stem gifChrisina Jayne, our new Head of Computing Science and Digital Media, kindly took time from her busy schedule to speak to RGUjobsblog about her views around skills shortages in STEM subjects and the problem of gender imbalance – and also what the recruitment process at RGU was like for her…

We all know the stats around STEM and gender imbalance – what, in your opinion, could be done that is not being done at present?

There needs to be more investment in schools for STEM projects and teaching Computer Science (CS). Programming or coding is a fundamental skill in CS and it is important just like reading, writing and arithmetic. Programming is a very creative activity that requires logical thinking, concentration, precision and problem-solving. Young children should be given opportunities to learn coding and this naturally will draw more girls into studying CS.

“I think that educating parents may help too. Children need to have encouragement from both parents and teachers in order to choose STEM subjects.

“There is no short-term solution to the problem of STEM skills shortages in general and the gender imbalance in STEM subjects specifically. The problem is that it’s not just the case that it’s going to be of fundamental importance to everyone in the future – it’s of fundamental importance now!”

How much of a problem lies with the schools struggling to recruit IT/computing/engineering teachers – is this because good graduates can earn far more in industry than in teaching?

“Teaching is not an easy profession and very few STEM graduates choose to go into it. Having a CS education route may help. At present, students have to finish first their BSc degree and after that do the teaching qualification. Integrated CS and pedagogic courses could be a solution to get more students qualified as teachers”.

Is there any one (or more) female academic/computing guru/expert you admire – and why?

“I admire Sheryl Sandberg who is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. She has written the book “Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”. The book is very useful in my view and I support the argument that the only way to have equitable opportunities for everyone is to have “women run half our countries and companies and men run half our homes”.

Do you think that ‘girls toys’ like Goldieblox help develop both boys and girls into engineers/computer scientists/mathematicians/etc.?

“I think that Goldiebox is wonderful and will help inspire the imagination of young girls. Society has to simply treat boys and girls equally and send the message that any engineering/CS/mathematics profession is suitable for both genders”.

How can academia and government help?

“At RGU the School of Computing and Digital Media has an outreach programme. We also have Open Days and we get children to come in and take part in activities. We do what we can to enthuse them and fire their imagination. Other universities do the same. While small in themselves, the cumulative impact of these schemes/programmes adds up.

“There is also a great initiative in Scotland called CodeClan, a Digital Skills Academy where people can learn to code in 16 weeks and thus equip themselves with the skills necessary to apply for developer jobs. CodeClan is supported by the Scottish Government, Scotland’s digital technologies trade body, ScotlandIS, and Skills Development Scotland and is approved by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This should certainly help address the problem, but there is much more we can all do”.

And finally, how did you find the recruitment process at RGU, from application to interview and onboarding/induction?

“It was very well organised, the requirements were clearly communicated and I felt supported when I started the job”.