2019 IWD: Better the balance; support women and girls in your community

Woman smiling wearing spectacles

“The seeds of success in every nation on earth are best planted in women and children”Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi.

This year, International Women’s Day is commemorated under the theme, Balance for Better (better the balance, better the world). Indeed, if the world is to achieve the sustainable development goal 16 of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, we must bridge the gender gap. This is particularly important in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) which is pivotal to modern innovation and the digital economy.

The systemic problem of having fewer women in STEM fields is detrimental to the world’s economy and future innovation. At present, less than 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women and more young girls are losing interest in STEM subjects at an early age, reducing the number of women in STEM career fields. Only 22% of AI professionals globally are women, while  in Africa, only 9% of startups have women leaders, according to a 2016 study by Venture Capital for Africa.

In the absence of the influence of women in STEM fields, we risk having hundreds of thousands of jobs left unfilled and decades of innovations void of women perspectives. That is why Microsoft is committed to equitable opportunities that create an environment that enables and inspires women to not only increase their participation in STEM, but become active contributors in driving a future that is for everyone.

We believe that having women fully engaged in our workforce brings great ideas and drive greater innovation in our products and services. But while women play a critical role in shaping the future of technology and innovation, recent research conducted by Microsoft shows that the pipeline to build female talent in STEM fields is broken. ​

Attracting, developing and empowering women in STEM fields is vital not only to the success of Microsoft, but to ensure a well-rounded, inclusive society. It is for this reason that Microsoft is running the #MakeWhatsNext campaign from February 11 to April 25, 2019 to encourage young women to pursue a career in STEM, with a special focus on technology. The goal is to challenge and shift cultural norms by sparking conversations that raise awareness and drive action to close the gender gap in STEM.

We are also committed to working with educators to provide the resources and experiences students need to create, build, collaborate, research and analyse.  Together, we can help them build the literacy and problem-solving skills they need to succeed today and tomorrow.  Explore our free resource to help engage Girls in STEM and close the STEM gap in your community.

One of our greatest assets is our voice. We leverage the scale and global reach of our brand to inspire action and amplify advocacy efforts on key challenges to economic inclusion. We do this by working with partners such as the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) who, since 2016, have trained young women, teachers and students across 10 countries to adopt and use STEM curricula, teaching and learning materials and classroom practices that are gender responsive which, in turn, will help change policies on this issue.

Finally, one of the beneficiaries of our training programmes, Nosipho Mzelemu a grade two teacher from South Africa, experimented with computer science and coding in her class.  She believes coding improves one’s critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. “It’s fun to code and also keeps one on their toes. I personally enjoyed coding as a teacher so there was no way I could deprive my learners that experience. We learn through play”

For information on how to take action for young girls, try an hour of code, attend a digigirlz day , become a computer science advocate  or become a role model for girls around the world.

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