Five years ago, ITU’s membership backed an initiative to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technology (ICT). The outcome, International Girls in ICT Day, is now celebrated internationally.
On the 4th Thursday in April, events are organized around the world to make girls and young women aware of the vast possibilities offered by ICTs and give them confidence to pursue ICT studies and careers. These include open days, competitions, mentoring sessions and hands-on demonstrations. To date, over 111,000 girls and young women have attended 3,500 events in over 140 countries.
On 23 April 2015, ITU welcomed 116 girls to our headquarters in Geneva for the global celebrations. The programme included a range of workshops held throughout the day, such as creative coding, mobile app lab, satellites, website design, programming visualizations organized by CERN, and programming robotics with Lego® Mindstorms®. We also hosted speed mentoring with women who work in the ICT sector and an ICT career fair.
“It was very interesting learn new stuff that we have never seen before, and it is not scary to ask for help!” – Paulina, Poland
“The girls found it useful, and they were really happy because they managed to create a sample mobile app. It was a great experience for me too!”- Rajani, Mobile App Workshop Coordinator
“It is interesting to see how things work and how they are created, and what the work is behind it.” – Anaïs, Switzerland
95 per cent of all jobs today have a digital component, yet ITU estimated that there are 200 million fewer women online globally than men. If women are not adequately trained, not only will this gender gap grow, but they will have reduced access to employment which could have further ramifications for their social, economic and political inclusion.
Furthermore, there is a predicted skills shortfall in the ICT sector of nearly one million jobs in Europe alone by 2020. Women can only benefit from these opportunities if they have the necessary science, technology, engineering and math – STEM – skills.
Girls in ICT Day aims to raise awareness about the gender imbalance in technology and address the gap by creating a fun, friendly and welcoming atmosphere for girls and young women to explore the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.
But what can a career in technology offer to girls and young women? “You get to create, you get to think, and you get to see the results of what you are doing in a very real way.” – Cath, CERN
“We are very eager to have more girls in the industry; we see there is a big gap and we have to do something about it. We cannot go out into the market to get more girls because there are no women in the pipeline. So we work with schools, universities and other companies to try to cover the full spectrum. For us, it is extremely important to have a diverse workforce because, at the end of the day, the world is made up of men and women. We are trying to find solutions for the world, and if only half of the population is working to find these solutions, we do not have a complete solution – we are getting something completely biased. We need input from both men and women and then we will have something useful and really impactful.” – Isabel, Cisco
ITU also hosted an expert panel discussion, ‘Practical solutions to address the pipeline of girls and women in ICT’. The keynote speakers were Telle Whitney, CEO and President of the Anita Borg Institute and Judith Owigar, Co-Founder and Operations Director of AkiraChix. The panellists were: Danièle Castle, Executive Director of International Federation of University Women (IFUW); Philippe Horisberger, Deputy Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM); Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, Permanent Mission of Costa Rica in Geneva; and Ambassador Päivi Kairamo, Permanent Mission of Finland in Geneva. Watch the panel discussion here.
The initiative also aims to raise awareness among parents, teachers and other influencers in girls’ lives.
“They have equal opportunities to take all of these subject within schools, but it is how they perceive it. We need to work on changing the perception, and show them what they can do and where they can go. So the mentoring workshop and careers fair are they key bits for me today.” – Richard, Teacher
“The thing that I enjoyed most was the sessions with different women who have experience in the ICT field.” – Bronywn, Papua New Guinea
“I think that these kind of events have really opened the girls’ eyes to how many different types of jobs there are within the ICT remit. Some of them have come to me and said ‘wow, we just didn’t have a clue!’” – Daniel, Teacher
“It is amazing that you encourage girls to go into scientific and ICT development because we always say that it is more for boys, so it is encouraging for us to know that people believe in us.” – Rayna, Lebanon
The US Mission and Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) joined forces to bring five bright girls from YWCA offices around the world to participate in ITU’s Girls in ICT Day celebrations in Geneva: Katekile Sagwadi Munisi, South Africa; Loh Paw Naw He Lay, Myanmar; Adaeze Chidinma Muonyelu, Nigeria; Bronwyn Kili, Papua New Guinea; Gabriella Oyarce Cerda, Chile.
“I found a new choice for my future.” – Anastaicia, Russian Federation