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Digital Divas




Computing is too important to be left to men. (Karen Sparck-Jones: pioneer in information retrieval and natural language processing (1935–2007), in Klawe, Whitney and Simard, 2009)

This slogan from an early pioneer in computing, and the winner of the 2007 ACM-W Athena Lecturer Award celebrating contributions to computer science by women, encapsulates the importance of broadening participation in information technology (IT). In 2015 the lack of women in IT remains a concern to all involved in this influential and empowering industry. The Australian Computer Society [ACS] statistics presented below are a snapshot of this decline of female involvement in IT (ACS, 2012):

In February 2011, there were 131,059 women in ICT occupations in Australia, 24.10% of the total ICT occupation employment. This was a marginal increase of 0.6% since February 2010, whilst the absolute number of women had increased by over 8,000.

By February 2012, these gains had been reversed, according to the ABS Labour Market Survey, with the absolute number declining to 91,400, at only 19.73% of the total ICT occupation workforce…

… note that the female percentage of ICT courses at university has been below the industry percentage for some years, so ongoing decline in the female ICT working percentage is almost inevitable without specific intervention. (pp. 25–26)

In the 21st century, despite the ubiquitous application and use of information technologies, girls are still significantly under-represented in IT courses and careers. This was an impetus for the research project, funded by an Australian Research Council Grant (2009 to 2011), the title of which is the subject of this book.

The Digital Divas Project was devised by like-minded researchers from three universities, in conjunction with industry partners, who combined their expertise and experiences to deliver an intervention program in secondary schools aimed at changing stereotypical perceptions of the Information Technology suite of courses and careers. It should be noted that both ‘IT’ and ‘ICT’ are used through the book in reference to computing or technology. Those we talked with referred to both IT and ICT and these terms are also both used in the literature.


… three requirements for gender equity progress were awareness, concern, and action – recognition of a gender imbalance, belief that the imbalance matters, and doing something to change it. The absence of any one of these prevents progress. (Sanders, 2005, p. 4)

In 2009 we were well aware of the declining interest girls and women were showing in studying or working in IT. This was a concern to all of us involved in this influential and empowering industry. The under-representation of females is presented as a vicious cycle of negative feedback (Figure 1.1), each aspect influencing the other:

Figure 1.1. The vicious cycle of the under-representation of women in IT

We believed that unless we interrupted this cycle of female non-participation in IT, the reality would be a self-perpetuating prophesy of:

Girls don’t do IT, because girls don’t DO IT. (Sandberg, 2011)

The authors, all women working in or having an interest in IT, had observed this continued decline of female participation and, knowing that a career in IT is exceptionally rewarding, could not stand by and ignore the trend. Research presented in the next section clearly demonstrates that improving the number of women in IT not only improves the IT industry in general, but also improves the usefulness of IT for women. Similarly, research indicated that the school experience is crucial in determining student course and career aspiration. For these reasons we researched how to improve and change the situation. We designed our program to be delivered in junior high school to reduce the influence of the stereotype that IT is a career only for boys.

Our multi-disciplinary research team brought with them an extensive skill set and background knowledge in both the discipline of education and its practices, and the various information technology disciplines of schools and universities. Our project was the first longer-term, multi-layered intervention program in Australia exploring curriculum-based strategies to address both girls’ lack of interest in studying IT at school and the stereotypical representations of IT careers.

The need for diversity in the industry

The problem of the lack of diversity in IT in Western developed nations is well recognised internationally (Ahuja, 2002; Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2007). There are many documented cases of the negative impact this is having on the IT industry and, more broadly, on companies. For example, voice recognition systems in cars that do not recognise women’s voices annoy female drivers and are likely to put them off buying certain cars (Carty, 2012); and Wikipedia recognising that its content was compromised because there were insufficient female editors (Stierch, 2011). The lack of diversity in working teams on IT projects needs to be rectified, not just for women in IT but for women in general. Companies with female senior managers have been shown to outperform those without women in leadership positions (Leyden, 2004). Similarly, work teams with gender balanced (50:50) memberships have been shown to be more experimental, more likely to explore new ideas and more efficient than single-sex teams (National Centre for Women and Information Technology [NCWIT], 2012). Furthermore, despite being a minority, when they have engaged in IT, statistics show that women have founded high-tech start-ups with less funding and fewer failures than the average (NCWIT, 2012).

