Cyber Girls First
1875. Pat Ryan
Pat Ryan, who lives in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, has been a lifelong champion for girls' education in science and created charity ‘Cyber Girls First’ in 2014 to boost girls' involvement in STEM, especially in computer science, maths and physics.
Pat worked in the Intelligence field during the Cold War, and prior to founding ‘Cyber Girls First’ she set up and ran a charity which installed over 8,000 PCs, printers, laptops and, in the latter years, iPads, in all 249 hospitals across the country with children’s wards, supporting children who spend weeks or even months in isolation cubicles during bone marrow transplant treatment.
Pat decided to launch ‘Cyber Girls First’ after volunteering as a fundraiser for the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley, where she noticed during a computing demonstration for schools visiting the museum how there was far greater participation from boys, who took over the computers, than from girls, who were excluded. She decided to address the barriers that prevent many girls from engaging in computer science and that the way to achieve this was to have a separate system where girls would not be overwhelmed by boys. In particular, Pat felt that targeting girls aged 13-14 and showing them how women were challenging the bias in the IT industry, they would be influenced by them when choosing their options for GCSE. Up until lockdown due to Coronavirus, Pat had organised 30 events around Wales and England in corporate offices and universities, reaching over 3,000 girls.
During lockdown, two virtual events were held for several schools in north-west Lancashire, a new region for the charity’s reach and influence. Pat devised an eclectic programme, engaging some of her well-established presenters alongside local women who work in IT, who were able to give their talks and then run virtual Q&As. This was only made possible due to the tech company AVAYA provided their platform for the charity’s use and sending high-end equipment, such as microphones and cameras, to schools.
The award for Pat coincides with International Women’s Day, the global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
In a personal letter to Pat, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“Thank you for your fantastic work at ‘Cyber Girls First’ making technology exciting and accessible for young women. Through your interactive sessions, you have engaged over 3,000 girls, encouraging them to become the next generation of women in science.
“Your own professional background is an inspiration to the girls you meet and I am delighted that you are ensuring that the important contribution of the women in Bletchley Park is also not forgotten.”
“This is a great, and unexpected, honour which is appreciated by me and all our volunteers. We have great support from The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, JPMorgan, ISACA, Cyber First (part of GCHQ/NCSC), Field Fisher LLP, Colt Technology, Launch Your Career, AVAYA, Oracle, Microsoft and Digital Skills. This will give such a boost to our live event programme, which is re-starting in Blackpool on March 23rd after two years of lockdown.”
Pictured: Pat (pictured in the middle of the photo, seventh from left on the second row) with school girls who took part in a Cyber Girls First event at Downing Street in 2018