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Durham University

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Inspiring the next generation of female technology leaders

(14 January 2019)

Staff and students from our Department of Computer Science have been helping primary school-age girls build websites at an event aimed at inspiring the female technology leaders of the future.

Tell me about it…

The full-day event was called STEMettes Hack Durham powered by Atom bank.

44 girls aged nine and ten from nine East Durham schools were introduced to website-building tools and supported to develop their own sites celebrating inspiring women in STEM. 

They presented their work to expert judges, who awarded prizes for their coding skills, creativity and team working.

Who was involved?

We teamed up with STEMettes, a social enterprise working to inspire young women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects; Atom bank, the Durham-based digital bank; and Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham.

The expert panel included: Professor Sue Black OBE, founder of #techmums, and Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, co-founder of STEMettes.

Also involved was Computer Science undergraduate Lucy Wood, one of the first recipients of our Anne-Marie Imafidon Scholarships for Women in Technology.

How did it go?

Lacie, aged ten, from Our Lady of Lourdes RVCA Primary School, Shotton Colliery, said: “It’s been really fun. I liked doing the coding. I love science.”

Laura MacDonald, a teacher at St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Blackhall, said: “For our children to mix and really work together is great. They’re doing something they don’t have very much opportunity to do. They’re experiencing what the world has to offer and what possibilities there are for women and for them in the future. It’s breaking down stereotypes on what they can achieve.”

What now?

The girls involved were also introduced to CoderDojo, a national volunteer-led network of coding clubs for children, offering them an opportunity to develop their interest.

What they said…

Dr Lorraine Coghill, our Ogden Science Outreach Coordinator: “The way the girls threw themselves into the event was fantastic and the websites they produced in just a few hours were very impressive. We’re committed to supporting STEM development in our local schools and we hope this event will have played some part in inspiring the female technology leaders of the future.”

Professor Black said: “What an inspiring day! Seeing so many girls getting excited about coding, building websites and at the same time learning about amazing STEM role models was an absolute joy.”

Dr Imafidon said: “It’s exciting to bring so many ten-year-olds into a University building and do computer science for a day, especially with someone like Atom Bank. They’re getting coding experience in an informal environment in a way that will stay with them beyond today. I’ve enjoyed seeing them work together so well.”

Gill Teasdale, Head of Portfolio Management at Atom bank, said: “What a great day we had! The energy and enthusiasm of the girls and the volunteers was fantastic. The future looks really bright if we can continue to engage more girls in STEM subjects and get more women into challenging and rewarding careers in technology.”

Professor Gordon Love, who leads our Department of Computer Science, said: “We’re growing our Department of Computer Science and as we do so women in tech is one our strategic priorities. We have new scholarships, we’re working with local children – it’s an exciting time.”