The statistics and research findings confirm that this influential career path should not be the domain of males only, and indeed needs the female voice and creative outlook to provide a balance in the professional workplace and in the development and management of IT applications. The following quote from the creator of Storytelling Alice, a version of the Alice programming language created with the interest of girls in mind, demonstrates this shared goal:

If we want young girls to choose to learn how to program computers, we need to deeply understand the kinds of programs girls will be motivated to create and design programming environments that make those programs readily achievable. ((Caitlin Kelleher), Klawe et al., 2009, p. 73)

The continuing shrinking pipeline

Research conducted in Australia found that in general, women want to work in IT and are well qualified to do so (Bandias & Warne, 2009). However, consistent with many other professions, women in IT professions continue to be paid less than men, and there are fewer women in senior management roles (Byrne & Staehr, 2005). Previous research conducted by three of the authors (Fisher, Lang & Craig, 2013), found that women who selected an IT career were happy with their decisions to work in IT. Our research indicated that factors contributing to a satisfied female workforce include: career opportunities, flexibility, respect, professional development, and a future career path. These factors are not limited to IT. However, given that women are often the minority in IT workplaces, it is important to establish work-based networks and mentoring programs to address these factors and further assist women to progress and remain in the workforce.

In particular our study showed that:

The more women in an organisation, the less female workers felt they experienced discrimination.

Women value the flexibility usually associated with working in IT, but do see it as coming at a cost that was usually related to promotion opportunities.

Informal work-based networking activities are preferred to outside of work networking activities.

If managers actively support women to return to the workforce (usually after a break for child-rearing) they are more likely to stay in the career and indeed with the organisation.

The Statistics

The under-representation of women in IT courses and careers has persisted for the last thirty years (Hawkins, 1985; Kwan, Trauth, & Driehaus, 1985). In Australia in 2010 more women than men were graduating from university, yet not in the IT disciplines. In 2010 it was reported that women represented 55.6% of students enrolled in Australian universities (Department of Education, 2014). In 2012, women earned 57% of all Bachelor degrees, yet in the same year earned only 19% of undergraduate IT degrees (Department of Education, 2012).

A decline in student interest in IT courses (both from male and female students) occurred after the year 2000 as the industry stabilised following the dot-com bubble burst in the late 1990s. IT has grown to where every business and industry is reliant on IT professionals. However, the gender imbalance that was evident at the turn of the 21st century has worsened.

In most IT workplaces males are in the majority. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women make up 45% of the Australian workforce (ABS, 2012) yet only 19.73% of those are employed in IT (Australian Computer Society, 2012, p. 25). The majority of these women are employed in the less technical roles of IT Trainers, Sales Professionals, and Other Information and Organisation Professionals, a classification distinct from ICT Professionals (not further defined), which is 84% male. To further highlight that we are not alone in our concern at the waste of talent of ‘half the population’, a Victorian government report recently highlighted the challenge faced by the industry to ‘increase the level of participation of women in ICT, and be pro-active about recruiting people who are looking for a change in career into ICT roles’ (Department of State Development, Business and Innovation, 2012, p. 3).

IT Education: The Pipeline Blockages

Higher education statistics also show a reduced interest in this discipline overall, with women being the most visible non-participants (Department of Education, 2012). This results in insufficient graduates for the workforce and workplaces are competing to recruit female graduate students to increase the workplace diversity of their organisations.

