As the world commemorates Girls in ICT Day, Microsoft celebrates the end of its annual #MakeWhatsNext campaign, which reached over 10.9 million young woman, educators and parents across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) between March and April 2019. The campaign aims to encourage young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – particularly in the fast-growing field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
“We started this movement to inspire girls, as well as their parents, educators and nonprofits who encourage and support them, to #MakeWhatsNext. With more encouragement and focused effort, we can address barriers that have been keeping girls out of Computer Science and STEM for far too long,” says Ghada Khalifa, Philanthropies Director, Microsoft Middle East and Africa.
According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2018, The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for the 3rd consecutive year ranks last globally on the overall gender Index gap with 40 percent, while Sub-Saharan Africa records the third-largest gender gap with 33.7 percent. Similarly, Sub-Saharan Africa retains the largest gender gap in education, with low female participation in STEM. For example, only 17 percent of students pursuing degrees in science and technology subjects in Kenya are women, 24 percent in Tanzania and 18 percent in Uganda.
“Through this campaign, we aim to change the way young women view STEM by letting them envision how technology, science and engineering can be tools used to solve global challenges; how their interests today could turn into a job of the future,” she says.
Doing our part to #MakeWhatsNext
In 2019, our #MakeWhatsNext campaign saw 450,000 young women enjoy their first experience with coding. This feat was achieved through collaborating with local nonprofits, government agencies and strategic partners like African Development Bank and Code.Org.
As part of the campaign, Microsoft employee volunteers led over 25 DigiGirlz events in 20 cities in 14 countries. During the DigiGirlz events, we invited young girls to explore their passion for technology further and gain insights on how to make their dream job in tech a reality. To ensure we bring the dreams of these girls to life, we introduce them – especially those from underserved communities – to female role models as well as offer hands-on, purpose-driven experiences.
In Egypt, we partnered with the Ministry of Youth, the ICT Trust Fund and a host of local nonprofits to offer more than 30,000 young girls their first Hour of Code experience. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Microsoft partnered with the African Development Bank, Code.Org and local nonprofits to provide young women with coding experiences.
In South Africa, Microsoft partnered with local nonprofits to provide young girls with access to coding experiences, including girls from seven local high schools in Durban who were trained on software development processes and given a short overview of how Microsoft PowerApps can be used to create an application. These girls were given a challenge to design a cellphone application to meet certain requirements, and teams were tasked with drawing up designs and presenting them. With experiences like this, “I believe the future of work is going to use technology no matter which field they go into” says Paula Barnard- Asthon lecturer at the School of Therapeutic Sciences, the University of Witwatersrand.
Building a future for all
At Microsoft we believe that when we inspire girls to STEM, we double the potential to change the world for the better. Microsoft provides computer science learning opportunities and resources throughout the year, via partners including the Forum for African Women Educationalist (FAWE), to reach students of all ages through our Digital Skills program. More than 90 percent of the students who benefit from Digital Skills in Middle East and Africa are from underserved communities.
Together with partners like the African Development Bank, the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and others, we ensure that our programs provide equitable participation of young women through deliberate strategies offering dedicated women only classes with additional skills to increase their participation and build their self-confidence.