Sarah Moran Girl Geek Academy Interview

Sarah Moran Girl Geek Academy Interview

Coding Classes for Girls and the Wonderful Women in Their Life to Role Model Learning in STEM

Girl Geek Academy school holiday workshops will upskill parents and guardians alongside their children to address the wider societal issues of gender imbalance.

Girl Geek Academy has partnered with regional women's health promotion agency, Women's Health East to deliver a series of STEM-focused workshops aimed at tackling gender imbalance in technology careers and promoting equality in the classroom.

The workshops will be rolled out in January and March 2019 across Melbourne's East to support mums, daughters, aunts, nieces, grandparents, neighbours, and more groups of women and girls to learn coding together. Every young person will bring along a parent or guardian and Girl Geek Academy will be delivering the successful #MissMakesCode program model, which is specifically aimed at engaging young girls aged 5-8 into STEM.

Girl Geek Academy co-founder and CEO, Sarah Moran said: "Currently there is a lack of a STEM-based program that educates both women and girls in the same classroom, and we know the exponential value of working to build intergenerational STEM knowledge. By bringing women and girls together into one workshop, we are able to create something more vital and long-lasting -- an instant role model within their immediate family.

"By upskilling the women parents and guardians, the girls have a role model in their household who shows confidence and interest in technology, and can work with them on coding games and STEM schoolwork. It could also be an opportunity for the women to explore a new career path option if they wish to cross-skill into this in-demand profession."

The sessions will focus not only on technical coding skills, but also contain content and discussions around gender equality and cyber safety. Studies show that gender equality is a precondition for the prevention of family violence and other forms of violence against women and girls.

"It's a privilege to partner with Women's Health East on this initiative. Studies have shown societies with more gender equality have decreased rates of family violence, because it creates a society based on respect. Gender equality affects everyone, men and women, and should be a priority both in the workplace and in the home," said Ms Moran.

Women's Health East is the women's health promotion agency for the Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR) of Melbourne. Its vision is equality, empowerment, health and wellbeing for all women. A key priority of Women's Health East is advancing gender equality, through important projects like #MissMakesCode.

"Women are underrepresented in STEM-related fields. This is not because of a lack of talent, rather women and girls experience a range of gendered barriers to getting involved in STEM. Some of these begin early where girls are not encouraged to develop analytical and spatial skills through play. #MissMakesCode is a fun way to begin to bridge this divide for young girls in the EMR," said Jayde McBurnie,Together For Equality & Respect Manager.

Through this initiative, both Girl Geek Academy and Women's Health East hope to address the issue of gender inequality in STEM subjects, which is a leading cause of workplace inequality as there are simply not enough women with the skills to work in technology and STEM careers.

Ms Moran continued: "Our long-term aim is to explore whether this important behaviour modelling will result in influencing more girls to continue with STEM education, which we will do with ongoing evaluation at regular intervals after the workshop."

These workshops are supported by the Victorian Government as part of Free From Violence - Victoria's strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women. The initiative's goal of creating a safe and equal society for all Victorians is championed by Girl Geek Academy, whose focus is on addressing a broad range of technology gender equality issues.

Supporting partners also include Yarra Ranges Council, Inspiro Community Health, Maroondah Council, Whitehorse Council and Monash Council.

For more information, please visit: www.girlgeekacademy.com/events

Interview with Sarah Moran

Question: What is Girl Geek Academy?

Sarah Moran: Girl Geek Academy is a global movement teaching one million women to learn technology by 2025. Our face-to-face programs currently run in Australia and the USA. Girl Geek Academy is a group of skilled digital professionals who want to increase the number of women with successful technology careers. We work to see an increase of women in tech, women in games, women who make, women designers and women founders.

Our initiatives include coding and hackathons, 3D printing and wearables, game development, design, entrepreneurship and startups.

We also work with teachers, schools, corporates and startups to increase the number of women with professional technical and entrepreneurial skills.


Question: What inspired the creation of Girl Geek Academy?

Sarah Moran: We are women who wanted something like Girl Geek Academy to exist, so we built it. We had been going to events where we were the only women in the room and while those events weren't bad, they also weren't as good as they could be for us. Ultimately we wanted to support our fellow girl geeks – providing safe spaces, networking and collaboration opportunities and the potential to build their own businesses.

I met my Girl Geek Academy co-founders Lisy Kane, Tammy Butow, Amanda Watts and April Staines while working in and on various 'women in tech' initiatives. After Tammy launched #SheHacks, the world's first all-women hackathon, we were inspired to create something bigger, and thus – Girl Geek Academy was born!


Question: Who is Girl Geek Academy best suited to?

Sarah Moran: Girl Geek Academy is there for girls aged 5-85+. We look to support not only young girls in building their technology confidence but also the role models around them. This can be anyone from mums, daughters, aunts, nieces, grandparents, neighbours, teachers and more.