It is apparent from these statistics that girls are not seeking university level IT education. Table 1.1 reveals the trend in completion numbers of undergraduate IT students in Australian universities over a ten-year period. While the attraction of the career path has almost doubled for male International students and has remained constant for female International students, the number of Australian males graduating from this discipline has decreased by just over 40% and the number of females by closer to 66% (Department of Education, 2012).

Table 1.1 Completion count by gender and status in IT Bachelor degree courses 2001 & 2010

In the state of Victoria, where the Digital Divas program was first implemented, secondary school statistics present a similar trend of student disengagement with IT courses. Figure 1.2 depicts the number of applicants who successfully completed the final year (Year 12) IT examinations since 2001 (Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority [VCAA], 2014). In 2001, there were over 5000 female completions of the final year (Year 12) Information Processing and Management [IPM] subject. This declined to just a few hundred female completions in 2013 despite a redesign of the curriculum and a new subject name, IT Applications (ITA), in 2007. The Information Systems [IS] subject (renamed IT Software Development in 2007) was never very popular with female students; only 73 female students in Victoria satisfactorily completed this more technical subject in 2013, a mere fraction of the total number of female students eligible to complete final year examinations in that same year (27,014). The total number of applicants sitting the final year IT examinations (male and female students) has decreased by 76% since 2001 (VCAA, 2014).

By the time students leave secondary school there is a large gap between girls and boys studying IT subjects and, by implication, those who are interested in an IT career. None of the final-year IT subjects is a prerequisite for any university degree; however, the pattern of declining enrolments is reflected in students’ first preference choices for university IT courses, where there has been also been a marked decline (over 67%) of student interest (Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre [VTAC], 2014).

Figure 1.2: Gender of secondary school students who successfully completed the Year 12 IT units in Victoria in that year. Note that the unit names have changed (IPM to ITA, and IS to ITSD in 2007). Source: VCAA, 2014

The dramatic decline in student enrolment in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) IT units as shown in Figure 1.2, has led to reduced opportunities for students to study IT in their final years of secondary school. Schools are reluctant to offer these units to small numbers of students, which has resulted in one-third fewer schools offering the units since 2001; for example 686 secondary schools in Victoria offered Year 12 IT and only 443 in 2011 (VCAA, 2012). This means that even if students did have an interest, their schools may not be able to support a small class; therefore the units are not timetabled.

These statistics show that schooling trends have an impact on the pipeline of students entering IT courses at university, despite the VCE IT units not being a prerequisite for any university degree. This then contributes to the lack of qualified IT graduates and even high school teachers qualified to teach IT. This further supports the imperative for a program such as Digital Divas. The next section provides some background and justification for the program’s content and structure.

History of Interventions

Over more than two decades many intervention programs have been designed and run to address the problem of girls’ lack of interest in IT (Klawe et al., 2009). Almost all have been short-term programs of less than one week in duration. Research indicates that these types of short-term events that promote the IT profession to girls are ineffective in addressing the longer-term challenge of keeping girls interested in IT beyond secondary school and into an IT career (Craig, Fisher, & Lang, 2008).

Different intervention programs implemented across Australia were investigated through the Young Girls ICT Into Computing Too research project funded by the Department of Family and Community Services, Office for Women (Craig, 2006). It was found that fewer than five per cent of schools consciously provided resources to promote IT to girls, or participated in intervention programs. The approach adopted in Queensland through the government-funded Girls and ICTs Framework for Action 2003–2004 and Girls and ICT Strategy 2005–2008 had demonstrable benefits including a much greater level of activity focused on encouraging girls into computing in primary schools in that state (Craig, 2006).

Within the same project interviews conducted with facilitators of girls-only computer clubs in schools indicated that the programs were considered successful; however, given that evaluations of each program were limited it was difficult to identify what parts of each program contributed to success, and even how success was measured. Many of the programs had been run on an ad hoc basis and were highly dependent on the energy of a motivated individual or champion. There was no consistency in the approaches with the girls or to the materials and activities with which the girls engaged (Fisher, Lang, Craig, & Forgasz, 2007). In another study reported by Craig, Dawson, and Fisher (2009), gender equity programs focusing on the enrolment and retention of female students in computing courses in Australia over the last twenty years were examined. It was found that most programs were short term; that is, conducted over one or two days. Minimal evaluations were conducted, and where more substantial evaluations were undertaken the results were inconclusive.

