'Pinkification' putting girls off IT, says Dr Hannah Dee

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Members of the Lovelace Colloquium (l-r), Dr Amanda Clare, Dr Hannah Dee, Dr Edel Sherrat and Dr Helen MilesImage source, Aberystwyth University
Image caption,
Members of the Lovelace Colloquium (l-r), Dr Amanda Clare, Dr Hannah Dee, Dr Edel Sherrat and Dr Helen Miles

A trend for the "pinkification of girlhood" is partly to blame for the lack of women in computing, a women's conference organiser has said.

The BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium is dedicated to encouraging women students to enter the IT industry.

More than 150 delegates are expected to attend its 10th annual conference at Aberystwyth University on Wednesday.

Dr Hannah Dee, who set it up, said there was "no reason" IT should be a masculine domain.

Dr Dee, a senior lecturer in computer science at Aberystwyth University, has previously been named the ninth most-influential woman in UK IT.

She created the event after attending a computing conference where she was the only woman, in Prague, Czech Republic.

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Dr Hannah Dee was 'the only woman in the room' at one industry conference

"It was just a little bit disconcerting. It's not unpleasant, it's just a little bit weird," she said.

She said having insufficient women role modes in the industry was one "important" factor among many, which may discourage girls from studying computing.

Dr Dee added: "I also think there is a real polarization going on at the moment on gender lines.

"Allied with that, is this kind of pinkification of of girlhood where girls are expected to be wearing pink and being girlie and doing princess stuff and boys are expected to do the creative, playing with mud kind of side of things.

"And computing... there is no reason it should be a masculine domain but it's seen as part of that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) area, so it's seen as being for boys.

"And because childhood is so polarized now we find that girls are moving away from it."

Image caption,
Pupils at Cardiff's Ysgol Gyfun Bro Edern using iPads in lessons

The conference she created is named after the mathematician Ada, Countess of Lovelace, who is often cited as the world's first computer programmer.

It brings together women students, senior women in technology and employers and has been held at different UK cities, but will return to Dr Dee's workplace for its 10th birthday.

Fears have been raised in Wales that female talent is being lost due to the poor take up among girls in STEM subjects.

And academics have said the way computer science is taught in English schools "leaves girls behind".

The event's keynote address will be given by Dr Sue Black OBE, founder of BCSWomen and CEO of TechMums, a social enterprise which provides technical training for mothers in deprived areas.

Other confirmed speakers include Milka Horozova from Google and Carrie Anne Philbin, director of education at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.