Girls take byte out of IT program

16:00, Dec 18 2013
IT Byte
IT GIRLS: McAuley High School students Marlina Letele, left, and Letiana Lepupa were one of three teams that won first place in the Programming Challenge for Girls at MIT.

Mention the words information technology and it's likely to conjure up negative images of male computer nerds.

That's a stereotype the Manukau Institute of Technology wants to change.

For the seventh year, it has run the Programming Challenge for Girls (PC4G), a country-wide one-day challenge introducing year 10 girls to computer programming.

The students are split into teams of two and taught how to use computer programming software called Alice.

They take part in a programming challenge using Alice and the top teams will attend a two-day programming camp at Victoria University in Wellington.

Faculty of business and information technology engagement manager Edwina Mistry says the aim is to encourage women to consider IT as a career.


Ms Mistry has worked in the IT industry for the past 28 years and says she's seen a lot of changes in terms of women entering the profession but it's still not enough.

"A lot of students don't understand what the various careers are in IT. They think it's just for nerds," she says.

"IT is something everyone uses every day. We're trying to change perceptions so that women have a place in programming."

Ms Mistry says people do need a bit of skill in IT but it's not a difficult profession to work in.

But, she says "if you want to get into hardcore programming, you need the maths".

Forty-eight girls from 13 schools took part in this year's PC4G at MIT.

Students from McAuley High School, Tangaroa College and Marist College took out first place and will be heading to Wellington.

McAuley High students Letiana Lepupa, 14, and Marlina Letele, 15, say they were chosen to attend the PC4G by their IT teacher.

Marlina says she found Alice difficult to learn and to use but she can picture herself doing IT in the future.

"I'll probably do tech stuff like phone apps or computer games," she says.

Manukau Courier