I Belong in computer science: Martin

08 April 2024

What motivated your school to enrol on to the I Belong programme?

We got involved in the I Belong programme as we believe that it is important to show girls at Mildenhall College Academy the options that are available to them. It is important for the students to understand that the careers linked to computer science are not just for boys and that they typically will not involve one person sat in a dark basement. 

Why do you believe it's important for girls to pursue computer science?

It is important for girls to be able to develop the skills needed for the world of work they are going into. Technology is becoming increasingly important in every industry, so it is important to make sure that girls can develop the necessary skills to understand this technology. 

Girls are able to challenge the thinking of boys but often need more encouragement to do so. This involves building an environment where girls feel safe to voice their ideas. They will often get less confident going towards the options process, so it is important that schools are aware how to make sure that girls continue to enjoy computing throughout key stage 3. Virtually all of the girls I spoke to at our recent options evening quoted not being good enough for computer science, despite most of them being incredibly talented. This is an area to continue to work on, demonstrating what success looks like in the field.

It is also important for girls to understand that careers linked to computer science are open to them, so that they can start to consider different careers that they potentially had not considered beforehand that they may be more suited towards. It is also important from an industry point of view as the girls can bring innovative ideas to the industry to help drive technology forward. 

How do you perceive the significance of having role models in computer science for students?

The I Belong programme showed us ways to improve the uptake of computer science for girls. These continual steps include showing female role models and checking our options information is free from language which may unintentionally exclude girls. We have taken an approach to showcase some female role models with careers linked to computer science on our online learning platform, and we include a range of role models on the slides of every lesson presentation.

Female role models in computer science linked careers still are not very visible. Increasing this visibility is helping us to show girls that it is possible to work in computer science. 

How has the I Belong programme positively impacted your school?

[Since completing the programme], we've seen an increase in interest in computer science after KS3 with some years showing a positive increase in the numbers choosing computing. In some years, we have managed to have classes with around 35% of the students being girls. 

One of our current sixth form students said:

"At MCA6, we are lucky enough to have a well-developed support system for empowering girls to pursue a future in computer science. Historically, computer science has been predominantly male, making it pretty intimidating for girls with a passion for computing to feel they can succeed in the field. However, the teachers at MCA6 actively encourage and support girls to engage in the subject by highlighting women’s achievements in computing proudly on Brightspace. I personally find this very inspiring as I have not seen female STEM role models to be represented and celebrated in this way before."

"Many enrichment opportunities are offered to us here at MCA, which helps to create supportive spaces, allowing our confidence to grow via experimentation and exploration further into the subject. The innovation and problem-solving skills being developed and presented during these experiences are a critical step towards empowering girls, closing the gender gap and allowing us to thrive in the world of computer science. I am incredibly grateful for the efforts of my teachers for the positive environment they have made for us while studying here."

Thanks, Martin! And a huge congratulations to Mildenhall College Academy for completing the programme and showcasing their dedication to driving gender inclusion in the subject.

Has your school enrolled yet? Check out our page for more information on how you can start your journey towards empowering more girls into computer science.