Celebrating Women in STEM:Educators

14 Feb 2018

Wriggle want to celebrate educators in the Irish education system who are successfully integrating digital technologies and Coding into Irish classrooms. Ireland is one of the main tech hubs in the world and our young people need to be equipped with the necessary skills in order to thrive in it. Meet Coding Teachers Lyndsey Balfe and Deborah Hogan. We asked them about their thoughts on Coding in the Irish educational landscape. 


The Gender Gap 


There have been numerous studies as to why females are underrepresented in STEM fields. From an educational perspective, we believe that female role models help encourage girls to take part in STEM fields and pursue what they are passionate in. The software engineer Margaret Hamilton (aka the woman who took man to the moon) was greatly in influenced by a female educator. In a recent interview, she firstly cites a female professor as a role model who led her into the Computer Science field: 


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We asked Lyndsey and Deborah how can we inspire girls to learn how to code and how we can help in influence the gender the gap. 


DH: "the girls in my class are just as good at coding as boys". It's "more about students having an interest, and to be encouraged to do coding/programming. As a female teacher, maybe I am a role model to girls, but I’m not sure. I know currently I have a female lecture teaching me Java. That encourages me, just seeing how good she is". 


LB: "I think there are still stereotypes attached with these fields and a lack of female role models is a huge problem. It’s hard for anyone to imagine that they can rise to the top of their field but seeing female engineers, academics, scientists and coders-in real life - is a critical part of believing you can cut it". 


In the same vein as Margaret Hamilton and her female professor, fostering a students' passion for a subject is paramount. However, as Lyndsey clearly points out, as a girl, it helps to see female role models who you can relate to.

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The Irish Coding Classroom 

How important do you think it is that Computer Science and Coding are integrated into the Irish curriculum? 

LB: "Students, regardless of their interest in Computer Science and Coding, must be competent in using computers whether it be to create a document, write an essay, or researching a topic".


DH: "I think it is very important to have Computer Science in the Irish curriculum. Computers are becoming more and more part of our everyday life. I think students need to know how they work, if there are to be advancements in technology. They need to be not only users, but creators".


What characteristics do Coding students develop? What skills do they learn from a Coding course in particular? 


LB: "Students that develop the skills to Code will become creators not just consumers of information. Students with this creative ability and technical knowledge will hold the power in the future”.


DH: "Coding helps student to be more resilient and determined. They have the freedom to be more innovative and creative. Students get a great sense of achievement in what they create, and it makes them more confident". 


Naturally, we think that both of these female educators are strong role models for girls in second-level. From talking to them, it is clear that fostering passion for STEM education and strong female role models are two integral ingredients to seeing more girls enter STEM fields. 


1.) https://futurism.com/margaret-hamilton-the-untold-story-of-the-woman-who-took-us-to-the-moon/ (Accessed 14/11/17)