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Encouraging girls in computer science: how Computing Ambassadors can help you

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Volunteers' Week: Discover how our Ambassadors can help you encourage more girls into computing!

We recently spoke with Tracy, a Computing Ambassador who has been supporting students for some time, to learn about her journey into the profession and why she believes it's crucial for more young people, especially girls, to get involved in tech.

Can you share why you're particularly passionate about encouraging more girls to enter the field of tech in your role as an Ambassador?

One day I was in finance, and the next day I was a 2nd line engineer working with guys who had trained in the field and really knew their tech. I was up against a very male environment that looked at me rocking up with my high heels and painted nails and not looking like them as if I would not know anything. It was a massive learning curve, and I was on a mission to prove that I could learn quickly and learn as much as them. I faced a lot of discrimination along the way, which included missing promotions that went to the “boys”. 

10 years ago, I made the move into management and started recruiting for engineers on my service desks. Rarely did a woman apply. I was shocked, and that hasn’t yet changed. I am recruiting now, and again there are very few women and girls applying.

A few years ago, I managed a girl who turned out to be amazing. When I left that job to move on, I suggested to management that although she lacked management experience, she would make a fabulous service desk manager. After a lot of persuasion, they decided to go with my recommendation and promoted her. I was right, and she is flying high now. Women bring a different dimension when looking at issues, when documenting and when dealing with customer service.

What value do you believe computer science offers to young people?

Computer science opens a whole new world to young people, as there are so many areas to learn. You can progress through various elements, from service desk to cyber security to infrastructure and development, with each area opening up a whole new world.

How have you utilised real-world applications of computing to engage and inspire students as an Ambassador?

I have spoken at various events about my career and how it has progressed, reiterating that even if you don't initially choose the right area of specialisation and change paths, it is never too late to make a move. Lots of these areas have transferable skills, so never be too scared to embrace change and follow what you want to do!

Why do you feel it's important to have more women role models in the tech industry?

I feel strongly about introducing more women into tech, especially in positions of leadership as they bring special areas of empathy and understanding and are excellent mentors.

Can you provide examples of how you promote diversity in computer science?

As an Ambassador, I have been involved in talking to students on panels about getting into STEM, sharing my experiences along the way, and discussing the barriers I faced (whether due to being a woman or not coming from an academic background). Since then, I have also been involved in practice interviews and developing CVs.

When I am advertising, I would like to think that all my applicants are looked at fairly and I will always look at who is right for the job.  I am not a believer in hiring someone who is a tick in the box as I feel that doing that is very disrespectful to women if you are only hiring because you have low numbers. For me, it is all about the right fit for the job - skills can be taught but fit is also very important when developing a team. 

Thanks, Tracy.

Check out our page to learn more about hosting an Ambassador like Tracy.