By Scott Campbell
Young girls interested in tech may not have the confidence to pursue a career, but increased exposure through out-of-school programs like TechGirlz, powered by CompTIA Spark, as well as parental influence and further knowledge about educational and career opportunities could be critical points to keep them engaged.
A recent CompTIA Spark Impact Study: An Analysis of the TechGirlz Program highlights what participants of TechGirlz workshops think about technology, benefits of tech classes, challenges and more. Here are 5 takeaways from the report, which you can also download here.
Even if Tech Classes Offered, Some Students Opt Out
Almost 3 of 4 middle and high school students responding to the study said their schools offer tech/digital literacy classes—in line with results from a CompTIA Spark Student Perspectives of Technology and Careers study. However, only 55% of respondents said they participate in tech classes. The No. 1 reason why the students do not take tech classes in school is that they are not offered at the level the students want or there is no room in their schedule.
In most cases (70%), tech classes are elective at the high-school level and they tend to be a requirement at the middle-school level.
Meanwhile, among the benefits of taking high-school tech classes, students cited the classes as a source skills for success, a starting point for a tech career, and enhancing their college application as the top three.
Many View 4-Year Degrees as Necessary
Despite recent trends that suggest four-year college degrees may not be required for a tech career, about 71% of the TechGirlz participants believe that a four-year college degree is necessary for a future career. Another 21% said a degree is nice to have but not necessary, and only 5% said the four-year degree is not needed for a tech career.
Also, the students chose their parents (82%) and themselves (72%) as the greatest influences on choosing a career or education path. All other influences, including teachers, clubs, friends and society were chosen by less than half of the respondents.
Most Are or May Consider a Career in Technology
Almost 4 in 5 Tech Girlz participants said they are considering (44%) or may consider (34%) a tech career in the future, a significantly higher percentage than general population youth surveyed in the Student Perspectives Study, where 48% said they are or may consider a tech career.
TechGirlz participants may be influenced by those around them—70% said they personally know someone who works in tech and previous CompTIA studies have highlighted the importance of knowing someone who works in the tech field. In addition, about 80% of the respondents said they have been encouraged to pursue careers in tech, a much higher figure than youth overall. In addition, 70% of TechGirlz participants see careers in tech as opportunities to help people too.
Overcoming the Confidence Gap and Other Perceived Barriers
More than half of respondents said the confidence gap—a belief that working in tech is not accessible—and other perceived barriers are a considerable factor when considering a career in tech.
There are a number of challenges and potential obstacles the TechGirlz participants cited, including:
- Cost/lack of affordable training (47%)
- Lack of mentors/guidance (44%)
- Lack of exposure to tech in high school (43%)
- Gender stereotypes (35%)
- Lack of confidence (35%)
Meanwhile, many factors contribute to the confidence gap that hinder participation in tech education and careers. Leading the way: 57% cited concerns that they lacked the skills necessary for tech. Another 43% cited fear of failure and 41% of the students fear that they are already behind others, despite the fact that they are in middle or high school.
The TechGirlz Impact Is Positive
About 77% of participants felt TechGirlz workshops were effective or very effective in increasing their knowledge and interest in tech. Even more, about 60% said the program improved confidence in their tech skills and abilities and nearly half said improved their overall confidence. That’s a key finding because confidence (or lack thereof) is a perceived barrier for many students considering a career in tech.
The study also revealed that that students would like more advanced classes and programs—and more diverse topics such as robotics, AI and video game development. Also, 76% said they have been involved in TechGirlz for one year or longer.
“TechGirlz … helped me learn lots of skills with like-minded girls. It gave me confidence in programming and to discover how much I like it,” said one respondent. “I definitely want to work in a tech field because of everything I learned through my time taking TechGirlz classes.”