The Australian launch of a global initiative to promote IT to teenage girls will take place in Queensland today. A weeklong Exploring Interests in IT and Engineering (E.X.I.T.E) Gold Coast Camp is to host 27 girls in Years 8-10, and is one of three Australian camps to be run by IBM this year.
The program aims to tackle the IT skills shortage and under-representation of women in the industry by inspiring girls and dispelling some of the stereotypes associated with IT professionals. Only 18.87 per cent of Year 11 students studying Information Processing and Technology in Queensland in 2004 were female, according to the Queensland Studies Authority.
"Skill shortages in IT, especially the shortage of women entering IT, is a significant issue for Australia if it is to remain competitive in the global market," said Megan Dalla-Camina, strategy and marketing director for IBM Australia-New Zealand and executive sponsor for the Advancement of Women. "E.X.I.T.E camps tackle this problem at the grassroots level, aiming to challenge traditional perceptions about roles in the industry."
Held at IBM's Tivoli Security Software Development Lab, the E.X.I.T.E Gold Coast Camp will involve activities such as: an interactive robotic session where girls use technology to build and program physical, dancing robots; a session on Web page creation and design; and special site visits to Griffith University and Gold Coast Water.
Camp participants will be paired up with female mentors from IBM, who will provide academic assistance and career counselling during the camp and throughout the remaining school year.
The camp will be opened by Sonja Bernhardt, founder of Women in Technology, and closed by 2005 Young Engineering Award winner Cheryl Paten.
Participating schools have been selected by IBM in conjunction with the Queensland education department. Teachers of Helensvale, Elanora, Windaroo Valley, Townsville, Clermont and Redbank Plains State High Schools as well as the Upper Coomera State College have all been invited to nominate students for the camp.
This year's Gold Coast Camp comes after a very successful E.X.I.T.E 2005, which hosted 30 participants, from which 24 are now enrolled in ICT subjects at school, and three have completed work experience at IBM. In 2006, 50 E.X.I.T.E Camps will be held at IBM locations worldwide, including the Ballarat Camp from September 18-21 and a Sydney Camp from October 3-6.