Leeds museum event aims to tackle the tech gender gap

John McGoldrick with a punch card at the museum.
John McGoldrick with a punch card at the museum.

It’s a much-loved Leeds landmark with roots that lie firmly in the past.

Now, though, Leeds Industrial Museum is preparing to set the girls of today on an inspirational path to the careers of the future.

The Armley Mills-based visitor attraction will be playing host later this month to its first ever STEAM Hack event.

Organisers say the day has been designed to encourage girls aged between seven and 14 to consider pursuing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) careers.

Its programme will include Minecraft and Patterncraft workshops, with participants being given the chance to get to grips with equipment such as Micro:Bits and Raspberry Pi computers.

Looking ahead to the event, Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake said she hoped it would inspire those attending to go on and take leading roles in the “modern, digital workplace”.

Coun Blake said: “Leeds Industrial Museum has played a huge part in the story of our city and once helped establish Leeds as a global standard-bearer in the textile industry.

“The efforts of the many women who worked there in incredibly difficult conditions also laid down a significant marker for what women could achieve and it’s fitting that their example will be used to inspire and encourage young girls in our city to become leaders and innovators in the modern, digital workplace.”

Expert advice during the day will come courtesy of professional mentors from Leeds-based software developers BJSS.

Attendees will also be able to run the rule over old punch cards which paved the way for the development of some of the world’s earliest computer software.

John McGoldrick, curator of industrial history at Leeds Museums and Galleries, said: “The museum is filled with hundreds of fascinating relics of the city’s industrial heyday and it’s hard to stand in front of these impressive machines and not be in awe of the skill, dexterity and bravery it must have taken to operate them day in, day out.

“Some of the technology which was used here was at the absolute cutting edge of production, and women factory workers in particular were a cornerstone of keeping it moving, even through the unprecedented demands of the First World War.

“Hopefully being surrounded by that very special heritage will give the new generation of girls who come to the STEAM Hack some inspiration to learn more about today’s technology and how they can use it to build on the foundations laid here all those years ago and accomplish their own goals.”

The STEAM Hack at Leeds Industrial Museum is taking place next Saturday, January 26, and runs from 12.30pm to 4pm.

Children under 12 need to be accompanied by an adult.

The £3 fee to attend includes child entry to the museum.

For further information about the event, call the museum on 0113 378 3173.

According to a report released last year by the Tech Nation group, just 19 per cent of the country’s digital tech workforce is female.

Across all sectors and jobs, that figure rises to 49 per cent.

Recent research also found that boys are nearly four times more likely than girls to study physics at A-level.

The Yorkshire Evening Post runs a regular Digital City column in partnership with Sky Betting & Gaming.

The platform aims to highlight the giant strides being made by a sector that boasts around 3,000 organisations in Leeds.