Book looks at IT's chic appeal to attract girl power

New book to entice more teenage girls into IT gains worldwide attention

An Australian not-for-profit book aimed at attracting teenage girls into careers in IT has attracted international attention and will now go on sale as part of a global bid to entice more young girls into IT careers.

"Tech Girls are Chic, not Just Geek" is aimed at girls aged 12-16 and follows the real life stories of 16 "tech girls" - a diverse range of young Australian women working in technical and non-technical IT careers, ranging from Web development to recruitment to research.

The women were selected for their diverse range of careers, aspirations, social backgrounds and working environments so that young readers could find at least one "tech girl" they can identify with.

Each "tech girl" has a "fun" profile that appeals to their younger target audience and aims to dispel the myth that a career in IT equates to being a desk jockey or a socially inept geek.

Each profile is followed by a short fiction story written by the featured "tech girl", a move that co-editor Jenine Beekhuyzen said was inspired by the popularity of the Girls Night In book series.

"We thought a short fiction story might be a nice way to firstly get the girls to pick the book up and read it, and then hopefully to show a different side of the women -- that they are creative and have skills other than technology skills," Beekhuyzen said.

"So for example there is a girl who wanted to create a formal dress of her own, but she couldn't draw. So she found a computer program that helped her to design her perfect formal dress."

The book, sponsored by AWISE and IBM, has been produced with the intention of handing out some 5000 free copies to young girls attending technology days held at schools in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria, and more in high schools across the nation.

But depsite only being officially launched last week, Beekhuyzen said it has already attracted foreign attention, leading to a decision to make the book available for sale.

"We've had so much interest from people wanting to buy them, particularly from overseas. We've had lots of orders from the UK, Europe, and Singapore, so we've decided to sell them at $20 per book," she said.

"That money will help us print and post the book to other girls in Australia, so any girl that doesn't go to the events can order one online and we will post it out to them for free."

Beekhuyzen is currently a full-time PhD student at Griffith University as well as a small business operator.

She said one of the key inspirations for the book stemmed from the low number of girls studying IT related courses at universities.

"At the moment it is at about 10 per cent, which is probably the all time lowest it has ever been. If half the population is female and are using technology, and only 10 per cent of it is being made by females then I think the type of technology we are getting may be a bit skewed," she said.

"It's not really making use of the different people that are out there, the skills and perspectives they have. I guess technology could be quite different if we had more girls and women developing it."

Sonja Bernhardt, founder of the IT Screen Goddess Calendar and IT Million $ Babes Award, said it was great to see non traditional approaches to the issue of declining numbers of girls in IT.

"If more females were involved in designing and creating technology we may see a world with different designs, and one that takes into account an inclusive set of perspectives. We may even see technology that is simpler to use and more attractive," Bernhardt said.

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