When she was a teenager, Andrea Francke attended Schnupperstudium, or “Taster Week”—an event aimed at high-school girls to give them a taste of what it’s like to study computer science and work in the industry. That moment changed the course of her life. “As a teenager, Schnupperstudium was a game changer for me. That’s when I decided to study computer science,” says Andrea, who is now a senior software engineer at Google in Zürich.
This year, Andrea went back to Schnupperstudium, this time as a volunteer, to share her experience as part of a collaboration between employees at Google Zürich and the computer science department at ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich). “Offering other girls a glimpse into life as a software engineer is a cause that’s very dear to my heart,” Andrea says.
After this year’s Schnupperstudium event, surveys showed that seven in nine girls agreed they could learn computer science if they wanted to, said they had an interest in the subject and believed computer science could help them find a job they would enjoy. “While stereotypes about computer science abound, events like Schnupperstudium can often counter them by showing what it’s really like to work in this field,” Andrea adds.
Something as simple as having a good role model can help to encourage girls to pursue their aspirations. A study Google conducted showed that encouragement and exposure directly influence whether young women decide to go for a computer science degree.
As we look into the skills needed for the current and future workplace, we see that there will be an increased demand for workers in STEM jobs, which will greatly affect the next generation. Yet only around 30 percent of women go into STEM programs in college, so not all young people may end up represented in the field. Somewhere along the way to choosing a career path, women are losing interest in technology.
That means there’s more to be done, especially at the stage when women are making decisions about their futures. That’s why here at Google, our employees are getting involved with events that encourage young people, and particularly women, to follow through on a computer science degree.
In 2018 alone, more than 300 Google employees across Europe directly worked with 29,000 students and 1,000 teachers through a range of volunteering activities. These initiatives are part of Grow with Google, which gives people training, products and tools to help them find jobs, grow their businesses or careers. In Europe alone, 48 percent of the people we trained in digital skills were women, thanks to programs like WomenWill and #IamRemarkable.
As we celebrate World Youth Skills Day and the achievements of 1.8 billion young people from age 10 to 24, we will continue working to help them prepare for their futures.