On June 24, 2021, the 20th Girls Day took place. 36 interested schoolgirls visited MCI - The Entrepreneurial School® on this day. Our technical study program Digital Business & Software Engineering was not only presented to the visitors but also made tangible by means of a practical example. We asked our colleague Elisabeth Rabanser, MSc, organizational Assistant & Project Manager at the study program DiBSE as well as our colleague Alexander Monz, MA, Teaching & Research Assistant for an interview.
What kind of activites did you offer at Girls Day 2021?
Alexander Monz: "We started with a presentation in which we briefly explained color vision in humans and animals. The focus was on the question of why tigers are orange - after all, their primary habitat is the jungle, where the color scheme is strongly dominated by green. However, since tigers' main prey cannot see red, the big cats adapt almost perfectly, turning orange into green. This effect was demonstrated with the help of a self-developed online tool and we presented the fact that colors are also represented in computers with the help of the same scheme - through red, green and blue components. The visitors were then challenged to use this knowledge independently adapting the background of a website code we had prepared. Step by step, we showed them how other aspects of this website could be changed - from adapting the font, to integrating external images and videos, to getting to know their first script."
"With our concept, we were able to ensure that the students could experience the effects live on the final product," Elisabeth Rabanser added.
What was your intention with this?
Alexander Monz: "The core of the idea was to show future students, who have no prior knowledge of programming, that creating software is not "magic". With motivation and appropriate commitment, it is possible for anyone to acquire the necessary knowledge - creating a website, for example. We were able to demonstrate this to them, as the visitors were already able to independently adapt various aspects of the website after about 30 minutes. It was important to us that the girls were actually able to edit program codes, in order to be able to straighten out the myths surrounding the activity of programming."
Elisabeth Rabanser: "The challenge with our study program Digital Business & Software Engineering was that the course content could neither be shown in labs, tried out on robots, nor presented on end devices. Our goal was to move away from pure presentation and towards some form of interaction. We solved this by means of a very simple social media profile."
In your eyes, what is the biggest challenge in getting girls and young women excited about technology?
Alexander Monz: "In my opinion, the biggest challenge continues to be changing the reputation of technical professions and divisions as a "male domain" in the long term. The literature in this area identifies female "role models" as one of the most important factors in motivating young women to pursue technical studies and careers. Unfortunately, there are currently far too few of these. For this reason, many attempts are made to appeal interesting to young women through specially prepared content. However, this good intention leads exactly to the fact that existing gender differences are intensified even further. I think the better approach is to neutralize the subject area and also such content - for example, if someone is enthusiastic about developing apps, it doesn't matter WHICH app is being developed."
Elisabeth Rabanser: "In my eyes, a familiar environment of girls and young women sets the first and essential foundation for getting them excited about technology. If this does not happen, the next step requires a strong character and/or a motivated teacher who recognizes her potential and supports her on her way. It already counts as support if the young woman is encouraged in her idea of pursuing a technical career."
What were the biggest learnings for you after this year's Girls Day?
"The most important learning is that many girls are interested, but they are often not aware of the existing study or career opportunities. In order to develop video games, for example, they need many different technical skills - from sound design and animation to the development of highly complex algorithms for the game's internal artificial intelligence. This is where we could definitely make a contribution, so that the aggregate of STEM/MINT fields can actually be represented much better in job profiles," says Alexander Monz.