LAST WEEK the three-storey flagship Microsoft Store on Oxford Street partnered with UK schools and teachers to host a programme of workshops to help 150 12-13 year old girls get their ideas off the ground and introduce them to some of the most creative, high-tech careers in the world.
The students heard from women working in tech and took part in a coding exercise where they were tasked with creating a technological solution to a real-world problem with a focus on sustainability.
They then had to pitch their ideas to a panel of senior Microsoft staff.
A music playing shower timer, water filtration device and animal protection gadget were among the creative and thoughtful ideas that the girls taking part came up with.
The week-long programme was part of DigiGirlz, Microsoft’s global initiative to engage young girls with tech and equip them with skills that encourage them to get enthusiastic about the industry.
Research by the tech giant found that by age 15, young European girls have often lost their excitement around science, technology, engineering and maths.
Kaltuma, one of the students who took part in last week’s DigiGirlz programme said she found the day “really, really fun and inspirational”.
“The work that we did…it was really, really fun and my group made this water filtration thing called the water porter,” Kaltuma told The Voice.
Reflecting on the day as a whole, Kaltuma, who wants to be an engineer when she’s older, said: “It’s a great way to talk to people and socialise and use technology at the same time.
“We learnt that everyone can do tech and it was a really fun way to explore.”
Rayan, another pupil, said the day had encouraged her to think about working in tech.
“I’ve learned more about how technology can change the world and be sustainable,” she said.
Itrat Kazmi, computer science teacher at Swakeleys School for Girls, was enthusiastic about the impact the programme had had on her students.
Kaszmi told The Voice: “It’s opening it up to them and really making them realise there’s so much for them to kind of pursue a career in and it’s not just the whole coding and that’s it.
“A couple of the girls I was talking to wanted to go into medicine but they’ve kind of seen that they can actually go into medicine with the link of technology.
“I think you need things like this from time to time to really inspire you.”
Inspiring girls and opening their eyes to the opportunities that exist is exactly what the programme exists to do, Sahar Erfani, community development specialist, Microsoft, said.
“The impact that it has is the opportunity for them to get hands on, engage with coding activities, get them to develop those STEM skills but also be exposed to a network with females who are living and breathing that currently. So it’s just an opportunity for them to, in the future, make informed decisions about future careers, or higher education or further education opportunities as well.”
She added: “The idea that we’d like them to take away is that the possibilities and the opportunities are endless and it’s about them having exposure to different females or different job sectors or different areas of technology that they perhaps might not have been exposed to before that they now have that understanding or perhaps a seed has been planted.”