BUSINESS BLOG: Encouraging young women to get into Digital with #GirlTechLCR

by Rose Mountague, Creative Director, Epiphany & She Does Digital

2017_02_02 Ahead Partnership AQL_1669

Our Business Blogs are an honest insight into the partnerships we have with businesses all over the UK and the impact we help them to have in their communities. This post comes from Rose at Epiphany and She Does Digital who volunteered alongside Danielle Harrison at our very first digital event #GirlTechLCR.

We jumped at the opportunity to talk to young women across Leeds about creative design in the digital sector. The event brought an array of businesses together from across the sector with participants from aql (our hosts), Jet2, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Siemens, The University of Bradford, WYG and Advancery talking to over 200 Year 8 and 9 female students across schools in Yorkshire to raise aspirations, inspire and educate them about roles in the digital sector.

There is a huge demand for digital skills in the UK. It’s estimated that by 2022 1.2 million people will be needed to fill the jobs that will exist in the sector. Leeds has over 3,500 digital businesses and this is only set to keep rising.

Despite the demand for jobs, the number of females in the digital and creative sectors is steadily declining and has been since 2010. The #GirlTechCR event was also about challenging gender stereotypes in the sector. Currently only 26% of those working in the sector are women. This is an issue very close to our hearts and one we are very passionate about changing.

As well as our day jobs, Danielle and I are also a part of a new initiative called She Does Digital. She Does Digital is a collective of volunteers currently working in digital who want to raise awareness and highlight the opportunities and careers available in the digital industry. We are working to close the digital skills gap in our city, but we focus our attention and effort on encouraging more women into the sector.

One of our four core objectives is to educate and inspire young people about the digital sector. #GirlTechCR was an opportunity for us to introduce the students to many different digital roles and to start educating them and breaking down the barriers. It was the perfect opportunity for Danielle and I to talk to them about our particular specialism; digital design.

We ran nine 20-minute interactive workshops with the girls, giving them a quick overview into digital design; what it is, what it’s like to be a designer and how they could get into it. Using the Epiphany creative portfolio we showcased some of the work that we do every day.

The enthusiasm and energy of the students was incredible. Each group we talked to brought their own questions, their own experiences and their own personalities to each session. There was definitely a buzz in the room as students went from workshop to workshop. You could tell that they were really engaged with what was being talked about by all involved.

To end our session we did a quick practical exercise to give the students a taster to what it's like to think like a designer. As designers we are always brainstorming to come up with ideas.

We asked them to think creatively about ideas they had to encourage more girls like them to get into the digital sector and what we could do next after #GirlTechCR.

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The ideas the students came up with were remarkable. They gave us a unique insight into how they’d like to find out more about the digital sector and how we can reach them in a more engaging way. We wanted to share some of these ideas with you as their parents and teachers.

There were some key themes that came out consistently in each group:

1. Start doing interactive workshops in schools
2. Raise awareness and promote female role models working in digital
3. Give the students opportunities to visit local digital businesses and experience the different job roles themselves
4. Create a Girl Tech Club or some taster sessions during lunch, after school or during lesson time

There is a big opportunity for the young people of this city if we can educate and inspire them early. There is a key role for businesses and schools to work together to give students the insight and information they need to think about starting their career in digital.

We thoroughly enjoyed #GirlTechLCR and we’d love to be part of the next chapter of the event. We’d love to do more events like this and would like to thank the Ahead Partnership for getting us involved in this first event of its type. Hopefully, some of the ideas the students have come up with can help give us a head-start to some of the things we could do next to inspire and encourage them to get into the digital industry.

Find out more about She Does Digital over on their Facebook page >>

You can also follow their progress live on our Twitter feed by clicking here or following #MaketheGrade.

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