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The Girl Project Ada: A Successful Project for Recruiting Female Students to the ICT-Studies at NTNU

by Line Berg

Ten years ago, girls represented only 16% of the applicants to Science and Technology studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). This year that percentage share exceeded 30%. In the same period the absolute number of female applicants more than tripled. This is a consequence of focused and targeted work from NTNU, which has required long-term dedication and channelling of resources – both time and money.

The main goal of the Girl Project Ada [1] is to increase the number of women graduating with a master’s degree in ICT. To achieve this, two main approaches are taken: organising recruitment events to promote ICT studies to girls at high school; and operating career networks with professional and social networking amongst female ICT students.

Recruitment events
There are two annual recruiting events targeting girls only: Girls’ Day and the Technology Camp.

The purpose of Girls’ Day, a joint venture organised by three faculties at NTNU, is to inform attendees about science and technology-studies offered at the university. Girls from the final year of high school are invited to apply. Two hundred and fifty girls get to spend two days at NTNU; listening to presentations and meeting students who talk about their own study program. Girls’ day has been held annually since the early 1990s.

The Technology Camp [1] aims to promote, and recruit female students to, ICT studies at NTNU, including studies in computer science, informatics, communication technology, electronics systems design, mathematics, and cybernetics and robotics.

We invite every female high school student who is majoring in mathematics to apply to the Technology Camp. Through a selection process, which emphasises a student’s written motivation, grades and national distribution, the 160 best applicants are invited to come to Trondheim and NTNU for a three-day visit to meet students and professors and to learn about ICT. It is also important to give them a feel for how their life as a student will be, through a tour of the city and campus, guided by current female students.

They also meet ICT students and representatives from ICT companies. Experience has shown us that one of the most important factors influencing recruitment and motivation is role models. In order to break the stereotype that ICT is only for guys, the most effective way is to make sure that high school girls get to meet the female ICT students who are already studying at NTNU, and alumni female ICT students from NTNU who now have exciting jobs in ICT. There is no better way than credible female role models to sell the message that ICT studies are suited for girls.

The Technology Camp participants get to listen to exciting, fun and motivating presentations and lectures, and engaging workshops. We spend a lot of resources planning an exciting program for the Technology Camp. Examples of lectures and workshop topics in 2015 are shown in the fact box.

About 70% of the participants at the Technology Camp and the Girl´s Day later apply to a science and technology-study at NTNU. Surveys among current students at NTNU who participated in the Technology Camp show that this was crucial for their decision to study ICT; “I would never have started communication technology studies if it had not been for the Technology Camp “ (third year Communication Technology student).

Figure 1: Number of female applicants for master of science and technology
Figure 1: Number of female applicants for master of science and technology

Career Network
The career networks [3] are collaborative projects between the Girl Project Ada and a number of companies in the business community. The aim of the career networks is to promote networking between female students and relevant business associates in the private sector. The Girl Project Ada career networks are for electronics, cybernetics, and ICT students. There are four annual gatherings where students and representatives of the companies meet for professional and social networking. The majority of female ICT students at NTNU end up having their first job with one of the companies in the career network (see fact box).
Once a year the Girl Project Ada takes 90 female first year students for a three-day trip to Oslo where we visit the companies in the career networks. This allows students to get a feel for what a working day/typical employer is, and strengthen friendships within their peer group. Surveys have shown that this has a great impact on preventing drop-outs.
Two days before enrolment to NTNU, The Girl Project Ada organizes a welcome day [4] for new female students to assure a positive and welcoming start. We introduce them to current students and student associations and give them a guided tour of campus with more information about the Girl Project Ada.

Throughout the semester, in addition to organizing career-network gatherings and the Oslo-trip for the first year students, we organize a variety of courses, including coding evenings with companies, social networking lunches and mountain hikes. The female ICT students also have their own ICT lab “Cybele” – girls only, no boys allowed!

The 160 participants at the Technologycamp at NTNU 1-3 November 2015. Photo: Kai T Dragland.
The 160 participants at the Technologycamp at NTNU 1-3 November 2015. Photo: Kai T Dragland.

Facts

Recruitment events

  • The Girls’ Day:
    • Recruitment to technology and natural sciences studies
  • Technology Camp (organized by Ada):
    • Recruitment to ICT studies
    • Lectures (examples from 2015): “Online with hackers, spies and scammers”, “How to win the Oscars with a degree in mathematics”, “Learning from games” (by the inventor of Kahoot Professor Alf Inge Wang)
    • Workshops (examples from 2015); “Introduction to hacking”, “Build your own computer”, “Code your own game”, “Programming ”, “Build your own robot”, “How to get an easier everyday through The Internet Of Things ”, “Would you like to fly a drone with your brain?” and “Code a traffic light”
    • 70% of participants at the Technology Camp and the Girls’ Day later apply to a science and technology-study at NTNU
    • A subtitled film from the Technology Camp 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWXKCg3X-XQ

Career network

  • for electronics systems design, cybernetics and robotics, mathematics, communication technology, computer science and informatics students
  • companies: 22 ICT companies (including Facebook, ABB, Accenture, Acando, BEKK Capgemini, Telenor, EY, Cisco, Kongsberg, Silicon Labs, Nordic Semiconductor, Sopra Steria, Netlight, Schlumberger, Norsk Elektro Optik, Skatteetaten, Visma, Mesan, Marintek.)
  • Annual funding 2.1 million NOK (233, 000 Euros)
  • funded by : 40% from the university gender equality fund, 35% from the faculty of Information Technology, Mathematics and Electrical Engineering and 25% from the business sponsors.

Links:
[L1] http://www.ntnu.edu/girls
[L2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWXKCg3X-XQ
[L3] https://www.ntnu.edu/girls/career_networks
[L4] Photos from the Welcome day: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntnuime/sets/72157645948372010/

Please contact:
Line Berg
NTNU, Norway
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.