If you head down to Microsoft’s Oxford Street store next week you are more likely to find teenagers creating apps and launching start-ups than advice on which new computer to buy. That’s because the company’s Digigirlz programme, which aims to engage young girls with tech, is taking over the space as part of International Women’s Week (March 2-8).
Across those seven days, 150 girls aged between 12 and 13 are invited to try workshops and coding challenges with the goal of introducing them to the types of careers they can expect in the industry.
They will be asked to create a product solving a real-world problem, such as online bullying or climate change, using Microsoft tech, before pitching their idea to their teachers and the company’s staff.
Research from the tech giant found that young European girls are interested in Stem (science, tech, engineering and maths) subjects during the ages of 11-12, but by 15 they’ve often lost interest. Digigirlz hopes to change that.
“Stem skills play an increasingly important role in solving very real problems using technology which is why encouraging these girls to pursue careers in Stem is vital,” explains Microsoft’s community development specialist, Sahar Erfani.
Microsoft is also teaming up with Barbie and Mattel on a series of community events for girls aged 6-10 on International Women’s Day (March 8). Named You Can be Anything, the series focuses on encouraging girls to learn basic coding skills and build their future with tech. The workshops help numeracy and literacy too, not just tech skills though that is an obvious positive (microsoft.com/en-gb/store/locations/events).
“We want these young women to understand how advances in technology can help humanity solve some of our most pressing challenges, and to have the opportunity to build their digital, teamwork and communication skills with us,” adds Erfani.
Microsoft isn’t the only tech giant encouraging women to get involved. She Creates is a mini-residency taking over Apple’s in-store programming, exploring new ways to get creative using the company’s gadgets. Illustrator Nikki Miles will be holding court at the Regent Street store with a session on positivity and art, or you can explore the language of identity from the team behind LGBT+ publication AZ Magazine in the Covent Garden outpost (apple.com/uk/today/collection/she-creates/).
In King’s Cross at Samsung KX, you’ll be able to catch workshops throughout March offering advice on how to use tech to launch your very own start-up (samsung.com/uk/kx).
That should keep you inspired for a while.