The new IT crowd: What happened when Norwich girls met Thyngs
PUBLISHED: 09:14 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:01 08 March 2019
"Would you be put off a career in tech because it was male dominated?"
The question prompted looks of incredulity and shaking heads from a room full of young women, who were on a trip to one of the county’s leading tech firms.
Students from the Norwich Girls’ High School visited Thyngs, in a trip organised by the Eastern Daily Press Business team to celebrate this Women in Tech special.
MORE: Women in Tech: Cyber’s gender crisis
The girls were welcomed to the Norwich-based company by chief executive Neil Garner – before trying their hands at building their own QR code platform.
The fact that if many of them went into a career in tech, they’d be joining an under-represented gender in the industry neither intimidated nor concerned them.
“No, if I wanted to go into tech I wouldn’t be intimidated by the statistics,” said 14-year-old Orla Hardiman.
“For me it’s not about that. I feel like we’re working towards equality – it’s not about women not being allowed jobs, it’s about encouraging more people to find out about what tech actually is.”
Classmate Brit Dewing, 15, agreed. She said: “Typically it’s been a boy’s thing. I think it’s not something that women are ever introduced to. It’s really sad because it’s something that can be enjoyed by everybody, as jobs or hobbies, and gives you a greater understanding of how things work.”
She continued: “I really like coding and similar stuff to that, but I haven’t had much practise.
“But it wasn’t really something that you did as a child. Nowadays people in primary school do it, but we never got that. GCSE Computing is the closest I’ve got so far, as well as trips like this which are great.”
On why she’d like to go into a career in tech, Miss Dewing said: “Coding is quite logical and it applies to so many things. It builds up in very small steps and then you’ve got this amazing thing that can apply to so many areas.
“Potentially I’d feel intimidated by how male-dominated the sector is at the moment, but I wouldn’t if I felt prepared for the job interview I was undertaking.
“I think typically women don’t believe they’re as capable of stuff as men, a lot of studies have shown this. But if I know I shouldn’t feel intimidated then I’d overcome it, and hopefully when other people want to come to the table, 50% of them will be women.”
Her classmate Fredi Davies, 14, added that raising issues with gender inequality with her peers could be difficult.
She said: “When I’ve spoken to other boys my age and talked about this, they don’t really understand. They say it’s feminism and they’re not very interested. But every woman should have the same opportunity as men.”
Nikita Bhatia, 14, has her heart set on a career in finance. She said: “I wouldn’t want to specifically go into a tech career, because I would really like to go into finance. But jobs like those in finance are getting more reliant on tech, and that’s exciting.”
Classmate Clara Drax, 14, said: “I’m really interested in tech, we’re just studying hacking and cyber security at the moment. It’s interesting to come to businesses like this and see how tech can be used to build a business.”
The students who visited Thyngs, a Future50 company, are all studying computing at GCSE level.
Laura Fox-Newby, operations director at Thyngs said: “It’s great to see these young women so excited by tech products. It’s amazing that you can give them an iPad, show them how to log on and they’re away, they’re so intuitive.”
The team at Thyngs talked the girls through the history of contactless payments – which Mr Garner helped to build, before giving their visitors individual cards with QR codes (barcode-like interactive stamps) printed on to them.
Each student then created their own website, which appeared on the mobile of the user when the QR code was scanned.