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Encouraging girls and young women to #MakeWhatsNext

International Women’s Day invites us to take stock and think about what we can do to make the world a fairer, better place for everyone. I’d like to share a story of three Australian school girls who are doing just that. By pushing for change, they inspire all of us to pursue an even field of opportunity for our young people.

So please meet Teale Lyon, Kira Molloy and Delaney Eastabrook from St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School in Perth. Together, they have developed an app – Vocabulary Voyagers – to help students in Years 2 to 6 improve their literacy. Spurred on by the startling fact that one in three Australian children are falling behind the national base line levels for reading and language skills; they put what they had learnt at a Creating Apps course to the test. Coupled with a great understanding of their audience, gamification became the central component to the learning experience and it’s making a positive impact on literacy in their school.

At the heart of this story is making a difference. At Microsoft, this pursuit is ingrained in our culture, and we believe technology can be a powerful force behind this drive. So, for me, it’s a privilege to celebrate these young women on International Women’s Day for bravely stepping into a field they knew nothing about – coding. In the process, they joined the forces of girls and young women everywhere busting stereotypes that careers in tech and coding are a male domain.

Spotlighting tech innovation on the national and global stages is as important as nurturing it in the education system. The Tech Girl Superhero Program awarded Teale, Kira and Delaney the national winners last year. A big thanks to the Microsoft Perth team and Michelle Sandford, a real-life Tech Girl Superhero, for supporting the girls through the experience. The team also reached the semi-finals in the Technovation Global Challenge, coming in the top 1% of teams in the world.  Vocabulary Voyagers will now be off to San Francisco with sponsorship from Technology One to showcase their app.

I think we need more of these fantastic platforms to celebrate what girls and young women are achieving, and to widen the exposure so girls hear the stories and ask themselves – could I make what’s next?

This is the question we hope to spark in girls and young women everywhere. And with good reason. Research on Gen Z is consistently pointing to their desire to make a positive impact in the world, but they don’t necessarily see Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as a solution. In the tech industry in Australia, the ratio of employees is currently 4:1, male:female; and way too many girls are ruling out STEM careers.

So this is why, on International Women’s Day, Microsoft chooses to shine its light on the amazing opportunities that STEM skills unlock for girls and young women to make a real difference in the world. I invite you to get involved. Feel free to share this #MakeWhatsNext video to show girls how they can turn their passions into solutions for today’s problems. It’s also as simple as keeping the conversation going at home or in your child’s school. If you’re an educator, then you’re already on the frontline of champions for our children and the high impact you can have on this issue is evident.

All our voices matter and together we can turn the tide. However, the voices that speak the loudest and the clearest are of the girls and young women already making what’s next. Just like Teale, Kira and Delaney, let’s encourage them to share their stories, mentor the girls around them and make the next thing and the next. That sounds pretty great to me.