International Girls in ICT Day, organized by the ITU, is an annual event held on the fourth Thursday of every April. This global event aims to raise awareness and highlight the need to empower and encourage girls and young women to consider studies and careers in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
There is a massive gender divide around the numbers of women in tech: women only hold around 17% of jobs in tech companies globally, with numbers of women particularly low at the tech giants like Apple and Microsoft, but also much more exacerbated in emerging markets in parts of Africa and Asia.
There are a number of reasons for this, often related to social norms and education, with fewer girls studying STEM subjects at school, and this is an area dear to Panoply Digital’s heart. Two of us are gender and ICT specialists, and we have taken part in many Girls in ICT events over the years. This year, Panoply Digital’s own Ronda Zelezny-Green was on an expert panel for a Twitter debate, hosted by Oxfam and the ITU to discuss how to level the playing field for girls in technology. It was a lively and well-followed debate, with fascinating insights from panellists and contributors alike.
Some of the key suggestions that Ronda made for getting more women into tech included:
- Having more role models
We need to have more positive female role models, and make women who work in tech more visible. We can do this through mentoring, through marketing and through publicly spotlighting successful women.
- It’s not just about coding
Jobs in the tech industry don’t have to be just about tech and girls don’t have to have tech skills or just be about the coding - there are also jobs in marketing, design, UX and other non-traditional tech roles. But that message needs to be more clearly expressed to girls and we need to be more open about this.
- No more pink
Girls in ICT initiatives don’t have to be pink to appeal to girls - we’ve written a previous blog about this. Using pink is gender stereotyping and sends a very strong, wrong, message.
- Time is an issue
Ronda’s research has shown that one of the biggest barriers to getting women into ICT is time. Women are much more time-poor than men because of unpaid care duties, for example, but it’s also one of the least-discussed barriers.
To learn more and to follow the Twitter chat in its entirely, follow the #GirlsinICT hashtag on Twitter.