Toni Scullion: Bridging the Gap in Computing Science

Empowering the Next Generation of Female Students in Scotland’s Tech Sector!

In the world of technology and innovation, there are pioneers who carry their childhood passions into adulthood, propelling them to achieve remarkable feats in their chosen fields. One such trailblazer stands out for her unwavering dedication to computing, transforming her childhood fascination into a thriving career that continues to shape the technological landscape.

Meet Toni Scullion, a passionate Computing Science Teacher and the visionary Founder of the charity dressCode. Driven by her childhood love for computing, Toni is on a mission to ignite the same excitement she once felt for the subject in her students.

For Toni, computing has always been a source of wonder and joy. She vividly recalls the thrill of discovering HTML and CSS, altering the background color of a web page on her first computer. This early experience became the spark that continues to fuel her enthusiasm for both teaching and dressCode.

Toni’s dream is to bridge the gender gap in the tech sector, particularly among girls studying Computing Science in Scotland’s secondary schools. With dressCode, she aims to empower and champion students and educators alike. Through their initiatives, they strive to provide the necessary support and encouragement for the next generation to pursue their dreams in the world of computing.

At the heart of dressCode’s mission is the belief that teachers play a pivotal role in guiding students towards a bright future in Computing Science. By shattering barriers and fostering an inclusive environment, Toni and her team are empowering girls to embrace the vast opportunities within the tech industry.

As a Computing Science teacher, Toni brings a unique perspective and hands-on expertise to dressCode. Her passion for the subject is infectious, inspiring students to explore the world of coding, programming, and digital innovation with confidence.

With dressCode, Toni is not only transforming the lives of young girls but also shaping the future of the tech sector. Her dedication and vision have earned her the admiration of students, educators, and industry professionals alike.

Below are the highlights of the interview!

Empowering the Future

Toni’s educational journey was marked by determination and passion, despite being one of the few females in her university computing classes. Her unwavering commitment to her field propelled her forward. Now, she finds her definition of success in witnessing the impactful delivery of Computing Science by innovative and engaging teachers, igniting excitement and interest in both Computing Science and the broader tech sector among students.

However, savoring the taste of success doesn’t come without challenges. As dressCode runs multiple initiatives, including an online coding club portal, hackathons, Computing Science Scotland, a network supporting and encouraging teachers in delivering Computing Science knowledge, and the Digital Technology Education Charter, Toni finds herself juggling responsibilities with the invaluable support of her exceptional trustees, Brendan McCart and Richard Carey, all while maintaining a full-time teaching job.

Confronting initial challenges has made her more resilient as she continues to pursue her vision. Toni admits that at times, self-belief and confidence still pose struggles, but having the right people around her has proven instrumental in overcoming them.

Journey in Closing the Gender Gap

dressCode, a multi-award-winning charity, is on a mission to motivate and inspire pupils, particularly girls, to embrace Computing Science and close the gender gap in the field. Toni, the driving force behind dressCode, is deeply concerned about the declining numbers of students studying Computing Science in Scotland’s schools. She shares alarming figures, noting that in 2001, 28,393 pupils were studying the subject, but as of 2020, the number had dwindled to 9,873. Even more concerning, in 2001, 9,825 females were studying the subject, and in 2020, the figure plummeted to a mere 1,895.

With these disheartening statistics in mind, dressCode is passionately committed to inspiring the next generation, encouraging them to pursue technology-related fields. They have embarked on a series of unique initiatives to drive change forward and make a positive impact on the lives of young pupils. Their efforts have earned them numerous awards and recognition for the invaluable work they are doing.

In the past year alone, dressCode’s unwavering dedication has reached over 5,000 pupils across the UK, leaving a lasting impression on young minds and fostering a bright future for the tech industry with increased diversity and gender balance.

A Year of Triumph

For Toni, the year 2017 was a turning point, marked by a myriad of prestigious recognitions. She proudly recounts, “This is the year I was named a finalist in the Scotland Women in Technology awards, nominated in the Secondary Teacher of the Year category. I was honored with the title of Cyber Security Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Cyber Awards and received the ultimate accolade of the night as Champion of Champions.”

