Friday 20 October 2017

Computing is not just for boys - software is part of all our lives

Lauren Boyle of the Cool Kids Studio at the Coder Dojo stand at the Web Summit in the RDS
Lauren Boyle of the Cool Kids Studio at the Coder Dojo stand at the Web Summit in the RDS

Clare McInerney

Computer Science is for everyone but we don't have enough women studying it. Our phones, cars, ATMs, aeroplanes and heart monitors all contain software.

Shouldn't we all have equal input into how software solutions are designed?

The gender imbalance in girls taking higher-level ICT (Information, Communications & Technology) courses suggests that many of them are put off a career where there are huge opportunities. But girls should not be discouraged.

An estimated 44,500 job openings are forecast in the ICT sector in Ireland over the period to 2018. In 2014, only 57pc of demand was met by the domestic market.

It is not only in Ireland. The skills shortage for IT professionals is a worldwide phenomenon. In the United States, there will be one million more jobs than students by 2020.

As many as 29 third-level colleges in Ireland deliver over 200 courses in ICT: on computer systems, computer science, software development, digital media, games development, multi-media, networking, computational thinking and more. Problem solving and logical thinking are core components of computing courses. However, collaboration, teamwork, the ability to articulate, present and refine problems are some of the other required skills.

The other aspect about a computing degree is that it is transferable to a variety of domains. For example, you may end up using your computing knowledge and skills to solve problems in science, business, finance, healthcare, entertainment, education, manufacturing and engineering.

If you want to see if you are suited to a computing course, browse the computing courses, read the module descriptions, talk to computing graduates and to people working in computing to find out more.

Because software is such an integral part of our lives now, shouldn't we all have a better understanding of how it works? It's very easy to get started with the coding aspect of computer science. Why not try it out and see if you like it?:

* Visit scratch.mit.edu and write a Scratch program, use resources on scratch.ie or enter the National Scratch Competition

* Ask your teacher about programming opportunities in your school

* Get involved in a computing activity during Tech Week (April 26-May 2)

* Take part in an Hour of Code (http://hourofcode.com/) and visit code.org

* Is there a Coder Dojo in your area (coderdojo.com)? TG4 is currently running a programme on coding via Dingle Coder Dojo

* Most third-level institutions run summer computer camps.

Organisations have been set up to address the problem of under-representation of women in computing.

For example, the Connecting Women in Technology group mentors students in schools, hosts visits to their workplaces and encourages women to ­pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM)-related areas.

Clare McInerney is Education and Outreach Manager at Lero - the Irish Software Research Centre (www.lero.ie), one of the global winners of the 2015 Google RISE Awards which are designed to encourage girls and under-represented students in extracurricular computer science programmes. Lero will run summer coding camps for girls in the University of Limerick as part of the Google RISE award.

Irish Independent

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