-There are only girls here, isn’t that a bit cool? asks Martine Ostley, who takes the stage in a matching bright green ensemble.
The question elicits a coherent “Yes!” Among the approximately 850 high school girls, they put down their cell phones and focused their eyes on the green-clad chemist.
Britney Spears’ Work bitch A distinctive purple atmosphere welcomes the girls to the main hall of Chateau Neuf in Oslo. Almost all of the girls are dressed in their best jeans, and two of them jump on stage, light up their cell phones, and have time to take a TikTok before the show starts.
Girls and technology
Girls and technology It is a national project that aims to make more girls choose technology subjects. According to their website, Norwegian companies indicate that there is a great need for technicians. There is a demand for technical workers and engineers, and these are professional fields with a very low percentage of women.
Annually, a national tour is held where Girls and Technology meets approximately 7,000 girls in grades 9 and 10, and more than 40 young women studying or working in technology are the tour’s speakers.
The Girls & Technology Initiative celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023, and according to project manager Monica Asen, this is not a good sign.
– It is a great shame that we continue to exist. Of all working engineers, 1 in 5 will be women in 2023. This is a number we should not be complacent about. We have to keep working on that.
-We prepare reports on the number of applications for both secondary and tertiary education each year. Then we see that the percentage of women in technology is increasing, but it is very slow, she says.
In addition to the reports, the National Center for Science Employment (NSR) has just released a survey on technology studies, but according to director Guru Rorvik, the numbers are too recent to comment on. During this month, Statistics Norway will publish a report on research and diversity.
Rorvik also believes progress is slow.
– It is positive to see more and more girls applying for technology studies. In the past ten years, it has increased by 10 percent, or approximately one percent per year. “So there is progress, even if we are a little impatient and think it’s going a little slow,” she says.
Know your target group
On this day, the Tech Girls traveled to Oslo.
The speakers, also called role models, are young women doing everything from cosmetics and chemistry to artificial intelligence and programming. There’s also a demonstration of how to put on a space suit, a story about being an apprentice electrician, and even a fire starting on stage.
– There are a lot of us who don’t really know what technology is, especially when you’re 14-15-16 years old, it can be a handicap to not fully understand what the big term means. Green transition, green transition, climate crisis, technology, artificial intelligence (artificial intelligence, the English abbreviation AI is often used, editor’s note), so there is a lot. “So we try to make it tangible and understandable for everyone, but mainly for girls,” says Asen.
In addition to the lectures, “Girls and Technology” features several TikTok-formatted videos about the daily lives of young women. The show culminates in a Kahoot quiz, and if you listen carefully, you could be the lucky winner of prizes like AirPods, a speaker, or a Polaroid camera.
Asen stresses the importance of showing that it is “normal” girls who work with technology.
-We also have a lot of information on TikToks and on Instagram, where the same role models talk about their lives. The most important thing is that they are completely ordinary girls, and you don’t have to be a genius.
She continues to say that there are many initiatives like this, but very few that focus on this exact target group in high school. It’s right before girls have to make their first choices.
-Once they have made a choice, e.g. Whether you’re taking a science subject or not, you’ve already opened or closed some doors. And if you don’t know anything about what a technology job is, don’t consider that either.
Subject choice in high school is the first place we see a bottleneck, says NRS leader Guru Rorvik.
“We need to get more people choosing hard math in high school, so they have the foundation to apply for courses that require it,” she says.
These strange hats are placed on the heads of Camilla Thone Nyhagen (25 years old) and Mia Vrevik (23 years old). They are both role models and study at the University of Oslo. Nyhagen has a master’s degree in astronomy and a Frevik degree in medical physics, which deals with the medical application of radiation, for example how to improve X-ray capture, so that radiation doses to patients are reduced.
They both say they want to show others that these subjects are cool and something girls can do.
“I think a lot of people consider physics very dry,” says Nyhagen.
– Yes, and perhaps difficult. But if you just try, you’ll get good at it anyway, Vrevik explains, adding that doing something difficult gives a sense of mastery.
She also says that in medical physics there is a fairly equal distribution of genders. In Camilla Thon Nyhagen’s study there is a dominance of men. This year there were 761 male applicants and 291 female applicants to study Physics and Astronomy at UiO. But she still feels like she belongs there and is well taken care of.
However, they want to spread the message that technology is available to girls too.
– A lot of technology has been developed by men. This means that it is also suitable for men. But seat belts, phones, etc. could be a better fit for girls, if they also participate in developing them in the future, says Frevik.
-And then there are new ideas and new perspectives on things. After all, we all think differently and focus on different things too. “So, we adapt the technology and share with each other,” Nyhagen adds.
Technology that is not adapted to women
- The mobile phone is too big for the hand
- Medicines that have only been tested on men and are therefore wrong for women
- 47% increased risk of serious injury in a car crash, because seat belts were typically tested on man-shaped dummies
source: Caroline Criado Perez
NSR leader, Guru Rorvik, agrees that we need diversity in technology development.
– Ultimately, we live in a diverse society and the solutions we create must come from diverse technologists. There are plenty of examples of technology being neither democratic nor gender-neutral.
Technology touches a large part of our lives, and according to Rorvik, for example, it is very important that something like medical technology is developed by a diverse group.
– That’s why we’re so interested in diversity. It’s not just us recruiters who are concerned about this, but also those who will employ the workforce. She says that employers are very keen on the need for diversity among their employees in order to develop the best solutions.
There is a preponderance of girls in chemistry and biology, especially in biology, while in physics and mathematics there is a large preponderance of boys, but there is still a discrepancy depending on the location of the country and the university. At NTNU, there is a very high percentage of girls in technology subjects, but they worked very actively to get them, says Rorvik.
Moreover, she says the small but steady increase is a combination of different measures such as girls, technology, and general social and cultural development.
– But then it is also not possible to see what it is. We also don’t know what it would have looked like if we had not implemented these measures. The Girls in Technology evaluation also concluded that participating girls gained a better insight into educational opportunities in technology subjects, knowledge that makes the path to applying for technology education shorter.
Where are the girls?
– There is no reason for this, neither biologically nor intellectually nor physically. So it has to be social and cultural, says project manager Monica Asen.
By this she means that girls learn through interaction with others and culture.
Who do you think of when you think of a programmer? You’re thinking of a white man in his 30s. That’s great, but it’s a very narrow and homogenous group. The technology that many people are working on and developing is ultimately for everyone, but this link may not be that close. I think it simply has to do with gender stereotypes and traditional choices.
Rorvik says it is important to create awareness of technology topics among both girls and their surroundings.
– We believe that girls need more encouragement to dare to invest in technological materials, when they have to choose education. Then both teachers and parents play a very important role.
The girls get encouragement from role models in the show. One role model tells of all the times she retook math, but got worse grades each time. She is still studying technology.
The 18-year-old apprentice electrician emphasizes several times that this is by no means a boy’s profession.
The green chemist reminds the girls that they should support each other.
– Remember to cheer for your friend! It concluded with great applause.
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