Getting young women into science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEAM) is a much talked about topic, and one that the tech industry must continue to take action on.
Luckily, the restrictions of 2020 did not slow this down.
In September 2019, the GSMA took Tech4Girls to the EQUALS Global Partnership for Digital Gender Equality, to scale the initiative globally. This partnership enabled the expansion of Tech4Girls by leveraging EQUALS members’ expertise in creating a training approach that has lasting educational impact. Working with these members and main donor, Verizon, we rolled out a series of socially distanced and virtual workshops at the end of 2020, training 442 underserved girls and young women across five countries.
The workshops, which took place in Kenya, Pakistan, Trinidad, Jamaica, and the US, ranged from one-day events to five-week courses, during which participants learnt about different technologies, heard from industry experts, and gained a better understanding of the life-changing possibilities of careers in tech.
Stellah Serem, a 24-year old woman from Kenya, says that girls “girls should be encouraged from a young age. Career guidance in schools should be revolutionized to accommodate both girls and boys in all career fields, and women should be empowered to pursue careers in tech. School curricula should be skills-based so that girls’ passions and potential are built up while they’re still young”.
This workshop series aimed to do just this; giving girls hand-on experience of building tech platforms and making them feel welcome in a traditionally male-dominated industry. One project winner said the workshops gave “clarity to achieve my goals”, and a participant from Trinidad explained;
“It has helped me with my vision, to build up my self-esteem, and my confidence has sky-rocketed!”
Specifically, the Tech4Girls workshop objectives were to:
- Increase participants knowledge of an exciting range of tech-related career opportunities and insight into how technology can support and boost their employability/livelihoods
- Provide participants with tech-skills through hands-on “Introduction to tech through e-commerce” or “Mobile app development” workshop modules
- Increase participant confidence in their ability to pursue further tech studies/training and/or employment and careers in tech
The series proved to be a great success. A participant from Jamaica gave feedback;
“It was absolutely fantastic, I learnt how to use online applications to create my own Shopify website/store selling Caribbean themed apparel and accessories. It was not only an educational experience but also an actively participating, hands-on experience, that allowed me to interact with all of the online tools used to create the Shopify website”.
In statistics, this translates as 88% of participants reporting that having completed the workshop, they felt confident about pursuing further tech studies/a career in tech. Prior to this, 56% of those enrolled said that they did not know what the acronym “STEAM” stood for, and 62% had not had any exposure to role models in the tech industry. Upon completion, 94% said that they had improved their understanding of STEAM and possible career paths within this.
In Karachi, Pakistan, 57% of participants reported that they lacked confidence in their ability to pursue tech studies/careers. Fast-forward to completion and 100% of participants said that they felt confident about pursuing further tech studies/careers in tech.
The training also proved to be transformative to participants ability to fulfil their own business aspirations in the immediate future. Sana explains that she had been seeking to set-up an online store, but fees demanded by web developers to create her platform were holding her back;
“Now, after the workshop, I can set up my own store myself without anyone’s help, and that is quite a relief.”
Young women from across the workshop series were keen to continue expanding their tech skillsets, with interests in software engineering, e-commerce, design, game development, robotics, medical technology, photo-editing, app building, and more.
Alongside developing hard-skills, a key takeaway was the opportunity for participants to unite with like-minded young women to network and skill-share.
“I loved that the Tech4Girls workshop brought together girls from all the Caribbean islands and allowed them to be bold and brave and embrace themselves through tech!”
Similarly, girls being exposed to other female role-models through the workshops, or in their daily lives, can be the difference in a career choice. Abriana, a project winner from Jamaica, said her biggest inspiration was her female computer science teacher, who encouraged her to follow her dreams and who made IT easy and fun. In her class “she was the first person to teach me about Ada Lovelace, the first female programmer. I had never heard of Ada Lovelace! We hear a lot about men in tech but never about these women!”
This important initiative has proven its potential to shape the workforce of tomorrow, ensuring that the next generation of girls and women acquire the diverse skills and perspectives needed to thrive in the tech industry, and for the tech industry to thrive.
See winning projects and video messages from participants on our EQUALS partner page.
The initiative will continue in 2021 with a series of workshops in Taiwan, Australia, Philippines, the Caribbean, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, and others.
As part of our commitment to meaningfully engage young women in tech, we are excited to announce the launch of an e-mentoring programme which will kick off on International Women’s Day (8 March). This will connect mentees (workshop participants aged 18- 25) with mentors (professionals and experts) from across the mobile and tech sectors. Mentors will support mentees in soft-skill development, insights into the world of employment, and give guidance on learning and career paths.
Is your company working to support young women in tech?
To get involved in sponsorship, workshop delivery or e-mentoring please email Tamara Dancheva:
Special thanks to workshop series sponsor, Verizon, and EQUALS Members:
- Caribbean Girls Hack
- Plan International
- Women’s WorldWide Web (W4)
- Vijay Computer Academy