Bett 2018: Things going backwards for women in education technology

More should be done to encourage women into leadership roles in education technology, according to a panel discussion at the Bett show in East London.

Speaking at the discussion, Vivienne Porritt, an education and leadership consultant, said that things appear to be going backwards for women with fewer in leadership roles in education than even a few years ago.

"We need to help women move into their next leadership role," she said. "We have looked carefully at where women are not moving forward. One of these is digital leadership."

Fellow panellist Kirsty Tonks, principal designate of Shireland Technology Primary school in the West Midlands, said the education technology space is not just about looking at tech in the classroom, but looking at the use of technology in leadership roles.

"The biggest problem is finding people with technology skills, both men and women," she said.

Barbara Holzapfel, general manager of Microsoft Education, who chaired the discussion, asked panellists what the main challenges were as far as women and technology were concerned.

Tonks said that one issue was teacher training. "We need to break the cycle of learning the value of technology in education," she said. "Are we providing the right training to help teachers value the role of technology and not just passing it to certain people."

Porritt said that the data is clear that there is a real gender divide, where women made up the majority of teaching staff, but not in leadership roles.

"Because we don't have women in digital leadership roles, this effects children. You can't be what you can't see," she said.

Porritt added that there needs to be more encourage of women into "digital spaces".

"We need to increase confidence. Women need to think there is a role for them. Need to encourage women to move past their own self-doubt. Need to get rid of the imposter syndrome."

She said that at a systemic level, "we need to change expectations. We have to change things at all levels". She talked about how in government there was a domination of key education roles by men.

Tonks said that there is a fourth industrial revolution but wondered if we are fully preparing the workforce for these changes.

"The digital transformation isn't just about the classroom. How can we look at leadership courses to see how technology can support leaders," she asked. Technology can be used to "recycle" time and she cited the use of business analytics in student assessments to help surface data more easily, freeing up time to tackle other tasks.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.