Greenterface3: a technical workshop for girls by girls

Women represent less than 15% of IT professionals in Europe. How to encourage girls to choose studies and career? By organizing a special workshop that lead girls to discover that IT is fun, beyond Stereotypes!

At the Get Online Week 2012 launch eventInterface3 and Greenlight for girls led a web developing workshop; goal: build a techno workshop by women for (young) women. During the one hour workshop, students of Interface3's webmaster course guided a group of eight 16-18 years old schoolgirls from St John’s International School 'to discover the code behind the web'. The workshop resulted in a success for both “trainers” and “trainees”.

The aim of the workshop was to build a website about a fictional architecture enterprise, "Greenterface3", expert in passive housing and green renovation.

In the days before the workshop, Sonia Blazquez, Interface3's coordinator of the webmaster course and Mélodie Imbach, student of the course, prepared banners, samples of HTML code, images and videos, all ready to be uploaded on the webpage. Cheryl D. Miller, director of Greenlight for girls, chose the topic and the structure of the website.

Several meetings between Interface3 and Greenlight for girls took place before the workshop: “It was a lot of extra-work for us and in a hurry", says Mélodie Imbach, "but it was nice to see that after a year of HTML, CSS, Photoshop etc., we are ready to teach the ‘hidden face behind the web’ to these young women”. “Teaching 'web code' was a very pleasant experience and a personal achievement for me” adds Hong Van Thuy, also student of Interface3' webmaster course.

The workshop was a very interesting discovery for the schoolgirls: “We are all internet users", explains Felicitas Sauerbrei of St John’s, "but during this workshop we actually discovered that we know nothing about how a website actually works!” “Learning the basic tags isn’t in fact a big deal” said Ilaria Oliviero from St John’s, “and its great fun because you can see the results very quickly!”

The class was divided into pairs: one St John’s schoolgirl with one student from Interface3. Mélodie Imbach of Interface3 was in charge of technical explanations: what is HTML, CSS etc, and showed how to create a page. The schoolgirls had to follow the instructions and produce their own code in their PC, while assisted by an Interface3 student sitting next to her.

“The girls were definitely not beginners in using a PC” said Mélodie Imbach “and the rhythm was fast enough to complete the structure of the website. Nevertheless, it’s a pity not having had more time to go further!”. “Next time” adds Jenifer Carryn, student of Interface3 “let’s do a three hours workshop, so the girls will be able to continue the website on their own, once back home or at school.”

For the students of Interface3 the most important thing was to realise that they’re able to turn themselves from students into teachers.

They also realized into which degree professional IT profiles are unknown to people: “I think that after the workshop the girls from St John’s have a much better knowledge of what IT jobs consist of” Mélodie said “and even if they will choose others fields for their professional careers, at least they have 'tested' once how it would be to have an ‘IT code based job’.”

Laure Lemaire, Director of Interface3 agrees: “Since 2007 we have led the 'IT professional for a day' project that raises the awareness of 14-19 old students about the possibilities of a career in IT. We already organized 180 workshops in 69 schools, reaching a total of 3120 pupils. The methodology is very successful: high school students receive an hour of explanation about IT jobs and careers, two hours of web workshops ‘to discover the code behind the web interface’ and three hours in an IT company or department to meet a team of IT professionals. It’s important for young people to discover the different professional IT profiles. Because the daily job of a system engineer is so different than the job of a web application developer!”

Fighting against gender stereotypes - very much present in the career choices of young people - is another important objective of the project. Laure explains: “Girls do not choose for an IT career because the sector is very masculine: in Europe, less of 15% of IT professionals are women. In fact, the stereotypes of ‘the geek’ and ‘the hacker’ are not appealing at all for young girls. During our workshops, the trainers of Interface3 work to deconstruct these stereotypes and encourage girls to explore ICT. That’s also why it is very important to have female trainers for those workshops: both girls and boys must feel that women can be competent in IT matters. In each company who participates in the project we try to obtain female IT speakers to show the girls that an IT career is possible and interesting for them.”

“The methodology of our workshops” Laure further explains “can be adapted to different kinds of end-users such as schoolgirls, unemployed women, etc. In addition, I believe that the methodology is exportable to other European countries. Through our membership of Telecentre-Europe we can show our expertise and build up more tools that make these kind of workshops easier to run. During the Get Online Week launch event, I invited members of the industry and the European commission and parliament to support us in creating such tools. They could then be translated in several languages and used on daily basis by telecentres in all Europe. That’s the strength of Telecentre-Europe as an international organization: by working together, we can really change the face of IT, turning it into 'a more women-friendly face'."

TextElena Lanzoni, Communications and Industry Relation Manager Interface3 and project leader of the “IT professional for a day” project

Photos: Emmanuel Crooÿ

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Comment by RHOBAI MUSIMBI ANGULE on March 19, 2012 at 17:35

Great!  I wish I had a chance to attend

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