The history of intervention programs convinced the research team of not only the need for a program such as Digital Divas, but also the need for a robust evaluation of the intervention. Their focus was to improve the participation rates of girls studying IT at school, and subsequently help alleviate the skills shortage in Australia at a time when there was (and still is) a growing and identified need for IT skills (Department of State Development, Business and Innovation, 2012). The research team was strongly committed to encouraging girls not to limit their opportunities in this rewarding and creative career path by self-selecting out of IT subjects in Years 8 and 9. They were strongly committed to encouraging girls to remain active and interested in IT.

The Digital Divas Program

It is reasonable to assume that school is one place where girls can be encouraged to think and work positively with computers, and that this can be done via appropriate curriculum and teaching practices, or via specific intervention programs. One of the findings in the GetSET report (Clayton, 2005) was that the formal classroom is the most important place for stimulating interest in IT and science. In the same research study, it was reported that many girls are interested in and engaged with IT early in their schooling but that this interest fades as girls reach higher levels, resulting in declining female enrolments in final-year IT subjects and courses.

Newmarch, Taylor-Steele, and Cumpston (2000) suggested that the barriers to girls contemplating IT careers were established by lower secondary school, and that how IT subjects are taught has a major impact on girls’ attitudes towards the discipline. Many girls, for example, considered these subjects to be ‘too theoretical, rigidly structured and boring’ (Newmarch et al., 2000, p. 9). Girls are more positive towards IT when the curriculum incorporates group work or cooperative assignments rather than individual projects. Furthermore, it has also been found that teachers and the teaching approaches adopted have an effect on girls’ course and career choices (Roger & Duffield, 2000).

In designing the Digital Divas program we took heed of lessons from research on earlier interventions. The successes and failures described helped us better understand how to design a program aimed at encouraging girls to continue IT studies and to be attracted to IT careers. Within each Australian State or Territory, different ministers, departments, statutory authorities and, in the case of non-government schools, individual schools, have the authority to establish policies and practices for curriculum, resource allocation and utilisation, and teacher professional development1. Consequently the approach to IT curriculum varies across Australia. While the content modules for the Digital Divas project were created in alignment with the Victorian Essential Learning Standards [VELS] guidelines (the Victorian curriculum at the time), these were flexible enough to be adapted for different states.

The Pilot

The issues associated with the lack of interest in IT by Australian female students were not dissimilar to those of UK students. Prior to the implementation of the Digital Divas program, a pilot Divas program was conducted, modelled strongly on a UK-based program, Computer Clubs for Girls [CC4G]. CC4G was in operation in the mid-2000s and was reported as a quantifiable success through pre- and post-attitude tracking surveys. These surveys showed that 66% of girls who participated in CC4G said they were more likely to consider a career in technology than previously (Hermon, 2006).

The CC4G program was trialled in one Victorian school by one member of the research team in 2007 (Lang, Fisher, & Craig, 2008) and consistent with the CC4G model, a lunchtime club was organised. Thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls were invited to attend. The materials used were based on those developed for CC4G and the program ran for 16 weeks. At the end an evaluation was conducted, which included an interview with the teacher and a survey of the girls involved. While the UK program worked well in a club format, this was not the case in the Australian school. It was found that few girls attended regularly. The pilot program highlighted the discordance of a UK program being superimposed onto an Australian school environment (Lang et al., 2008). Further, the materials designed for girls in the UK were not always suitable for the Australian girls. The outcomes of the pilot program informed the larger study. We believed that the materials needed to be modified to suit the Australian context and concluded that a program embedded within a school’s curriculum was more likely to be successful because it would have the imprimatur of the school; the girls would be required to attend regularly; and the curriculum would be validated through normal assessment practices.

