It’s the 21st Century and the battle to give girls equal development opportunities is yet to be won.
Thankfully, the world is alive to the need to level the playing field and steps are being taken to do so, with a number of digital initiatives in place that focus on girls and their development.
So, why have we reached this point? For a number of very important reasons…
#MeToo has changed the conversation
#MeToo has drawn a line in the sand that society cannot step back over. While its focus began with harassment in the workplace, the broader conversation that has come from it means the world is now talking about development rights for girls.
Old practices that allowed workplace inequality to become entrenched are a red hot issue and businesses are being subjected to an intense level of public scrutiny. With women being given a voice on the crucial topic of their development, issues of representation and opportunity are now more important than ever.
Under-representation: Women in STEM
The women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields movement has demanded that the digital world focuses on girls. In Australia, just 28 per cent of STEM jobs are held by girls aged 15 and over. This is despite there being more women in Australia than men.
The gap in representation between men and women in STEM isn’t just a matter of equality, it’s also a case of quality; if spread of jobs remains uneven then countries will hamper their productivity, and ability to innovate to meet the ever developing needs of the world. This has been recognised by the world’s major governments and central bank governors.
The G20 are behind women’s development
The G20 accounts for 80 per cent of world trade and its goal is to promote financial stability and the focus of its 2030 agenda is clear: “there can be no sustainable development without gender equality.”
In order to make this a reality, the G20 developed the G20 Initiative “#eSkills4Girls”, with its focus on “Transforming the future of women and girls in the digital economy.” In order to do this the G20 has pledged to eliminate gender disparity in education.
But it’s not only the world’s biggest political leaders that have developed digital initiatives that are focused on girls; there are also many excellent initiatives from leading businesses and smaller organisations.
Examples of digital initiatives focusing on girls
This charity was founded by Nike Foundation in 2004. It carries out its work from nine different global locations and is active in 66 different countries. Its mission? “To build youth brands and mobile platforms to empower girls to change their lives.”
Among the different outlets they focus on are:
● Apps that help girls to build digital skills
● TV dramas that look at crucial issues
● Magazines that are written and then distributed by girls
Girls First Digital Studio
Run by Hive NYC, this digital initiative is a workshop that helps girls aged 12-17 to experience the computational design process.
But not only does it give girls the chance to develop their digital skills through access to training and equipment, Girls First Digital Studio also brings young girls into contact with female STEM professionals to show them that they can excel in the digital world.
The list of development opportunities available include:
● Computational thinking
● Problem solving
Focus on inspiring women
It’s not only digital initiatives that are showing girls how they can develop. Women within the digital sphere are a reference point for girls, and the industry has a range of successful, talented women who are making waves.
Australian Google Cloud Engineer Natalie Piucco has been part of Google since she graduated from the University of Oxford university in 2014. Not only is she a shining star for the world’s biggest search engine, she also sat on the Women In Techmakers Scholarship Panel in 2016 and 2017.
Solmaz Shahalizadeh grew up in Iran and was educated in her homeland, Sweden, and Canada. After spending two years working for investment bank Morgan Stanley, she joined Shopify. She is now the company’s Director of Data Science and Engineering, and has seen her accomplishments recognised by the Huffington Post.
How your business can focus on girls
It’s not just that your business should focus on business, it’s that your business must focus on girls. If you want to make the most of talents available throughout the entire employment pool, then you need to make sure that girls can find a home and future at your company.
In order to make sure that you’re focusing on girls, there are a few simple things that you must do:
● Understand the challenges that girls are facing in their development
● Create a female task force within your organisation to give girls a voice
● Establish what career opportunities girls want and then bring them to the fore
If you build digital initiatives that focus on girls it will bring your business not just the representation that society demands for it, but longer term financial success. Why? Because companies with more female executives make more money.
It’s not difficult to understand why digital initiatives are focusing on girls development: women have demanded and secured a voice, received recognition from the world’s political and economic powers that they are essential to the development of society, and are already showing that they excel at the biggest digital institutions on the planet.
But while change is in place, don’t forget that there’s still a long way to go and that you must continue to fight for the development of girls now, and for the rest of history.