The move follows Girlguiding’s 2021 attitude survey, which found that just over half of girls aged 11-21 think STEM subjects are ‘for boys’ – a strength of feeling that hasn’t budged since 2016.
To change these mentalities, the association is rolling out new digital skills activities for its members aged 5 to 18.
The charity will start early, teaching Rainbows – the four- to seven-year-old branch – app design using a course called Happy Appy. Young girls are much less likely to believe STEM subjects are not for them than those aged 11 and over, according to a survey.
Brownies, up to age 10, will learn how to write code for a robot, while older girls and young female guides and rangers will learn about chatbots and phone design. All courses, accessible to approximately 400,000 girls, were designed in partnership with Google.
“Everyone has heard of Google, even five-year-olds,” said Maddie Wray-Reynolds, Cheltenham guidebook and brownie leader and self-proclaimed nerd.
“It’s so great to think that these exciting new activities will be available for girls and young women to engage in STEM. Technology plays such an important role in our daily lives, and women should be involved in its creation.”
Brownies can already complete STEM-related badges like aviation, invention, and space, while guides can do science, computing, robotics, and engineering. But their popularity pales in comparison to Brownies’ love of baking, mindfulness, and performance, and Girl Guides’ preference for (non-alcoholic) mixology, recycling, and background cooking.
Women are underrepresented in STEM subjects and the associated workforce. The percentage of women in STEM jobs has increased from 26% in 2019 to 24% in 2020.
Peyton Mitchell, a Brownie from Hemel Hempstead, enjoyed the new activities:
“I loved…learning to code. It was so much fun! Fixing bugs was hard, but once I tried a few times, I was able to do it.”