The Foundations of the Digital Divas Program

Understanding the need for a longer-term intervention that was designed with rigour and had evaluation inbuilt underpinned the Digital Divas project. Some years ago, Eccles (1985) and Eccles et al. (1985) described the ‘model of academic choice’ as one comprising interacting psychological and sociological factors to explain gender differences in decisions about mathematics course selection. This model was one of several explanatory models for observed gender differences in mathematics learning outcomes prevalent at the time (Leder, 1992). The Eccles’ model has also been applied to explain gender differences in the choice of IT career paths (Zarrett & Malanchuk, 2005). These researchers found that:

Individuals’ choice to pursue an IT career relates to their perceived ability or mastery of the field and its precursors and how much they value it, as well as the culmination of their experiences and subjective interpretations with the subject matter, cultural norms and stereotypes, and the influence of socializers and peers. (Zarrett & Malanchuk, 2005, pp. 75–76)

Since raising awareness and igniting girls’ interest in IT and IT careers was one of the main aims of the Digital Divas program, Eccles’ model of ‘academic choice’ (2005) was considered an appropriate theoretical framework for the design and analysis of our program and is presented in more detail in Chapter 2.

The curriculum materials for the Digital Divas were designed to stimulate Australian middle school (Years 8 and 9) girls’ interest in IT and their curiosity about IT career paths. Data were gathered over a three-year period and were used to investigate how this longer-term program affected girls’ attitudes towards IT and IT careers. The classroom materials developed were also evaluated to determine which of them were the most appropriate to meet the goals of the project.

The final Digital Divas program focused on three spheres of influence. First, the curriculum – which is presented in detail in the next section – was designed specifically for girls, taught in a female-only class and for the duration of one term (10 weeks on average) or one semester (20 weeks on average). This class would be part of the regular school timetable, not a special add-on. The second sphere of influence was the provision of consistent exposure to role models, primarily female university IT undergraduates who supported the teacher in the classroom each week and interacted informally with the students. Also included in this second sphere of influence were visits to the classes by young professional women working in IT, with the aim to close the loop between IT activities in the curriculum and an IT career path. The final sphere of influence was an approach that aimed to normalise the female presence in IT through developing a sense of ownership of the IT space. Students were encouraged to develop ownership of their Digital Divas class through the creation of their own ‘brand’. These Digital Diva brands were converted into artefacts for them to keep – usually a key ring, lanyard, or t-shirt – and the brands were also used in any inschool publicity. Teachers were encouraged to personalise the IT classroom and other parts of the school with posters of the designs created by the students. These three spheres of influence are discussed in more detail in Chapter 5.

Our premise in building the three spheres of influence into the Digital Divas program was that they would have a cumulative effect on students to keep IT on their list of possible future careers, whether in further years of high school by enrolling in IT subjects, or in their course choices for university or further education. While studies have shown that girls generally use IT in similar numbers to boys (Lang, 2007; MORI, 2001) it has also been shown that girls use IT in quite defined ways in comparison to boys, focusing mainly on communication (for example, social networking, email, and word-processing). By senior high school IT does not enter the zone of acceptable careers for all but the most technically focused male students (Lang, 2007).

The Curriculum

The first step in the development of the Digital Divas program was to create teaching modules for the classes; each module consisted of a number of teaching activities with teacher instructions, student instructions and assessment materials, and typically took students between four and five weeks to complete. An overview of the seven modules specifically created for the program is provided in Table 1.2.

Our motivation in developing these curriculum modules was strongly grounded in research and the current Australian social and educational climate, particularly the state of Victoria. However, the curriculum and indeed the Digital Divas program have a relevance to readers in many westernised countries where the gendered lack of interest in IT is also evident.

