In the last few years, several initiatives based on extracurricular activities have been organized in many countries around the world, with the aim to reduce the digital gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. Among them, the Digital Girls summer camp, organized every year since 2014 by two Italian universities with the aim to attract female students to ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) disciplines, represents quite a unique initiative for its characteristics of long-duration (3–4 entire weeks) and complete gratuitousness for the participants. The COVID-19 emergency imposed severe changes to such activities, that had to be modified and carried out in the online mode as a consequence of social distancing. However, on one hand, the general lack of high-quality evaluations of these initiatives hinders the possibility to understand the actual impact of extracurricular activities on the future academic choices of the participants. On the other hand, the availability of data collected over different editions of Digital Girls has allowed us to analyze the summer camp impact and to evaluate the pros and cons of in-presence and online activities. The main contribution of this paper is twofold. First, we present an overview of existing experiences, at the national (Italian) and international levels, to increase female participation in integrated STEM and ICT fields. Second, we analyze how summer camp participation can influence girls’ future academic choices, with specific attention to ICT-related disciplines. In particular, the collection of a significant amount of data through anonymous surveys conducted before and after the camp activities over the two editions allowed us to evidence the different impacts of in-presence and online extracurricular activities.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited