Girls in ICT Day: Inspiring the next generation
International Telecommunication Union (ITU); Ernst & Young
Coding, Digital literacy, Networking, adolescents, Training
Advocacy and coalition-building, Formal education and school contexts, Non-formal education and extracurricular contexts, Prizes, competitions and special events
Digitalization is changing the working world. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, technological change may lead to the loss of 5.1 million jobs in the world’s fifteen strongest economies. At the same time, more than 2 million new roles in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) are expected to emerge. However, the gender digital divide leaves women less prepared with the digital skills they need to be hired into these new technological roles according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Globally, around 327 million fewer women than men have a smartphone and can access the mobile internet. Women are also under-represented in ICT positions, both in top management and academic careers. Across OECD countries, only about 0.5% of girls at age 15 are inspired to study and become ICT professionals.
A range of factors creates the gender digital divide, including access, affordability and a lack of education. Gender stereotypes and norms also often exclude girls and women from the benefits and opportunities offered by the digital transformation. Girls often have a lower educational enrolment in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) and ICT subjects. All of these factors limit girls’ and women’s digital knowledge and skills, leading to wider gaps and greater inequality in work, community and the family.
Developing girls’ and women’s ICT skills are a key driver of gender equality and women’s empowerment. With improved access to the transformative technologies available, girls and women can benefit from increased employment and business opportunities.
Girls in ICT Day is an initiative launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a partner of the United Nations. Its aim is to encourage young girls to take up careers in ICT as part of a “digital school day”. In 2010, the United Nations, governments, associations and other private bodies such as Ernst & Young joined forces to get young girls interested in ICT from an early age.
At the recent World Telecommunication Development Conference, ITU Member States also adopted Resolution 55. The resolution calls for continued support to International Girls in ICT Day and efforts to undertake activities to engage girls and young women in the ICT sector and develop their ICT skills.
In Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United States of America, Girls in ICT have visited over 70 schools to deliver one-day workshops that include modules on women in programming and digitalization. Girls learn about digital skills and choose to programme a simple application using technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s app inventor, or build a robot using artificial intelligence skills. The workshop’s goal is to nurture the interest of young girls about careers in technology and show them the power of programming.
In 2018, under the theme “expand horizons, change attitudes”, International Girls in ICT Day mobilized global effort to help bridge the digital divide and encouraged young women and girls to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields. The same year, Girls in ICT Day took place in over 140 countries worldwide.
Partners Ernst & Young visited 35 schools and reached over 750 girls. Government ministries, national ICT regulatory authorities, ICT companies, academic institutions, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations around the world were all encouraged to join the global effort and celebrate International Girls in ICT Day.
In Senegal, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications organized, among other activities, a three-day hackathon. These gave the opportunity to girls and young women to design and develop innovative solutions that address concrete challenges in various sectors, including agriculture, e-health and education, within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
During the hackathon, a panel examined all of the submissions. The ten most promising projects were selected to be further developed by the girls with the support of expert mentors from different sectors. The event ended with the final presentation of all projects and an award ceremony for the three best projects.
Since 2011, over 377,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 11,400 celebrations of International Girls in ICT Day in 171 countries worldwide.
In some cases, when Ernst & Young encountered technical errors during workshops, they instead offered a design-thinking workshop to engage girls in ICT skills development.
Ernst & Young created separate lessons on the different modules for age groups 9 to 13 and 14 to 18. This helped compensate for the digital skills gap that can be present within the various age groups.
Europe could experience a shortage of up to 900,000 ICT professionals by 2020 according to the European Commission. If girls chose to follow ICT professions at the same rate as boys do, much of the skills gap could be bridged.
EQUALS Research Group. 2018. Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership. Preliminary findings of a review by the EQUALS research group. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UN Women. 2015. Action Plan to Close the Digital Gender Gap. Geneva: ITU.
ITU. 2016. How can we close the digital gender gap? ITU News Magazine, April 2016. Geneva: ITU.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Bridging the digital gender divide: Include, upskill, innovate. Paris: OECD.
World Economic Forum (WEF). 2016. The futures of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Geneva: WEF.