These well-deserved accolades not only filled Toni with immense pride but also acted as a powerful source of motivation to continue pursuing her dreams. Seeing her work with dressCode acknowledged on such platforms further validated her commitment to inspiring and empowering young minds, particularly in the field of Computing Science.

With each recognition, Toni’s confidence soared, fueling her determination to make a difference in the lives of her pupils. She firmly believes that if she can inspire even one more student to explore the world of technology, her efforts are more than worthwhile. The impact of her work extends beyond the classroom, as she endeavors to close the gender gap in Computing Science and ignite a passion for technology among the next generation.

Core Values and Vision

At dressCode, the driving force behind every initiative is a passionate commitment to inspire the next generation to embrace the world of Computing Science. Toni and the team firmly believe in making a tangible difference and shaping a brighter future for young minds, and this ethos lies at the very heart of dressCode’s existence.

Toni emphasizes, “Our core values have remained unwavering throughout, and whenever we embark on a new initiative, we always ask ourselves, ‘How will this impact the pupils?’ If the answer doesn’t align with our goal of inspiring more students, we won’t pursue that initiative. We stay true to the reason why dressCode was founded—to witness the thriving presence of Computing Science in all schools, witness its increasing popularity, and work diligently to close the gender gap in the field.”

As teachers themselves, the dressCode team understands the challenges students face, and they are dedicated to removing barriers, providing unwavering support, and encouraging pupils to push their boundaries. Collaboration with industry partners is also crucial, as it helps raise awareness about the myriad of opportunities available to young individuals. Toni adds, “We seek to work with organizations that share our commitment to nurturing the next generation and investing in their future.”

With a steadfast focus on empowering students, dressCode remains resolute in its mission to ignite a spark of curiosity and passion for Computing Science, ultimately equipping the next generation with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in the tech-driven world.

Balancing Teaching and dressCode 

Toni’s day is carefully organized to ensure she dedicates time to every aspect of her life. As a teacher, her day involves instructing various age groups, ranging from 11 to 18-year-olds. During lunchtime, she collaborates with senior pupils who assist her in running the dressCode club at her school. After a day of teaching, she returns home and dedicates her evenings to dressCode-related activities, such as responding to emails, making calls, planning new initiatives, and managing social media content. While her schedule is busy, Toni’s enthusiasm for dressCode and helping others drives her forward.

Toni is acutely aware of the alarming figures concerning Computing Science in Scotland, and she is determined to make a significant impact through her passion and hard work. Her ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the vast opportunities that the world of technology offers and empower pupils to realize their potential in the tech industry. She firmly believes that through code, they can change the world.

As a strong and determined individual, Toni encourages young aspiring leaders to pursue their dreams with unwavering conviction. She advises, “If you have an idea that you believe in and are passionate about, go for it! Seek help and support by connecting with others, such as on LinkedIn. Listen to different perspectives, as there’s always something to learn from others. Ultimately, trust your instincts and follow what feels right for you.”

Toni’s dedication and commitment to her mission exemplify how passion and hard work can drive change and inspire the next generation to embrace Computing Science, making a positive impact on their future and the world.

Expansion Plans

Despite the progress dressCode has achieved since its inception, Toni is determined to take the organization even further. She shares, “We have numerous plans and initiatives in the pipeline that we are actively working on. Among our upcoming projects, we are most excited about the dressCode awards and a dressCode scholarship.”

The dressCode awards will be a celebration of achievements and contributions within the field of Computing Science. It aims to recognize and honor individuals, schools, or organizations that have demonstrated outstanding dedication to inspiring and empowering young minds in the tech sector, particularly girls.

The dressCode scholarship is another exciting venture that will provide aspiring students with the opportunity to pursue their passion for Computing Science. By offering financial support and mentorship, the scholarship will aim to empower talented students and nurture their potential, fostering a new generation of leaders in the tech industry.