Table 1.2 Teaching modules for Digital Divas

The Digital Divas Research

In previous research on IT intervention programs for girls in Australian schools, key reasons why girls were not choosing IT at school have been identified. These reasons include:

an apparent lack of concern for the gender imbalance in IT participation in subjects;

reinforcement of IT stereotypes;

perceptions of computing as a male domain;

an uninspiring curriculum, including the teaching of programming and word processing; and

a lack of gender-inclusive resources.

Understanding how other intervention programs worked, as well as their reported successes and failures, helped us design the Digital Divas intervention and research program (Craig 2006; Fisher et al., 2007). Digital Divas was centred on the following key research question:

Can a program such as Digital Divas, which includes specifically designed, educationally based materials, change girls’ attitudes and perceptions towards IT and IT careers in the longer term?

To answer this question our program was specifically designed to investigate:

what encouraged secondary school girls to continue with IT;

what curriculum materials best engaged middle-school girls;

whether the involvement of role models has an effect on student attitudes to IT;

if a targeted program improves girls’ confidence with IT use; and

if a program such as Digital Divas can contribute to redressing the gender imbalance in the IT industry in the longer term, and provide recommendations for policy and practice in schools and elsewhere that support girls’ engagement with IT courses and careers.

In designing our program we were cognisant of criticisms of other intervention programs such as: ‘Too much of the research into the gender composition of computing includes only formative evaluations (participant satisfaction with aspects of the program) rather than summative evaluations that measure whether predicted outcomes and impact were achieved’ (Cohoon & Aspray, 2013, p. 144). The researchers recommended seven criteria they believed were the most important for credible evaluation. Our data collection and program evaluation were based on their recommendations. Details are found in Chapter 3.

To date there has been a paucity of research on how successful a larger, longer-term intervention initiative such as Digital Divas might be in addressing girls’ declining interests in IT courses and careers. There is also limited understanding of the types of teaching materials that might best encourage girls to continue with IT. Our contributions to school-level IT curricular resources enabled us to investigate how specifically designed materials can support girls’ learning outcomes and extend knowledge and understanding in the field. Ours was the first Australian study that simultaneously investigated many of the factors identified in earlier research that impede girls electing to study IT – the computing discipline, schooling, and individual school factors.

Partner Organisations’ Commitment and Collaboration

Our research project attracted considerable support and enthusiasm from diverse organisations in government, the education community and industry, demonstrating widespread recognition of the importance of engaging girls more effectively with IT and of raising their career aspirations.

The Victorian ICT for Women Network [Vic. ICT] provided both monetary funding and in-kind support, including the time of senior women on its board, access to members, and administrative support. The Australian Computer Society [ACS] also provided funding and in-kind support, including the time of one woman with web expertise who worked with the researchers and assisted in the development and support of the internet portal. The Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development [DEECD] contributed funds and in-kind support, providing access to teachers, schools, and school facilities to run the program. Further, DEECD provided an education specialist to support the program. She worked with the researchers, and assisted with gaining access to schools and teachers. Netspace, an internet service provider, provided in-kind sponsorship for the participating DEECD schools for extra bandwidth to connect with the internet portal for the 36 months of the project. One secondary college where the first iteration of the program was trialled also contributed funds to the program that the research team used to provide additional support to the PhD student who was attached to the project (see Chapter 8).


The lack of women in the IT industry is a complex issue. The earlier research that informed the development and implementation of the Digital Divas program helped us understand how to design teaching materials and establish classroom practices that would engage girls to think and work positively with IT and to build links between IT uses and future careers in the industry. The program made a significant contribution to addressing the issues faced by young girls early in the IT pipeline.

There have been a variety of approaches taken in the past to encourage more girls to study IT and consider working in the industry. The general lack of success of these programs is indicated by the decrease in the numbers of females studying IT and employed in the industry. The question that motivated us was ‘What can be done to make a difference?’ We believe that the research findings from the Digital Divas program that we report in this book support the contention that good IT programs need to be embedded in the school curriculum rather than being dependent upon individual teachers’ enthusiasm (Fisher, et al., 2007). In addition, we are convinced that a lasting and strategic cultural change is more likely to result if initiatives are targeted early in the education pipeline.

