Running activities to try to attract women into tech takes time and energy, and it’s not always clear what activities really work. Our team (University of Stirling, Edinburgh Napier University, Ada Scotland Festival, SDS) carried out research in 2021 with event organisers and young women studying tech to explore this question of “What activities are most successful for attracting women and girls into tech?”. Scottish Government funded the project (P20-086) Gender Imbalance in Digital Technology. What we found was that most activities are not well-documented, and few carry out evaluation, therefore we were unable to definitively answer the question. To address this, based on the research in the study, we established likely elements of good practice and through those developed a framework to support organisers planning outreach activities for women in tech. While the framework is targeted at events for women, we believe it will be useful in planning events for under-represented groups in general.
The framework puts participants at the centre: who are organisers trying to engage, and what is the change they wish to see in those participants following the event? Our research showed that role models are particularly important to young women in tech, so the framework emphasises the part that role models play in any activity as representations of possible future selves for participants. Our aim is that by using the framework organisers will create a better event and be able to evidence their success through embedded evaluation. Ultimately, we believe that if lots of organisers use the framework, we can start evaluating activities across Scotland, and work together to build a robust evidence base on which to answer to the question “what activities are most successful in attracting women and girls into tech?”.
The best practice card summarises the framework and describes the workflow of moving through each aspect step-by-step to plan the activity (indicated by the arrows).
The detail of the framework is captured in the set of checklists and quick questions. The core of the framework is the six aspects:
- Participants and Inclusion,
- Role Models,
- Next Steps.
Also available as a PDF
Each aspect is addressed in detail through a checklist to support planners. There are questions to clarify what each aspect means for their particular activity. There are examples of common answers to those questions which are taken from our previous research to provide further guidance. Good practice is demonstrated through the sections on “what worked for participants?” and “tips/ideas from organisers”. Evaluation is fundamental to the framework and appears in every checklist: how will your evaluation for the activity support you in evidencing that you are meeting those aims, identifying the right participants, and so on? Further good practice is provided through the “Comments” section.
The Quick Questions section is for organisers to record their own answers to the questions raised. This provides a permanent record of the thinking behind the activity planned, and can act as a living document to support the planning process from inception to next steps.