wanting to appear to be clever among teenage girls combined with a desire not to stand out from the crowd stopped them from going into subjects where they felt they don't "belong".
The headmaster of a girls grammar school in outer London said that schools had a lot of work to do too. Desmond Deehan explained how he turned the situation around for the 1,500 girls from diverse backgrounds at Townley Grammar School For Girls:
When I took over as headmaster in April 2010, ICT wasn't offered, Wikipedia and YouTube were banned. Students weren't allowed to bring in any personal phones or computers. Now we have 80 students doing computer science and the first cohort is going through to A-level.
In February we took 40 of those GCSE students to Silicon Valley. We saw Google, Stanford, Intel. And seeing so many women working there was important, especially at Google, [where] 50 per cent [of the staff are] women. There were role models - and for girls, role models are a big deal - what they saw in Silicon valley is not what they see here.
He added that his school used to teach scratch programming until specialist school funding was scrapped and it was no longer able to do so.
As a final point, Deehan mentioned that a move to making the ICT curriculum more creative would make it more attractive to girls. He pressed for the government's focus on STEM subjects - Science Technology Engineering and Maths – to include the Arts.
Arts and creativity should be as a part of the STEM focus. That's why we suggest STEAM - otherwise we still see them as consumers, not creatives.
"a culture of not wanting to appear to be clever among teenage girls combined with a desire not to stand out from the crowd"
That's not limited to teenage girls, it's the same with all teenagers. Even back in the mid-90's when I was doing my GCSEs there was massive peer pressure to do poorly, or not to study.
Calm down dear....
Sarah... poppet.... the IT crowd is a COMEDY. It doesn't 'chronicle life in the tech industry' - that would be a DOCUMENTARY, like Hollyoaks..
I call it the snobbery of indifference: it's cool to be cool in the sense of not really caring about anything, and certainly not about learning. I am not sure it is a world-wide thing, I see many more people in the east doing computer science (or indeed any science or engineering course), and that includes a lot of women. I have seen a similar pattern in Uganda, where many girls do Computer Science. I think people in many non-western countries have way more respect of science and engineering, because they are all too aware of the huge benefits they bring. Many westerners are all too complacent in that respect. Many kids just want to get rich quick or be famous (often willing to debase themselves on TV for such purposes).
Teach them the fun and excitement of science and technology early on (before puberty) and you stand a much better chance of winning them over.
Re: Sexist joke alert
Sexist jokes (that aren't even funny) aside, the problem is that there are people with axes to grind... like picking on a show that is made up entirely out of stereotypes, where everyone is ridiculous and inept in some way or another, and managing to take from that that its all about discouraging girls from doing computer sciences in school.
(Because as a male of the species after watching the IT crowd I became convinced that the only way forward was a career in IT and completely destroying any notion of a social life/emotional intelligence that I may have had up until that point... either that or become psycotic and join management.)
Torchwood, Bones, Firefly (ok, engineer more than computers), 24, Jurrasic Park, Hackers, The Net: Series and movies from the top of my head that have strong female characters who also happen to be the techy ones / computer experts.. although quite a few of them still include the old stereotype that computers steal your social life...
Maybe they should look at why so few girls pick the subject rather than making uneducated guesses.. or maybe they should ask the ones that do why they chose it.
Failing that we need to take off and nuke ourselves from orbit, it's the only way to make sure :(
(in case anyone missed my point above it was that portraying Jen as a blubbering idiot (but with the social skills so sorely lacked by the male members of the show) is unlikely to have a massive impact on the education choices of young girls (or boys).
Completely agree, male or female, as a teenager there is so much pressure to try and blend in as those who stand out from the crowd can often end up isolated and/or bullied.