The most tangible outcome of our research study has been to establish a sustainable IT program available for interested teachers to use with girls Australia-wide and internationally. Digital Divas has the potential to improve girls’ educational outcomes by positively enhancing their attitudes to IT, and stimulating and expanding their career aspirations to include IT. In the longer term, the viability of the IT industry will be strengthened.

In writing this book we are cognisant that our primary audience for this text is the academic community. Others likely to be interested in the book will be those planning to implement a similar program. Schools and teachers may also be our audience, but to a lesser extent. The structure of the book following this introductory chapter is as follows:

Chapter 2 presents our stance on the importance of evaluation in designing intervention projects, and in particular the theoretical underpinnings that guided the development of the instruments used to undertake the evaluation. It is our understanding that few previous intervention programs, with similar goals to ours, had adopted such rigorous evaluation processes.

Chapter 3 provides detail on how the research was conducted, including the research methods and analysis used. The rationale for selecting the research methods we have used is presented, as well as justification from the literature for these approaches. Our research collected both qualitative and quantitative data and we present information on the software packages used to analyse our data as well as the tests applied to the data. We used a mixed-methods approach and are confident that this provided a valid and reliable set of results from which our conclusions were drawn.

Chapter 4 presents an overview of the schools involved in the Digital Divas program and a description of the portal designed to hold the materials and support classroom activities. The chapter highlights the diversity of schools that participated in the program, from the perspective of the socio-economic make-up of each. This chapter also reports on post-school outcomes within their cohort and the number of times data was gathered from each school. The chapter concludes with evidence of the ongoing influence of our program, which is still available online and being used in 2015.

Chapter 5 describes and discusses the three spheres of influence we identified as important in implementing a program that sought to change girls’ perceptions of IT. The chapter provides an insight into our design, and also presents some evidence within the framework of the three spheres of influence that shows how the Digital Divas program did indeed put IT on the spectrum of these students’ future career choices.

Chapter 6 reports specifically on the extent to which we have been able to change the perception girls have of IT. A primary focus is to report on the findings against the assumptions we made at the start when the program was designed (described in Chapter 2). We present data to address our assumptions and also reflect on what has worked and what has not worked based on this data.

Chapter 7 explores the wider impact of the program. Our experience has been that Digital Divas has had an impact beyond the girls it was designed to influence. There was an impact on the schools, the teachers, the curriculum and the school role models, our Expert Divas. The ripple effect of the Digital Divas program is presented in Figure 7.1. The chapter draws again on both the qualitative and quantitative data as well as observations of the researchers.

Chapter 8 is an invited chapter to the book, authored by the PhD student in the program. Her research focused on the influence of the Digital Divas program on the wider school community: that is the teachers of other classes; the other students in each of the year levels; and the parents of these children. The data gathered focused on two specific schools in the program. There were three key findings to this doctoral research: first, that attitudes to IT in the wider community are influential in the success or otherwise of intervention programs such as Digital Divas; second, there was no clear pattern of change in attitude in the direction desired by the program creators; and third, several unanticipated factors affected the success of the program in these schools. This wider research project clearly shows that the socio-cultural make-up of the school and the parents influenced the desired impact of the program.

Chapter 9 is the final chapter and includes our reflections on the journey we have been through in establishing Digital Divas. The chapter brings together what we have learnt so that others might benefit from our experience, in particular the importance and value of developing an evaluation framework; the value of an extended program to effect change; and the need to work closely schools, teachers, parents, and Expert Divas. It presents what worked and what was less successful in terms of the data-gathering process, and what we would do differently next time.


Digital Divas

   by Julie Fisher, Catherine Lang, Annemieke Craig, Helen