Event aims to encourage girls to take up IT

A two-day event for Year 9 to 12 school students in Perth, aims to be a showcase of technology careers, with organizers hoping the event will help counter the gender imbalance within the industry.

"Go Girl Go for IT", organized by the Western Australia's Women in IT group, will include more than 20 female speakers presenting their experiences of working within IT in businesses as diverse as Qantas and Perth Zoo.

One of the speakers will be vice president of Linux Australia, Pia Waugh.

Waugh is a veteran in speaking at events for school students and said that many girls are being turned off careers in IT by career advisers and teachers.

"Most of the 13 to 16 year-old girls I've spoken to have expressed an interest in computers at school, but have been told that they should consider teaching or being a social worker instead," she said.

"Very few of the kids I meet have any idea as to the range of fun and exciting jobs in ICT. I talk to them about the options and you see their eyes light up. Robotics, cryptography, security, forensic computing, research and analysis, and more."

In addition to speaking about the wide range of technology careers available to women, Waugh will also spend time espousing the value of open source and free software.

"Basically I will tell them about the importance of having control of the rules that control our lives. Closed technologies such as proprietary software define rules we can't see, and these rules can easily restrict us. When we can see and define the rules openly we cannot be fenced in so easily," she said.

"I believe that the open source community is starting to drive real social change as it provides a way for people to achieve greatness regardless of their age, gender, culture, religion or colour."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that although female enrolment in higher education amounts to almost 50 percent, enrolment in IT related subjects makes up only 19 percent. Other statistics compiled by the University of Sydney show that the proportion of females continuing into IT related careers ranges from 7 to 28 percent worldwide.

Go Girl Go for IT will be held on 7 and 8 March in WA.