Computer student Teresa hits the mark as UK's top 'IT Girl'
The 18-year-old from (Branksome Park) Poole received a host of prizes from Government Minister Jacqui Smith at a ceremony at the Science Museum in London after overcoming other girls from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the final of the 'A' Star Awards.
The runner-up was Sarah Rogers from Kings Kerswell, Devon, with third place shared by Michelle Carson from Bonnyrigg in Midlothian and Perdita Robinson from Headington, Oxford. Northern Ireland representative Karen Forbes from Portadown was fifth.
The Awards, now in their third year, are based on marks in 'A' Level or Scottish Advanced Higher Computing examinations, with the top female candidates qualifying for a UK tiebreaker final held over the Internet. A major initiative to encourage more girls to take up careers in IT and redress male domination of the industry, they are organised by Edinburgh-based international IT Service Management software firm Axios Systems and co-sponsored by Accenture and IBM. A total of 7,500 girls who sat the examinations were eligible.
Teresa took her 'A' Levels at Canford School in Wimborne and is now studying genetic biology at Cambridge University. "But IT is going to be a part of whatever career I choose," she commented. "Computing is fascinating because it opens the doors to so many diverse areas. It's challenging, fun, dynamic - and the more you learn the more remarkable it gets."
She dedicated the Award to her former IT teacher John Gilhooley who died almost two years ago.
The only girl in her AS computing class, she commented: "Our teacher was great and the whole class loved the lessons but unfortunately Mr Gilhooley passed away at the end of the Christmas term. I wanted to do well for him and me. "
Her next IT teacher, Brian Steene, was in the audience as Jacqui Smith, UK Minister of State for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, presented her with prizes including a trip for two to the USA, £500, a laptop computer, Personal Digital Assistant and the 'A' Star trophy.
Presenting the Awards, Jacqui Smith said: "IT underpins our economy and our entire society. Yet fewer than a quarter of IT graduates are women, and only one in five technology jobs is filled by a woman.
"I am very pleased to be presenting the 'A' Star awards to Britain's top female computing students. These young women are redressing the balance, showing that IT is not just a man's world. I hope they will go on to challenging, dynamic careers in the technology industry - where other young women may follow."
Ailsa Symeonides, Sales and Marketing Director of Axios Systems who devised the Awards, said the 'A' Star winners were excellent examples of role models badly needed in IT. "Great progress is being made in the campaign to encourage more young women to study computing and join an industry which offers an exciting range of career options," she added.
"Information Technology can make life easier for vast numbers of people and make organisations more productive. It needs far more women and the special talents which they bring to the business," she added.
Equal Opportunities Commissioner Surinder Sharma said the winners' outstanding achievements "show just how much the ICT industry could be missing unless more young women are encouraged to study and work in the sector. All young people should be able to make decisions about their future without coming up against old-fashioned stereotypes that have no place in today's economy."
Multi-talented Teresa enjoys many sports, particularly swimming in which she captained her school team and represented Dorset. She also takes taekwondo classes, plays the oboe and piano, and mixes music in her spare time.
Computing runs in the family: her father started his own software business and her brother is studying for a PhD in Artificial Intelligence. "Computers lay the foundation for everything," she said.
Runner-up Sarah Rogers, 19, took her 'A' Levels at Torquay Boys' Grammar School and traces her interest in technology back eight years when her grandfather bought his first computer. She is now reading History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Her twin sister Anne did not qualify for the UK final but was one of more than 20 other 'IT Girls' who also received certificates from the Minister.
Scottish representative Michelle Carson, 17, who is a former pupil of Lasswade High School, was singled out for special praise by the judges since she completed her entry in 10 days after taking the place of another candidate who was a late withdrawal from the final. Michelle was due to emigrate to Australia a few days after the London ceremony and hopes to take a software engineering or other IT course at Queensland University of Technology.
Other finalists were:
Kathryn Brown from Bridgend, South Wales (who took her 'A' Levels at Bryntirion Comprehensive School)
Emily Grainger from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire (The Cedars Upper School)
Jennifer Houston from Edinburgh (The Mary Erskine School)
Sarah Joy Maddeaux from Woodbridge, Suffolk (Northgate High School)
Tejal Mistry from Rugby (Rugby High School for Girls)
Sarah Rowing-Parker from Wales, Sheffield (Wales High School, Rotherham)
Certificates were also presented to the following girls who did particularly well in this year's 'A' Level Computing exams marked by English awarding bodies AQA, Edexcel and OCR:
Ruth Burrow, Rugby High School for Girls
Katy Chapman, The Coopers' Company and Coborn School, Upminster
Sarah Deane, Vyners School, Ickenham
Denise Djokic, James Allen's Girls' School, West Norwood, London
Alison Fox, Charterhouse School, Godalming
Francesca Gomez Ortega, St Edward's School, Cheltenham
Emma Gordon, Rugby High School for Girls
Alison Jones, Dartford Grammar School for Girls
Tamsin Mehew, King George V College, Southport
Katie Moore, Launceston College
Hayley Tinkler, Weatherhead High School, Wallasey