For example we are currently running #MissMakesCode workshops across Melbourne for both girls and the wonderful women in their life. By bringing women and girls together into one workshop, we are able to create something more vital and long-lasting -- an instant role model within their immediate family.

Currently there is a lack of STEM-based programs that educate both women and girls in the same classroom, and we know the exponential value of working to build intergenerational STEM knowledge. By upskilling the women parents and guardians, the girls have a role model in their household who shows confidence and interest in technology, and can work with them on coding games and STEM schoolwork. It could also be an opportunity for the women to explore a new career path option if they wish to cross-skill into this in-demand profession.


Question: What is involved in the #MissMakesCode program?

Sarah Moran: The full day program teaches girls to code and is available these school holidays. #MissMakesCode is the first initiative in the world created to build confidence and self efficacy in the areas of algorithmic thinking, programming and coding for young girls aged 5-8 years. The girls will learn key coding concepts through online and offline activities and build upon any existing skills they may have learned in school. The sessions focus not only on technical coding skills, but also contain content and discussions around gender equality and cyber safety.

Taught by professional teachers, the all-girls workshop is a terrific way to introduce kids to coding and game making and build their technology confidence. All resources have been developed by teachers who are specialised in the subject matter and who teach at these age groups daily in a range of systems, schools and settings.


Question: Can you talk us through the link between gender inequality and family violence and how Girl Geek Academy are addressing this?

Sarah Moran: Gender role expectations of women and men are a major contributor to domestic violence, with statistics showing 1 in 4 women in Australia having been abused by a current or former intimate partner.

Studies show that gender equality is a precondition for the prevention of family violence and other forms of violence against women and girls. Studies have also shown societies with more gender equality have decreased rates of family violence, because it creates a society based on respect. Gender equality affects everyone, men and women, and should be a priority both in the workplace and in the home.

At Girl Geek Academy we hope to address the issue of gender inequality in STEM, which is a leading cause of workplace inequality as there are simply not enough women with the skills to work in technology and STEM careers.

Our current workshops being run in Melbourne are supported by the Victorian Government as part of Free From Violence - Victoria's strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women. The initiative's goal of creating a safe and equal society for all Victorians is championed by Girl Geek Academy, whose focus is on addressing a broad range of technology gender equality issues.


Question: How can parents teach their children about gender equality, in the home?

Sarah Moran: Women's Health East and Girl Geek academy have pulled together a couple of easy steps any parent can use to start teaching gender equality at home:

1. Role Modelling
Role model equal participation in childcare, school drop/off pickup, and domestic tasks. Mix up the stereotypically gender-biased activities you do at daily at home i.e taking out the garbage and doing the laundry. Research shows that children as young as 7 develop ideas about what men and women 'should' do. Break this cycle, by showing your children that girls and boys can both do anything they set their minds to. We often find kids saying Dad is the go-to person for any technology and maths help, mix it up, make Mum the go to person! Even if you don't have the same level of experience with technology, mums and daughters can learn together from an early age, and spend time together figuring things out - that's the purpose of our #MissMakesCode workshops.

2. Courageous Conversations
You can do your absolute best at home, but children still set out to school, and the world, and may come up with ideas you have tried really hard to avoid. "Pink is for girls" "Lego is for boys". Our advice is - don't give up! The key here is to ask questions, and offer ideas. "Why do you say that" "So why can't girls play with lego". This will help to build your kids ability to critically reflect when they come across these notions in the big world, in early years, and in later life too. You might even find that with TV, books or games, you notice things that are not quite right as you are watching, reading or playing. Don't be afraid to point it out and have a chat about that, regardless of your child's age. "Did you notice that in that movie, the dad went to work, and the mum was home looking after the house?" "Why do you think that was?" "Do you think that should be the case for everybody?"

3. Play
Play is an important step for skill development. This means that if girls and boys are consistently playing with different toys, they are in fact developing very different skills to one another. This may mean that they have a head start dependent on which skills they are developing in play, and this will continue through school. For example toys such as Lego, building blocks, building structures-such as hot wheel tracks, and remote control devices are linked to developing spatial skills, spatial talk as well as physical motor skills. These skills are all linked to skill development in mathematics and later on STEM more broadly. Alternatively, toys such as dolls, soft toys, figurines, are linked to developing social skills such as social problem solving, these are important for developing the ability to communicate with others. Girls and boys should have equal opportunity to develop these skills, through play. Encourage a range of play with varying toys. In the #MissMakesCode workshop, parents have an opportunity to take picture cards of toys, and match them against skill development areas. We then have a reflective conversation about which types of toys are more typical for boys and girls, and the trends across skill development areas.


Question: What's next for Girl Geek Academy?

Sarah Moran: We are well on our way to teaching one million women to learn technology by 2025 and the next few years will see our programs to tackle this only get bigger and better! Our current #MissMakesCode workshops are running throughout January to March in Melbourne. For more information see here: https://girlgeekacademy.com/#events.


Interview by Brooke Hunter




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