Do you know who the first ever computer programmer was?

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Do you know who the first computer programmer was? Inspiring the next generation of female tech leaders on International Women’s Day

Who was the first ever computer programmer, a man or a woman? This was the question we asked over one hundred 12-13 year old girls at Digital Her’s Inspire and Empower Roadshow. Only a few thought it was a woman, fewer knew it was Ada Lovelace.

Today is International Women’s Day. A day to think equal, build smart and innovate for change. But did you know that only 20% of the tech industry that create current and future technologies are women?

An even smaller percentage of girls choose to study STEM related subjects past GCSE, meaning that a large part of our technology world is designed and developed from male perspective

Digital Her, an initiative created by Manchester Digital, is at the heart of the Balance For Better campaign - this year’s theme for International Women’s Day.  It has already started on its mission to inspire the next generation of young women aged between 12-13 to become future tech leaders and help reduce the gender bias that currently exists.

Sponsored by Manchester Science Partnerships, BJSS, GCHQ and Auto Trader UK the Digital Her Inspire and Empower Roadshow has been travelling through Greater Manchester boroughs with real life role models and exciting workshops to break down the stereotypes and associations many girls have about working in tech.

At the latest roadshow event in Wigan we heard from Wigan Council’s Chief Executive, Alison McKenzie-Folan, who spoke about the endless career opportunities that now exist in the tech sector, including data detectives, coding, designing apps and even saving lives with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and medical devices.

In a workshop delivered by our customer Emma Ryan, Co-founder of the new revolutionary content sharing platform called Wattl, she explained that working in tech isn’t just about computer programming or being good at maths, but it's about being creative, logical, organised, sociable, working with people and problem solving. The task of the day was for all the girls to think about creating their own apps and the different roles that would be needed.

As expected the response was exceptional - with a huge amount of innovative ideas shared.

Apps that sense traffic movement to detect danger when walking, devices that help young children take their medicine, platforms to enable virtual design of your living room before purchasing furniture, a feedback website to improve school dinners and even apps to make education and learning more fun. Yes some of these technologies are already being created by some of the brightest mind in the country, but these 12-13 year olds are already on their wavelength, thinking the same way, and in the space of one day are coming up with the next brilliant technological innovations of the future.

In other workshops designed by GCHQ, BJSS and Auto Trader UK the girls also got to work on a secret decoding mission, creative digital strategies and coding their own emojis.

Digital Her is just one of the many projects taking place in the North that celebrate, inspire and empower young women… and we’re certainly excited to see what these bright minds think of next and what the future holds.