Mentoring girls about the digital industry with InnovateHer
InnovateHer is an organisation established in Liverpool with a mission to inspire girls (but not exclusively) aged 12–16 to think about a career in the digital world. In 2019 they branched out to Manchester and they now help Manchester’s schools as well.
As we all know, digital professions are predominantly male occupied workplaces. In order to balance the numbers, we need to inspire girls to know that a job in digital involves creative, interactive work with people, and doesn’t always need knowledge of coding. InnovateHer does just that. They organise digital professionals to become mentors in an 8-week programme based in schools. Each week, mentors focus on guiding girls through a different way of working in digital. They cover research, brainstorming, idea generation, prototyping, coding, marketing, client presentations and personal development.
I’d heard about InnovateHer before they came to Manchester, and as soon as I knew they were in Manchester I signed up to be a mentor. Luckily I was chosen to be lead mentor for the programme in a Manchester based school. I was grateful that Paper was supportive of my newest adventure and arranged my work time to accommodate InnovateHer for 8 weeks.
I spent one day a week at the school, sharing the different processes and steps involved in working in digital. I had two wonderful co-mentors with me who helped and supported me through our sessions – Romy is a developer and Tash is a project manager. They both inspired the girls by sharing their journeys into working in digital.
In the first week, students were given a real client to work with. We showed them how to do research about them and define some of the problems the client was facing. Then they were encouraged to brainstorm ideas for what they could do to solve those problems.
The girls learned about users, created personas and thought about how their products and services might be used by different people. In the middle of the programme, there was a field trip where the girls visited a local digital company and saw what it would be like to work in an office like theirs.
Once they’d learned more about the digital industry they were introduced to prototyping and coding, and at the end of the course they presented their ideas to the public. Their audience was made up of their mentors, teachers and InnovateHer team, sometimes even the client came along.
At the end of their 8 weeks the girls were encouraged to self-reflect on their own thoughts of the professions they had been introduced to, and what they may want to pursue in their futures. They thought about what apps and technologies they could create and how they could make this world a better place.
The mentoring doesn’t just teach the girls about digital professions, I have learned and discovered things as well. Teaching the girls about the process of conducting design research and other digital methods, seeing how they weren’t afraid of trying new things, and watching them grow in confidence has been an amazing and sometimes challenging experience for me as well.
The experience I am most grateful for has been seeing the girls becoming more confident. Not only in exploring the realms of a digital profession but, as well, being creative and thinking about how they can apply their new skills in other areas of their lives. Knowing that I’ve helped encourage girls to think about their careers, and what they want to be when they grow up, has been a rewarding experience. I truly hope we see some of them joining digital teams in the future.