ITU celebrated International Girls in ICT Day on April 27th by hosting games, tech exhibits and mentoring sessions for school girls and young women from age 12 to 17 at ITU Headquarters in Geneva to introduce them to the exciting world of technology. Hundreds of celebrations around the world also contributed to the global day, which has touched the lives of 240,000 girls in over 7,200 separate events since it began in 2012.
Where are we on digital gender equality?
There exists today a massive digital gender gap. For example, only about 30 percent of the around 7 million people work in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Europe are women, according the European Commission. Meanwhile, the global phenomenon of digitization is transforming industries in all aspects, including workplace skills. Strengthening technology skills improves women’s competitiveness and also advances their careers.
ICT skills are not only recognized as a stepping stone to quality education and employment, but also an accelerator to achieve gender equality, United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No.5 (SDG5). And Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2017 Report shows that women’s participation in tech can potentially bridge the pay gap by 35 percent and add $3.9 trillion to women’s earnings by 2030.
A virtual meetup with girls and young women in Geneva, Beirut and Vilnius
During ITU’s Girls in ICT event, girls and young women came together in a virtual meetup that linked up three separate Girls in ICT Day events in Geneva, Beirut and Vilnius. Girls participated in an interactive quiz game while connected through live video feed. A total of 216 participants took part in a quiz game via their smart phones to test their knowledge of ICTs.
ITU Deputy Secretary-General Malcolm Johnson was joined by Mr. Andrius Krivas, Ambassador of Lithuania, and Ms. Najla Riachi Assaker, Ambassador of Lebanon, to welcome the participants and inspire them with the message that “the world needs the talent of millions of girls like YOU!”
ITU News sat down with two exceptional female mentors and a group of passionate young women who aspire to follow their mentors’ footsteps. The podcast features interviews with Rohini Swaminathan, a geospatial analyst at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Nefeli Kousi from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), along with Kousi’s students from CERN’s Django Girls workshop, and students from locals schools in Geneva who were the winners of the international quiz game.
Kousi talked about why she thinks women in ICT can play a lead role in turning the table on gender bias. “We break this caricature of the geeky guy with the glasses that we see in movies and in series… [and] show our reasons for being in the job… for all the opportunities that are on the professional level but also for the fun that we’re having and… the creativity!”
A shared passion for ICT brings women across generations together
Exhibition stands featured tech projects that girls created with their mentors, such as website and robotics programming. The speed mentoring session was one of the highlights of the day where participants were able to pose questions to accomplished female role models on a more personal level.
“Events like Girls in ICT Day is where girls can learn from us,” said WHO’s Ms. Swaminathan.
Kim Chen, a project manager from CISCO, spoke about her mother who was a mathematician and a computer programmer, who instilled a sense of confidence that enabled her to enter the world of tech, “I know I can be as good as everybody else because of my Mom,” Chen told ITU News. “She showed me that it can be done and she conveyed her passion.”
Girls in ICT Day events are the perfect places for mentors to share their experiences and advice with the younger generation to break down the barriers they might encounter as they pursue their studies and careers
Having fun and breaking down gender stereotypes – all at the same time
ICT remains a male-dominated space in businesses and in classrooms. According to Silicon Valley Bank’s 2017 “Startup Outlook” report around 70% of startups have no women on their boards. However, these striking stats don’t seem to reflect on the girls attitudes. In fact, participants feel a sense of excitement about their future in tech.
“I really did enjoy [creating websites],” one of Django Girls participants said. “It was really empowering and inspiring to be around all these girls and feel no pressure — to move at your own pace and end up creating something from scratch.”
Girls in ICT Day has become a successful global movement with support from tech companies, UN Agencies and governments. The event continues to show that, with confidence and support, the next generation of young women and girls are poised to benefit from studies and careers in the ICT sector.
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If you planned, attended or supported a 2017 Girls in ICT Day celebration, please contact us to add your event photos and descriptions to the global portal.