To celebrate Girls in ICT Day an interactive 3D printing workshop was held by one of the biggest groups in the mobile phone industry to encourage 13-year-old girls from one of London's most deprived communities to get into computing and coding.
The GSM Association (GSMA) invited a class of Year 8 students from the Bridge Academy in east London to attend a workshop at the digital fabrication and prototyping workspace FabLab London, where women working in technology told them about their jobs in order to encourage girls to see computing as fun and worth pursuing.
"Just 30% of the seven million people working in the European Union's ICT sector are women, and in Silicon Valley, the sizzling mobile hub of the world, only 20% of the app developers are women, and in top-level management positions in those companies, only 11% are women," GSMA's chief strategy officer Hyunmi Yang told IBTimes UK.
"There is still much more to be done to encourage girls to choose a career path in technology, which is a problem because half of the users of mobile technology are women. In order to understand their needs, provide the right services and add the right emotional touch to the technology, we need a lot more women participating."
Dull and boring
The problem echoed by all of the female speakers at the event was the fact that girls tend to shy away from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in school as the stereotype is that computing is dull and boring.
To deal with the general lack of young people going into the ICT industry, the British government overhauled the UK education curriculum in September 2014 to introduce coding in the classroom. All of the girls from Bridge Academy are currently learning to programme their own computer games using Scratch and will soon be moving on to learn the Python coding language, too.
Nevertheless, in order to ensure girls get enough positive examples that computing is not a chore, the GSMA decided to make use of 3D printing to show the girls how coding can be creative and help them to build things that they can enjoy.
Today, only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female and a 2015 GSMA study has found only 25% of women in Europe have degrees in science and engineering.
Recent research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology has also found 39% of schoolgirls in the UK enjoy computing, design and technology, but these figures are not translating into women taking up the jobs that are available in STEM industries.
"There's a stereotype about people who work in IT that you have to be male, that it's boring and you'll be sitting in a basement eating pizza and coding alone," Laura Paterson, a senior consultant with ThoughtWorks, who has been programming for 15 years told IBTimes UK.
"ICT is a really fun place to work. It's creative and involves working with a lot of other people, and I really want to make that clear to teenage girls in particular. Teenage girls are very focused on the more social side of life and if that stereotype continues, by the time they're choosing their subjects for university, it's already too late."