The musings of an empathetic mum, teacher, leader and global digital citizen
(aka Mrs V)

PART 11: Girls, Tech and the Power of Yet!

‘I’m a girl who loves Tech… what is your superpower?’

Man, I love this statement! But I just wish I heard it more often.

It is fairly common to hear concerns in the media about the lack of girls or women in Tech. There has been a fairly consistent push over the past 10-15 years for educators, universities, entrepreneurs and the Tech industry to significantly increase the uptake of Girls in Tech.

For me this is not so much a topic for debate but rather a focus for direction and development… and so I find myself pondering:

  • How can I, as an educator, encourage more girls into Tech?
  • What prevents girls from stepping into this world?
  • And globally, why DO we see more guys in Tech and girls in teaching… more guys in engineering and girls in nursing… more guys in science and girls in administrative roles?

I wonder…

  • Is it a generational hangover? — Deep down in some ways I think it is… but there must be more to it.
  • Is it bound in some way to the never-ending debate over nature vs nurture? — Perhaps, but I am not opening that can of worms today!
  • Is it a societal expectation? — I believe this is still the case, but the good news is that for a growing group I believe these barriers are lifting.

I suspect that it is at least a combination of all these points, however I do think there is something we can all do to change this situation for ourselves and in particular our Tech-minded girls. Allow me to elaborate.

As an educational leader it is often my job to look past the problem to find a solution. If the strategic consensus is that there is something we can do to enrich our students’ lives, to make it better for them and open more doors,  then I believe that is where my energy, time and thinking needs to be.

I have needed to cultivate my thinking to see past why something cannot be achieved and to look for a new pathway for achievement… then another new way… then another.

I think this same process of hitting a barrier and bouncing back is a key to getting girls into Tech and other areas of the workforce traditionally thought of as more ‘for the boys’.

A mastery of this type of thinking, turned into action will see girls thrive in their individual endeavours, and set them up to feel more confident in challenging the status quo when pursuing higher education or entering the workforce — especially if they pursue less gender-traditional areas of interest.  I am of course talking about the development of a Growth Mindset.

So what is a Growth Mindset?

For over 30 years, Dweck has led the charge in seeking answers and understanding around children’s attitudes to failure. Carol and her team noticed quickly that some students are prone to rebound quickly from failure while others would plummet into utter devastation at the point of failure. Some students with a particularly fixed mindset won’t even try if they think they could fail. This certainly doesn’t help our more Tech-minded girls who may already feel an up-hill battle in perusing the more Tech areas of interest or career paths.

Carol describes it as follows:

In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence and their talents, are fixed traits. They believe they have a certain amount — and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and avoid looking dumb at all costs.

In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed, and more importantly recognised, through effort, good teaching and persistence.

The Power of YET!

As educators we will often encourage by adding the word YET!

“You haven’t got it yet, but I have never seen you as focussed as you were today.“

“That was a great effort but you’re not quite there yet, what can we try next time?”

There is no doubt that generational attitudes, societal expectations and nature vs nuture could also be dissected in this conversation about how to increase the uptake of Girls in areas of Tech, however, they are very heavy, very large mountains to try and move. Instead I say, let’s focus on helping our kids — especially our girls — believe in themselves and develop the resilience to push through any boundaries or stereotypes in their areas of interest.

So this week I want you to ask yourself: How often do you allow yourself to fail in front of your kids? And when you do, what are you modelling in your words and actions? Do you make up an excuse or deflect blame or do you use words that show you are reflecting on what happened and what you will try next time?

I also encourage you to listen the words you use when praising your children, and switch your praise from a focus on success to a focus on effort. This means we need to ‘praise wisely’. Let’s praise the process, the effort and grit they demonstrated, the strategies they used and the improvement they have shown.

To be completely honest…. as a parent I haven’t nailed this YET, but I am working on it.  Because I believe that when our girls believe in themselves, they will be the ones to lead change and confidently move their own generation toward a better balance of girls and women in Tech.

Take Care

 Mrs V xox

(Novice Minecraft player, Level 11 Clash Royale Clan Leader, firm but loving digital parent, mistake-maker and Head of Junior School)

Growth Mindset Resources:

Hello Brain by Clarissa Johnson – resources and courses to help us understand why kids need to ‘talk’ to their brain and how to do this.

Big Life Journal – resources for helping our children consciously focus on developing a growth mindset.

Teen Breathe Magazine – a wonderful teen focussed magazine for girls that gives emphasis to mindfulness, kindness, resilience and much more

Girls In Tech Resources:

Tech Girls Are Superheroes! – This Tech collective’s mission is to give girls access to technology and programs to build their skills and confidence. They present real life female role models — women working in STEM, as mentors and superheroes featured in our Tech Girls Are Superheroes books. We inspire young women to solve important community problems with technology skills and business acumen through our annual online Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero competition.

YouTube: Girls in Tech – Part 1, 2 and 3