The Herald

Salute to pioneer spotlights gender gap

A major new Scottish festival held in honour of legendary female mathematic­ian Ada Lovelace aims to encourage women into computer science


AFESTIVAL celebratin­g a pioneering female computing scientist will launch next week in an attempt to reverse a “concerning” dip in the number of girls studying computing science in Scotland.

The inaugural Ada Scotland festival will celebrate the life and work of Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century mathematic­ian widely regarded as one of the first computer programmer­s.

The festival’s organisers, led by researcher­s from the University of Glasgow in partnershi­p with Edinburgh Napier University and the charity, dresscode, were moved to act by the stark gender imbalance in Scotland’s digital technologi­es sector, which they believe is holding back the country from achieving its full economic and creative potential.

The event is aimed at encouragin­g more female participat­ion in technology as fewer than one in five jobs in the sector are held by women. That gender gap is also reflected in secondary education, where the proportion of girls choosing to study computing science in high school has fallen steadily from 35% in 1995 to just 20% in recent years.

Festival co-founder Toni Scullion said it was important that girls knew about the opportunit­ies within the technology sector in Scotland.

“There is such an incredible tech sector in Scotland and we want pupils, especially girls, to not only know about the opportunit­ies available but choose to become part of the country’s tech industry,” said Ms Scullion, a computing science teacher and the founder of dresscode, a charity which aims to encourage female tech talent.

She said the ultimate aim was to close Scotland’s computing science gender gap completely.

“The uptake of computing science among girls in Scotland continues to decline at every level from National 5 to Advanced Higher,” pointed out Ms Scullion. “This is a really concerning trend and it’s one we’re seeing in countries across the world.”

She added: “We know that inspiring girls from a young age and getting them excited about computing science helps them be more engaged in the subject at secondary school. We hope that wide range of inspiring women who are taking part in the Ada Scotland Festival, from university students to entreprene­urs to employees of some major tech companies, will help provide role models to inspire girls into the tech sector.”

The online festival will feature a series of online workshops, videos, activities and competitio­ns put together by academics, teachers, the Scottish Government, and private sector organisati­ons. While many are aimed at school-age girls, there will also be content aimed to teachers and parents to help them encourage their pupils and children’s early interests in computing science.

Festival co-founder Dr Matthew

Barr, of the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Computing Science Education, said it was “immensely disappoint­ing” that two centuries after Ada Lovelace’s death, women were still vastly under-represente­d in the tech sector.

“My own young daughter was recently told by a classmate in her primary school that a video game she enjoys was solely for boys,” he said. “That suggests to me that attitudes aren’t changing nearly as quickly as we’d hope. The tech

world is in dire need of girls’ and young women’s drive and enthusiasm and we want to show them how they can be supported to turn their talents into a fulfilling, fun career.

“We’re hoping that the Ada Scotland Festival will provide a real boost to get them over any early hurdles. We’ve been hugely encouraged by how many partners have offered their support, and we hope that this first year of the festival will put us on the way to making it a one-stop shop to address gender imbalance in the sector.”

Among the events on offer from the Ada Scotland Festival website will be a cybersecur­ity treasure hunt, organised by dresscode, a live online advice and networking session from women in tech, organised by Equate Scotland, a video presentati­on and live question and answer session with a

group of successful young women in tech, organised by SMARTSTEMS, a question and answer session with a panel of female software engineerin­g graduate apprentice­s at Barclays, a game design session from My World of Work Live by Skills Developmen­t Scotland and a talk from Scotland IS CEO, Jane Morrison-ross.

Participan­ts will also have the chance to win prizes including an ipad Air, Amazon vouchers, STEM kits and tech books supplied by partners including Veryconnec­t, dresscode, Fridays for Futuring, and Barclays.

The Ada Scotland Festival is supported by funding from the Scottish Informatic­s and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) and Veryconnec­t.

For more informatio­n on the festival, which runs from October 13, visit


 ??  ?? TECH TAKES ROOT: Megan Gallagher (left), a Software Engineerin­g student at Glasgow University with Dr Matthew Barr.
TECH TAKES ROOT: Megan Gallagher (left), a Software Engineerin­g student at Glasgow University with Dr Matthew Barr.

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