Talking at a mentoring event organised by charity Inspiring the Future at Muberry School for Girls in East London yesterday (12 March), Robb along with 23 other business leaders from brands including Facebook, Microsoft and American Express advised pupils on the skills they need get into tech-related roles and the opportunities available in industries like marketing.
“Most of the girls I spoke to [at the event] were very vague about what marketing actually is so from an education point of view we need to look at how we teach girls around the core skills they need,” says Robb. “I’ve also noticed that while young people are really digitally savvy they haven’t yet connected digital with a career.”
As a result she believes young people, and particularly girls, around the age of 14-16 need more guidance about the skills they need to equip them for a career in marketing and the wealth of opportunities it could lead to.
Robb, who heads up the company’s Women at Google group and focuses on inspiring female entrepreneurs in tech, says: “As part of the Google Outreach programme we do a lot around computer science and tech as well as using the breadth of our non-engineering women like me to inspire girls about marketing and business.”
Likewise, Claire Valoti, head of agency relations at Facebook, believes the industry needs to do more to educate girls around the possibilities subjects such as science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can create in areas beyond those core disciplines.
“The big challenge is that young girls don’t recognise that there is an opportunity for them to do science or technology and what that might lead to. A lot of the work we’ve been doing [at Facebook] is to allow them to believe they can do it and give them the opportunity to embrace those types of courses,” she says.
“It’s exciting talking about the opportunities in media and advertising let alone what the tech world can offer.”
Valoti believes the fact Facebook has “strong female leadership” in people like COO Sheryl Sandberg and EMEA vice-president Nicola Mendelsohn, has led to the development of programmes and practices that “allow women to embrace being a woman” which is not necessarily the case at other more traditional businesses.
Jennifer Nikkel, founder of cashback and voucher site Quidco, is keen to get more girls to become entrepreneurs but agrees many are cautious about studying STEM subjects as they are still viewed as male subjects which is creating a “mind block” for girls.
“It’s a huge challenge, especially in tech as there’s still a lot of stigma attached, especially when it comes to development,” she says.
Inspiring the Future runs thousands of ‘career speed networking’ events around the country each year. In its first two years the organisation and its troop of 19,500 volunteers have reached almost half a million young people and with the support of Miriam González Durántez, a partner at law firm Dechert LLP, it launched Inspiring Women last year, a channel dedicated to giving girls access to strong female role models.