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The Importance of Female Leadership in the Education Technology Space #WomenEd Tech

The Importance of Female Leadership in the Education Technology Space by Laura Bain
By Laura Bain  @LaruBain

#breakthebias #womenintech #edtech

Just as we are shaped and influenced by our environment, so too are technology products as they are developed. When the teams that are developing, designing and deploying these products lack diversity, bias unavoidably creeps in. Examples of gender bias are already evident in Artificial Intelligence (AI) products. A Harvard Business Review cited examples found in Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, two digital assistants that are also interestingly assigned a female gender by default. AI is still in its infancy but is essentially being raised by 20-something males.

As we continue into an age of automation, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, we will see it having an increasingly profound impact on how we live and work. Most companies are fast becoming technology enterprises. Imagine if AI is used to screen potential job applicants.

It is scary to think that years of work in gender equality can be undone with a few lines of code. Consider also that anyone identifying as a non-binary gender role may not be recognised at all.

More women and diversity in general are needed in the tech industry.

Despite the efforts that have been made to encourage women into careers in technology, a recent study by Accenture and Girls who Code found that the gender gap in technology is worse than it was in 1984. It is not enough to incentivise these roles or offer scholarships to study in this field. As a woman, I feel I can say that many of us are creatures of passion and wish to have a passion for what we do. Helping women to find a passion for technology must start early. It is for this reason that I strongly believe in the importance of female educational leaders in the technology space, right from the early years of schooling.

By the time many girls have even reached high school, they have decided what they are good at. 

Positive technology experiences in the early years of education can set female students off on a trajectory which leads to selecting technology subjects in high school, further study and eventual careers in technology. 

Students seeing and being presented with skilled female technology instructors and leaders in schools can shape their perspectives around the subject and industry. Research has shown that when female students have a female teacher in STEM subjects, their self-confidence and learning outcomes are improved. Teachers in schools play a key role in shaping student motivations and aspirations, indicating a need for female representation in technology positions in schools.

Further to this, curriculum and learning experiences that are developed to be more inclusive of female interests will keep girls in these subject areas. When exploring a recent high school subject offering, I noted that the Digital Solutions subjects were focused on constructing and coding vehicles, coding video games and very dry computer science theory. While this may still be exciting for some and partly dictated by the governing curriculum authority, technology offers so much creative potential in areas that would entice more female students into study. It naturally lends itself to all kinds of digital design and artistry as well as the development of more human-centred digital solutions. 

The ways in which technology is taught in schools and how the curriculum is written again highlights the need for more female leaderships in these subjects.

To break the gender bias in the technology industry we need to start with the bias in technology school leadership. 

Encouraging young girls into technology careers starts with them experiencing technology positively and seeing female role-models in this area. 

Technology curriculum offerings need to expand to be more inclusive of female interests and be representative of the role technology plays in society. 

As we celebrate International Women's Day, I applaud the female teachers and leaders in our schools showing our girls that technology is for them too.

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Thursday, 08 June 2023

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