Northampton schoolgirl gets first year’s university tuition paid after winning Network Rail’s ‘Could IT Be You?’ girls in IT competition

Published on : Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Northampton-schoolgirlA 17-year-old student from Northampton has scooped the top prize of Network Rail’s first Could IT Be You? competition, designed to show girls what working in IT is really about and the career opportunities open to them.


Zoe Moore, from Sponne School in Northamptonshire, will have her first year’s university fees paid for by the rail infrastructure company.


Along with five runners up, she will also get a two-week paid work placement with the Network Rail IT team this summer.


The competition was launched in October 2013 after Susan Cooklin, Network Rail’s chief information officer, raised concerns about the rapid slide in the number of women entering the UK’s IT sector.


The latest figures from e-skills UK shows the proportion of women working in technology roles in the UK has more than halved since the 1980s* despite technology becoming an increasingly integral part of our everyday lives.


Zoe, who is studying history, maths, economics and product design at A level, beat more than 250 other girls aged 16-18 to the prize.


Each had to answer a quick-fire questionnaire and compile a short essay showing how they have used (or could use) technology to make something happen.


The authors of the top 80 entries were then invited to a networking day at the company’s Milton Keynes national centre.


Here they took part in group activities where they were observed by the IT team, heard inspiring talks from top business women including Katie Bassett from CSC and Jane Hamilton, employment editor at The Sun, and finally, each had their photo taken in a fun photo booth, where they held up a card with a suggestion for how they would get more women into IT.


Zoe’s essay proposed a type of intelligent scanner which would read your school book text and then come up with suggested test questions to help you revise.


Her photo booth message called on the media to get behind IT career opportunities for girls and “stop portraying the industry as being for tech nerds sitting in their basements”.

Ms Cooklin said: “Popular culture has helped create a perception amongst young women that a career in IT is all about writing code in basement offices – the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.


I’ve been very pleased but not surprised at how engaged and excited about IT all the girls were that attended our networking day.


Zoe showed throughout that she had a keen interest and creative mind for solving problems and good communication, and these are the skills that business leaders are after.

I’m thrilled to award Zoe with the first prize and look forward to working with her and the runners up on the summer placements.”

Learning of her win, Zoe told Network Rail: “I’m so pleased to be the winner and very grateful for the opportunity. It means so much to me, it’s really going to motivate me to work hard and do well in my A-levels and I can’t describe the confidence this will give me.

My aim is to get into one of the top universities and I aspire to be as successful as many of the people I met on the assessment day.”


A survey for Network Rail of 16-24 year old women in Britain revealed:

– 64% of women have not considered a career in IT.

– 28% had but were not currently working in the industry.
– Negative stereotypes put 10% off pursuing a career with 43% saying it was a lack of technical skill. A further 41% said it was inadequate career advice or little insight into the industry.
– 58% believe that a high level of technical expertise in computer programming or code is the most important skill for a successful career in IT. 23% thought a degree or college qualification in a technology subject was most important.

– Only 4% thought good project management skills were the most important with only 7% citing good communication skills as the most valuable.

From 2008-12, the percentage of women in IT roles at Network Rail has grown from 26% to 28%, but only 20% of those applying for the company’s information management graduate scheme were female.

Sarah Jane Crawford, Network Rail IT project manager, commented on why she wanted to get involve with the competition “The IT industry is one of the most far reaching and fast moving industries out there.

Every major company relies on technology to keep running, whether it’s Topshop which manages its supply chain, website and finances through IT, or Network Rail, which manages trains, assets and their corporate services.


Working in IT means that the types of companies you can work for is not limited and the experience you can gain is massive.


It’s exciting, creative and fast paced and it’s an industry that has thrived despite the economic challenges of recent years.

“When I was 17, I didn’t imagine I would be working in the IT industry, but I kept my options open.

I completed my studies in subjects I enjoyed and did my degree in Psychology and Philosophy at Leeds University.


Once these were complete I looked at every option and I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve ended up doing.”

Source:- Network Rail


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