Brownies to learn coding in bid to involve more girls in technology - 3 minutes read

The most popular badges in Brownies are baking, mindfulness and performing, while Guides favour mixology (non-alcoholic), upcycling and backwoods cooking. Photograph: Doug Peters/PA Guides Brownies to learn coding in bid to involve more girls in technology Research shows more than half of girls think science and technology careers are preserve of boys

The drive to engage thousands more girls in technology comes after research by Girlguiding found more than half (52%) of girls and women between the ages of 11 and 21 believed that Stem was for boys. The strength of feeling is unchanged since 2016.

Courses will include Happy Appy, a session on apps for Rainbows, the guides’ branch for four- to seven-year-olds. Primary-age girls are far less likely to consider Stem a preserve of boys than those aged above 11, polling shows, by which point attitudes among many are already baked in.

Girls and women remain underrepresented in some key Stem school subjects and careers. More than 14% of male students progress from maths GCSE to A-level, compared with only 9% of female students, while the figures for physics were 8.3% and 2.2%. However, girls who took A-level physics were more likely than boys to get a top grade.

Maddie Wray-Reynolds, 23, a Guides and Brownies leader in Cheltenham, said it was “really sad” to hear some Brownies say recently that “they couldn’t be a doctor because they were a girl”.

She said she was called “a geek” and “a nerd” at secondary school because of her interest in computing and was made to feel ashamed of her passion for Formula One motor racing.

Related Brownie badges include aviation, invention and space while Guides cover science, computing, robotics and engineering. But the most popular badges in Brownies are baking, mindfulness and performing and among Guides they are mixology (non-alcoholic), upcycling and backwoods cooking.

Nicole McWilliams, who leads the engineering group for Android smartphones at Google, which is supporting the courses, said: “People think about drawing and painting as what creativity is but technology is incredibly creative. It’s like a blank canvas and a box of crayons.”

Peyton Mitchell, 10, a Brownie from Hemel Hempstead, said: “It’s unfair that people think it is more for boys. We all use [technology] in our daily lives.”

Asked about female role models, she said: “Most of the girls in my class don’t know anyone we can look up to if they want to be an engineer.”

Daljit Kaur, a former computer science teacher who works for Stem Learning, a government-backed organisation which aims to improve science and technology teaching, said she had noticed that girls aged nine and 10 had no problem getting stuck into experimenting with a robot, but by the age of 12 “they become more hesitant, they don’t want to break it”. She said that once pushed, the girls were as successful as boys.

Meanwhile, half of the Scouts membership lost during the pandemic has returned with the restart of in-person meetings. Youth membership has bounced back to nearly 422,000 after slumping by a quarter to 363,000 from 2020 to 2021. Bear Grylls, the chief scout, called for more adult volunteers to handle the surge with 90,000 waiting to join.

Source: The Guardian

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