People and processesDigital SkillsMicrosoft inspires girls to consider tech careers

Microsoft inspires girls to consider tech careers

As part of the Microsoft YouthSpark programme, DigiGirlz encourages young girls to follow their passion and to learn about careers in technology

Sixty-five girls from seven UK schools joined Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK CEO and other Microsoft representatives at DigiGirlz Day, a Microsoft event that aims to inspire more young girls to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

As part of the Microsoft YouthSpark program, DigiGirlz gives middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. It falls under #MakeWhatsNext initiative.

Tech field is for everyone

Cindy said: “There will be some amazing things happening in the future, and your generation is the one that will help shape it. You are the generation that will shape the future. We need more women in tech.

“I never thought I’d be running a tech business, and yet here I am. I can’t imagine doing anything more creative, and I want to stress that the tech field is for everyone. We need energetic, creative people from different backgrounds.”

The tech industry as a whole is made up of around only 17% women, and this imbalance is also seen in tech careers that exist in companies outside of the industry. Microsoft’s own research also showing that girls tend to disengage from STEM subjects around the age of 11.

The fourth industrial revolution is underway with the advent of Big Data, the cloud, IoT and AI. There is a need for digitally skilled workers in the future.

Microsoft inspires young girls to consider tech careers

Budding technologists

From cameras that could read for you, to wearable sensors that vibrated when your doorbell rang, the ideas presented showed an encouraging glimpse into the passion of today’s children for using technology to improve the world. Among the category winners was an idea for a talking microwave with a built-in chatbot. Another was an app which reads food labels to help people with dyslexia, and another app which translates sign language into text.

“There are some really budding technologists here, and I was really impressed with the quality of teamwork and collaboration,” Rose shared as the day drew to a close. “I want to open your eyes to the fact that this is a very creative career choice, and we need more women in this space. You get to do things that change the world, and it’s very inspiring.”

In addition to various talks attendees also spent their day split into groups, designing accessibility-focused products, using Micro:bit boards. The sessions included the one on innovation by Microsoft researcher Haiyan Zhang. She has designed a watch to help one woman with Parkinson’s.

The girls presented their ideas to a panel of judges. The panel included Rose, Zhang, and Richard Potter, CTO Microsoft Services. The judges evaluated the projects based on a combination of their presentations, social impact, and ingenuity.

One girl stated that she “…enjoyed meeting people who have changed other people’s lives for the better,” while another shared that her group’s project “…inspired me to see that women – not just men – can achieve things.”

Developing skills and familiarity

In addition to DigiGirlz Day, Microsoft is also working on its DigiGirlz High Tech Camp.

High Tech Camp aims to develop girls’ technological skills and familiarity with cutting-edge technology. Held in various locations around the world, any individual girl and high school can register for the event. Girls can register for the event regardless of their level of technological knowledge.

The camp offers hands-on workshops, Microsoft product demonstrations, technology tours and networking opportunities. These events are free to attend for high schools and for individual girls.

A number of women are driving digital change in local authorities, notably Alison McKenzie-Folan, deputy chief executive of Wigan Council. Wigan Council was recently named Council of the Year at the LGC Awards 2019.

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