Closing The Gender Gap in Tech starts at Childhood

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From language to toys, teaching the girl child necessary skills and demystifying gender myths from the very early stages of life could encourage more and more girls into careers in tech. The gender imbalance in the tech industry is not a secret. Women only hold 17% of all the tech-specific jobs in the United States. Projects to tackle the problem are becoming widespread but are usually aimed at career women. From mentorship programs to conferences, society is doing all within reach to make sure that the girl child is incorporated into the world of tech.

There is overgrowing evidence that suggests that how we grow up and the experiences we encounter during childhood go a long way to shape who we become in our adult years. Children have an idea of their gender roles at the tender age of 10 or 11 years. According to a social psychologist at Birmingham City University, Elle Boag, children who are at the tender age of seven years have an idea of the different roles and jobs that both men and women play in society. There are multiple and varied factors that influence this. For instance, critics have argued that specific toys can shape career interests for girls. Teachers and parents also play a primary role in determining career preferences for children.

Research carried out by the Institute of Engineering and Technology has concluded that the outdated perceptions by parents for the specific career paths for men and women have undermined the interest of the girl child from pursuing careers in tech. These occupations include science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). The study inferred that parents were more likely to encourage their daughters to pursue careers in education and care. Boag said that the society expects girls to be more caring and creative while the boys are expected to be good in PE and maths despite there being no biological predisposition for that.

Boag said that society found it difficult to avoid the myth even though most of us are aware that those beliefs are not valid because that’s how the human brain functions. She added that society creates patterns for the younger generation to follow. Repeated behaviors will enable children to express and explore developing thoughts and ideas through their exploration and play. Projects that target children at the nursery and primary level are still in their early stages. Stem ambassador is the biggest project funded by the government whose aim is to provide role models for children in science and technology fields.

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