Toni Scullion speaks to us about her role in the technology sector and shares her thoughts on Edinburgh's Women in Tech Scotland, taking place 3rd September 2019
As the founder of charity dressCode and a Computing Science teacher, Toni Scullion is extremely passionate about getting more girls into the technology sector. Her aim is to close the gender gap in Computing Science.
Toni was a panel speaker for Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together 2017, Scottish Women in Technology Secondary Teacher of the Year 2018, Cybersecurity Teacher of the Year 2017 and Champion of Champions.
Toni will be sharing her knowledge at Women in Tech Scotland, taking place 3rd September. Join her there and secure your spot today.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
My name is Toni Scullion, I’m a Computing Science teacher and the founder of both dressCode and Turing’s Testers. I have been teaching for 7 years and always loved Computing Science when I was at school. Having role models at every stage of my education who gave me unwavering support and encouragement when things got difficult, they really inspired me and I wanted to be that person to other people. So, becoming a Computing Science teacher was the perfect fit!
Why is raising the profile of computing science in schools so important?
It is imperative that we raise the profile of Computing Science in schools. In Scotland, we have a booming tech sector that is going from strength to strength and we are leading the way in many areas such as Data Science and Cybersecurity, which is fantastic to see and really exciting.
However, there is a complete disconnect between this exciting sector and school education. It was recently reported that Computing Science as a subject is in dramatic decline with regards to uptake across the country, in particular the number of girls who pick the subject paints a very bleak picture. If we don’t do something soon to intervene and inspire the next generation to enter the tech sector in Scotland, it’s going to have a significant impact on the future of tech, with jobs not being filled by local talent. It’s really worrying!
What are you doing to promote young women in tech at dressCode?
dressCode is a non-profit charity founded with the aim of closing the gender gap in Computing Science. This is an all girls Computing Science club for S1 and S2 pupils. There are two parts to dressCode. Firstly, secondary schools that sign up get free access to a pupil portal with pick up and play resources that aim to introduce girls to games design and making projects on Scratch, Web Development, Cybersecurity and App Development coming next year.
Secondly, dressCode runs hackathons in tech companies, bringing S1 girls out to workspaces where they work together to complete a challenge using code. Each team gets assigned a senior girl mentor who supports them throughout the day. This is an excellent platform to show girls what potential opportunities there are for them, and creates the chance for them to interact with role models working in tech.
On our pupil portal we’re also working with companies to provide tech challenges exclusive to dressCode clubs. These challenges are a perfect way for industry to reach girls and engage them early on, while also raising awareness of amazing tech companies the girls might not otherwise have encountered.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
A typical working day for me is teaching at a large secondary school in the central belt, giving up to seven classes a day with pupils aged from 11 - 17. Then, home to work on dressCode, be that creating resources, organising hackathons, or contacting companies. I do try and find some time to exercise and wind down as well.
Why have you decided to get involved with Women in Tech Scotland?
The statistics about girls choosing to study Computing Science are dire! So, as a Computing Science teacher, I try my best to inspire all the girls that come through my classroom door throughout their time at school and hopefully they’ll go on to consider a career in tech.
I love the wonder, excitement, and possibilities Computing Science offers as a subject. It’s definitely something all girls should get the chance to explore, emphasising the endless possibilities that tech can offer them and how it’s integrated into a wealth of sectors. They need to know that they can genuinely make a difference and change the world if they pursue this subject further. That is the essence of dressCode and I hope to inspire as many girls across the country as I can reach directly and indirectly.
What are you speaking about at the conference?
At the Women in Tech conference in Scotland, I will be raising awareness of the situation at school level and hopefully inspiring industry by showing what they can do to get involved and help encourage more girls to enter the sector. It’s such a fantastic conference that brings together individuals from all areas, everyone can make a difference and I’ll hopefully give them a few ideas that they can put into action at a grassroots level and we can close the gender gap in Computing Science together.
'We can close the gender gap in Computing Science together'
Why should people attend the event?
The event brings together industry, academia, and everything and everyone in between. It’s an amazing opportunity to hear about what is going on in Scotland's world of women in tech and the perfect platform to find opportunities and network.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in STEM?
At a grassroots level, girls need to be given the opportunity to explore STEM subjects. There is still the perception of it being all coding and working alone, but in industry it’s the very opposite. You work as part of a team and it’s such a creative sector where you can genuinely develop something that makes a positive difference to people's lives.
I think the creative element is really important and it would be amazing to really push out the opportunities in Scotland that you can work in health care, sports , creative industries, it’s everywhere and it’s not going anywhere. There are so many opportunities in tech in Scotland, I would advise women to explore these opportunities and the potential to combine multiple roles, like healthcare and tech, which is becoming such a massive focus across the world. Get stuck in and be a role model for the girls that follow, pave the way, and make a difference because you absolutely can!
Join us at Scotland's top women in tech conference, 3rd September at EICC, Edinburgh.