Year 9 Girls: Why Study Computing?

I was asked to provide a quote to a group of year 9s about why women/girls should take up computing/IT... I got a bit carried away and my quote turned into a blog post, but feel free to use any of it in your presentations :) My email is rosafox89@gmail.com if you want to get in touch!

So here it is:

Why should girls choose computing as a GCSE subject?

I am trying to think back to when I was in year 9... it was 10 years ago. In just 10 years a lot has changed! We did have home computers and the internet back in 2004, but we had a dial up connection (it made a weird robot dialling noise every time we connected to the internet and took ages) and you had to pay for every minute that you were connected, so my sister and I used to literally fight each other out of the computer chair when it came to the start of our designated 30 minutes of chatting to friends on MSN messenger.

In school we had ICT classes though all I can remember doing in them is making spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel (not the world's most exciting use of a computer!). To be honest my main interaction with computers was through a social media website called Myspace which became a slight obsession, this was later replaced by Facebook and Twitter as I got older. I am sure you are starting to become familiar with social networks at 13/14 years old. They allow us to talk to each other, share information and see what people ranging from our friends to famous celebrities are up to. The internet allows us to share information with people all over the world at the click of a button. This can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing.

At school I was never taught about computer programming. I did not know that writing computer code and then telling the computer to read the code would make the computer do stuff - like make a webpage load or open up Microsoft Word. I had no idea. I think I assumed that anything to do with writing software would be too difficult... something that grown ups did. Looking back I wish I had started to code when I was in year 9, because by now it would be so natural. Things are changing now, it is possibly even bewildering for parents when their 13 year old fixes their computer. Technology is a normal part of your every day life and it's a really exciting thing. What is even more exciting is that at 13/14, not only can you use technology but you can actually be taught at school to write the code to make it do cool stuff, something I didn't even come across until I went to university. If you have the opportunity to study computing, this is why I would advise you to take it:

Study computing because whatever your hobbies and interests are, you can infuse them with computing to make awesome technologies. Imagine your favourite hobby and try and think about how an app could be built related to that hobby (if you are not sure then Google the name of the hobby followed by 'app' or 'technology' and see what is already out there!) or think about a way in which using the internet could help you involve people based all over the world in a project.

Computers are in so many things. They are in cool gadgets such as phones and iPads. We can use them to build websites. These websites could be anything from online clothing stores such as asos.com or sites to watch our favourite shows on catch up. Computers also form big control systems that help keep people safe, for example they can monitor where trains are and try and ensure that they do not crash into each other. Computers are also used to control important medical equipment which saves lives.

Because people rely so much on computers, being able to program these computers to tell them what to do is an incredibly useful and valuable skill. If you study computing you will never stop learning as technology constantly evolves. 'Technology' is a fast growing industry and thus there are lots of opportunities to have an exciting, well paid career. It is often found to be a very creative field which opens up many opportunities for sharing ideas and imagination. Even if your ultimate goal isn't to be a full time computer programmer, it is still very useful to have some understanding of computing, say for example if you wanted to start up your own business, with computing knowledge you could make your own website and you wouldn't need to pay someone else to do it for you. Even if you did pay someone else to do it, it helps to have a good understanding of what you are asking them to do.

Coding may look difficult to start with, but if you can learn to read and write then you can learn to code. It just takes time and practice. Never be scared to ask for help because it is one of the best ways to learn. Make friends with your class mates, include everyone, be nice to them if they seem shy, help them if they are stuck because solving problems together can make them less scary. Also don't freak out if you get stuck. Everyone gets stuck at times.

Computing changes the way in which people interact with the world around them, so by working with computers you really can shape the way people live their lives. Always remember that girls use technology just as much as boys. It is fun, cool, useful and exciting. Computers help us talk to our friends, find our way to the cinema and even order pizza. It definitely isn't a boring area to work in. Computers have many uses and studying computing isn't just for people who play computer games. Once you have built up the skills to write code you are limited only by your imagination.

As a girl, you may find that there are less girls on your course than boys. Please do not let this put you off. If anyone is horrible to you because you are a girl then make sure you tell someone straight away, even email me if you need advice. When I was a teenager not many girls played guitar. I played guitar and boys used to tell me I was rubbish, it was jealously and as I got older I found most guys were actually quite impressed that I played guitar... but either way their approval wasn't what I cared about and I am glad I ignored them and didn't give up because it is something I still love doing now.

As girls we are taught from a young age that we need to be pretty and popular and we are taught that intelligence and popularity don't correlate. Stereotypically computers are thought to be quite 'geeky' and often girls don't want that label. Don't miss out on the opportunity to learn computing just because you think people will label you. The fact of the matter is computers enable us to talk to friends on other side of the world, look up whatever information we want in seconds, watch Youtube videos and to me life without the internet is difficult to imagine. Caring about labels is something that doesn't need to exist and you are the generation that can show the following generations that whether you are a boy or girl, spend 2 hours getting ready in the morning for school or roll out of bed at the latest possible moment and pull on yesterday's clothes - what ever you like doing is fine, whatever you look like is fine, but don't let your gender or how you choose to look stop you from thinking you could be a good programmer.

Give it a go, and be proud of things you build with code. When choosing your courses remember that you don't need to be any more intelligent to learn computing than you need to be to learn any other subject. You have survived maths, english, science, geography, music etc so far. The reason computing maybe seems hard is because you haven't done as much of it before.... but it is new and that is exciting. Potentially in 10 years time you could have a world of opportunities at your feet because of a decision you made to study computing at the age of 13. Please don't be shy to tell people about all the great things you have achieved and let other girls know that they could also make great programmers.