Suzi Perry calls for schools to encourage girl geeks as Campus Party gears for Women in Tech Day
Campus Party Europe, the annual gathering for tech evangelists and bright young hopefuls who aim to help shape the technology industry of the future, is to play host to a Women in Tech Day tomorrow, 5 September, in London.
The O2-sponsored event will play host to keynote speeches by Lady Geek's Lucie Sarif, the founder of Lastminute.com Martha Lane-Fox, Mitchell Baker of Mozilla and other important women in the industry. It will also hold a women in tech panel in The O2, the site of the week-long festival.
But while accepting that this is a positive step in the right direction, TV presenter and host of the Campus Party Europe opening ceremony Suzi Perry thinks that we need to encourage girls to see technology as a career path at a younger age, if we hope to find the next Marissa Mayer.
"There’s still only about 17 per cent women in technology on a global scale, which is appalling really," she told Pocket-lint in a one-to-one interview.
"It stems from careers advice at school, and girls just seem to be a little bit afraid of the industry. But there is absolutely no reason why a woman can’t do the same job as a guy. It’s not difficult, it’s about how we’re wired and I don’t get it. We really need to do something about it."
The host of the BBC's Formula One coverage explained that while having inspirational women leaders speak at seminars is great, the way that they are perceived is vital.
"Women obviously need to be inspired by other women, but also need to not feel threatened by them, especially those who have been hugely successful," she explained.
"It’s a fine line between listening to them and being inspired by them, but not then thinking ‘I couldn’t do that.’
"But to get girls in the right direction we need to educate them from school age. If a girl is, from the minute they go to school, playing with technology and understanding it, then suddenly they want to know about it.
"It sounds like a simple solution, but I think it’s a good place to start."
Some steps have been made already, with social networking and the rise of the smartphone helping encourage younger girls to play with and use technology on a daily basis. And manufacturers seem to be realising that androgynous device design has more of an allure to both sexes. The days of pink phones are numbered, Perry told us.
"I think there is still a tiny market for that, but there’s been a massive backlash against it," she said.
"I personally find it extremely sexist and condescending by people who don’t understand women. But I’ve also had people say to me, ‘All my technology’s pink. I love it.’
"So there is a market for it, but I think that most women don’t want that. They just want something that’s beautifully designed, cool and works, which is essentially what men want as well."
Campus Party Europe continues to run at The O2 in London's East End until Saturday, 7 September. Tickets are still available from campus-party.eu.