Edith Cowan University: Girls in ICT – Venus
The Girls in ICT — Venus project was established to enthuse and inspire female Year 9 and 10 students from low socioeconomic status (SES) areas about careers in the Computer and Security Sciences (C&SS). Currently, females are significantly underrepresented in this industry. This project investigated the prevailing attitudes that Year 9 and 10 female students had towards Computer and Security Sciences. ‘Boring’ has been regularly stated as a school factor associated with low female participation rates in computing classes. However, through the provision of hands-on activity sessions with partnering schools, as well as career seminars at Edith Cowan University (ECU), this project demonstrated positive attitudinal change.
- Edith Cowan University
- School of Science
- Strategic Relationships Management team
- Department of Education, Western Australia
- three low SES secondary schools in Perth’s central northern corridor, and one on-campus workshop with Indigenous students from four local Catholic secondary schools.
The focus was to raise awareness of non-traditional pathways for students (those from low Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage [ICSEA] schools) into university, highlight higher educational opportunities in C&SS, and increase career aspirations towards C&SS.
Currently, there are different perceptions in relation to working in C&SS. The project wanted to break down some of these barriers, engender aspirations with regard to careers in this often perceived male-dominated science area, and raise awareness of higher education opportunities in non-traditional female careers.
Activities and Progress
Two interactive C&SS experience sessions were conducted with schools — the main objective being to provide information increasing students’ understanding of C&SS. The first interactive session was focused on ‘engagement’. This involved female Year 9 and 10 students learning about the different skillsets required to work in C&SS. The fun activities specifically exposed the analytical, creative, interpersonal and practical components of C&SS. The focus was to assist the participants in linking their individual strengths to the various C&SS career fields, and therefore increase their knowledge.
The second interactive session was focused on ‘exposure’. This involved mixed Year 9 and 10 students visiting ECU and experiencing career talks. Female role models from the cyber security, computer science and counter terrorism, intelligence and security sciences presented information on their chosen professions. These female role models challenged often held perceptions of women in C&SS. Discussions were held with the students on the presenters’ school experiences, pathways to university and university study options, engendering their aspirations with regard to careers.
By the end of 2016, over 200 Year 9 and 10 students from local secondary schools (with low ICSEA scores), had taken part in the Girls in ICT — Venus project. More than 120 of these were female, who now understand and are more knowledgeable about C&SS as a potential career. With this in mind, we hope to see future enrolments of females in our C&SS courses increase. This should commence around 2018 as these students complete school.
Teachers and school deputies who attended the school workshops and university presentations have also been exposed to the different skillsets and careers in C&SS. This means that they are in a better position to support students when advising them about career pathways, subject selection and further education.
The Girls in ICT — Venus project has offered students:
- an opportunity to experience activities that directly relate to the courses and careers of C&SS
- understanding of the various jobs and the different skills (analytical, creative, interpersonal and practical) required to work in these careers
- perspective on people who are studying or working within this field
- an opportunity to come on campus.
The HEPPP funding has also contributed to the furthering of ECU relationships with local (low ICSEA) schools. Continued engagement has resulted since the Girls in ICT — Venus project, with ECU’s School of Science now offering C&SS activities for students in Years 7 to 11 from different schools.
These hands-on activity sessions expose students to our university, C&SS skills, and higher education pathways. This new project seeks to increase female participation (particularly low ICSEA) rates in C&SS courses and careers.
This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.