Thanks to Stephen Howell, a lot of very bright women, and a sprinkling of equally bright gentlemen, had a really positive “céilí” last Thursday evening in Microsoft, Dublin, to honour a visit by Kim Wilkens (@kimxtom). (Kim, ‘céilí’ is Irish for a gathering where people gather and share stories, song, dance, food and drink. Mmm… we may need to have song and dance the next time, are you listening Stephen? The rest was there in very generous amounts, thank you for that.)
Kim brought us her story and insights into the dwindling numbers of women in tech since the 1980s. She is working to reverse this trend, slowly, one gathering at a time, one small group of girls at a time. Her ideas are simple. We were taking notes. Thank you Kim.
Serendipitously, Kim said her work was helped when she “met” wise woman Pam Moran in Va, USA through connections made here in Ireland. Pam gave an inspirational keynote (shared with Ira Socol) when invited by the forward thinking Pamela O’Brien to the #ictedu in Tipperary some years ago – never have two Keynote spent less time up on the stage, nor had a more lasting impact on those present, than Pam & Ira that day.
The mixture in the room on Thursday evening was eclectic – educators from all levels and areas – artists, entrepreneurs, students, mentors and interns all in the mix, which made for good conversations, sharp questions and thoughtful answers. The Ignite sessions from Clare Dillon (Microsoft), Mary Carty (the “accidental entrepreneur”), Giustina Mizzoni (Coderdojo), Julie Cullen (EU Code Week Ambassador) gave us a variety of insights into the worlds of those leading the development of tech in education, tech in young folk’s lives, and tech from a female standpoint. In the final stand-in Ignite, Stephen spoke of his experience in encouraging girls in computing, and announced he would be running a blended course in Teaching Computational Thinking and Coding for female teachers and mentors – you heard it here first – starts Wednesday November 19th in Microsoft.
It was good to see, in the same room for I suspect the first time (ladies?), the Chair of WITS Ireland Marian Palmer, the Chair of CESI Adrienne Webb, the “roving” Editor of Silicon Republic Anne O’Dea and SFI / Smart Futures Media Officer Donna McCabe. A heady mix of advocates for Tech in Ed. I was reminded of a #ITWomen list curated by Catherine Cronin, and made a note to remind folk to update it…here it is. Please update.
It was great to see that one school, Coláiste Bhríde Condalkin, had TWO Careers Guidance Counsellors. Go girls!
From memory, and forgive me in advance for any exclusions (or better again correct me directly here by comment), here are the folk I got to say hello to, in addition to those already listed. (I tried to do a “follow friday” on Twitter this weekend and was reminded why I never do #FF – the list of people worth following is just too long!).
> CoderDojoCavan chauffeuring cohort Catherine Fox and Cara McDermott
> educators from many spaces – inc. Bianca Ní Ghrógáin, Róisín Markham, Natasha Kiely, Sarah Jayne Carey and Miriam Judge
> advocates – inc. Deardriú Lally, Majella O’Dea, Aileen Howell, and Sandra Maguire
> those following us from home on Twitter #techgirls (btw, anyone for #techgirlsIE?) from East & West of Ireland and even Wester – inc. Anne White, Mary Loftus, Ciaran Cannon, and Leigh Graves Wolf
> and a special shout out to student coder Catrina Ní Charragáin – we did not get to speak this time, but next time, you’re the first on my dance card!
The chatter over meal time confirmed my feeling that yes, Kim was speaking here to the converted, but more importantly she was speaking to the converters, those who will bring others with them on the journey to ensure our girls at least get offered the chance to each make her own informed choices about participation in the world of computer science.
PS – this were not exclusively an “xx” gathering, for as well as our host Stephen, also present was one of our strongest supporters, James Crook (Audacity coder and informal but committed educator). Speaking with James leaves a person in no doubt we are all going, slowly but surely, in the right direction – together.
PPS – a sparkle of light that coincided with our meeting was the announcement that 9 year old Irish “techgirl”, Lauren Boyle [of Cool Kids Studio], was announced as EU Digital Girl of the Year at the European Ada Awards! Ergo, we are doing something right, we just need it diffused fully through every seam of our society. Good work Lauren.