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ZONTA Armidale

 

Changing the Public Face of Women in Information and Communications Technology

Advancing the status of women in ICT, begins with girls who are beginning to think about career choices. It is necessary to change the public face of ICT for these young women to take interest. “Instead of trying to make girls fit into the existing computer culture, the computer culture must become more inviting for girls.”  said Sherry Turkle, Professor of Sociology at MIT.

 

Supporting Young Women in Career Choices

The ZONTA Club of Armidale Inc. has taken the initiative to promote the full involvement by girls and young women currently under-represented in many computer-related endeavors.  Through discussions with representatives of secondary and tertiary educational institutions, industry, and business, the ZONTA Club of Armidale found that few local women were engaged in the ICT industry.

 

School students participate in the integrated programs in Years 7-10, however, there are very few who choose IT programs (software development, VET CII in IT, or Industry IPT) in Years 11 &12. (Armidale High has none in 2004.) They do not appear to see themselves within the industry. There are few role models and mentors.

 

Why ‘ZONTA E-girls’?

ZONTA Armidale E-girls Workshops create the opportunity for Year 10 girls in the New England region to meet and learn from women currently working in the industry. They experience the reality rather than the stereotype. Girls tend to imagine that ICT professionals live in a solitary, antisocial, and sedentary world. This is an alienating and incorrect perception of careers that rely heavily on computer technology and expertise in this century.

Team-work and communication, problem-solving and creativity are required skills to succeed in ICT professions.

 

Australian Research conducted in New England

The research study, Women and Computers, conducted in 1998 involving women from the New England Region, discussed issues and physical barriers which prevent women from seeking training and careers in ICT. A variety of recommendations resulted from this study, among which were:

·        Training providers seek proportionate gender representation through action planning to address the current differences in participation.

·        Identify and implement  recruitment strategies to encourage enrolment into training programs

·        Support groups for female students in ICT be organised with a nominated coordinator, administrative support and use of local facilities, including the construction and publication of a dedicated website for and by female students.

·        Develop career information sessions to provide more information about career opportunities both before and after enrolments.

·        Develop and implement strategies to address the negative perception women (girls) have of ITC jobs.

 

In 2003, The Armidale Zonta Club raised funds to facilitate and support young women who are interested in ICT and Engineering. These funds are to be allocated to:

1.       informing girls of career opportunities in Engineering and Information and Communications Technology; and

2.      providing scholarships for young women studying Engineering, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, or ICT related studies.

 

Why Support Engineering and ICT Careers?

A detail research study conducted by the AAUW Educational Foundation Commission on Technology, Gender and Teacher Education found that:

·        Girls represent 17% of students taking Computer Science subjects in Year 10, and less than 10% at higher levels.

·        Women are roughly 20 % of ICT professionals.

·        Women studying Computer Science is declining! They receive less that 28% of the computer science bachelor’s degrees, which is down from a high in 1984 of 37%.

·        Women make up just 9% of the recipients of engineering-related Bachelor degrees.

 

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