There are hundreds of talented female students in Europe who have a passion for tech, but lack the confidence to pursue a career in this sector. And there are equally many women who don’t think of a career in the tech sector at all because they think it is for men only. Unfortunately our industry has traditionally been viewed as one for men, but things have to change.
We are particularly thrilled that we will be supporting International Girls ICT Day by driving exciting events and campaign in the coming weeks in Italy (Pink cloud), Denmark, Portugal and Belgium. The overall number of girls to be trained through these initiatives is approximately 1,000 girls. These event will allow local girls to develop sought after ICT skills and gain insight into the vast and exciting career opportunities available in the sector.
Watch here a video from EU VP Neelie Kroes in the occasion of Girls & ICT Day reinforcing the importance of attracting girls to studies & careers in ICT:
The importance of encouraging girls to explore ICT as a career option cannot be overemphasized, as the technology sector is showing strong job growth in Europe and we need talented local minds to fill these jobs. Many employers across the EU are reporting large impending shortages of qualified people, with the European Commission’s figures suggesting there will be 900,000 vacancies for IT-related roles by 2015.
Yet despite this projected growth in a time when rates of unemployment remain unacceptably high – particularly among young people – many students today don’t believe a career in technology is a viable option for them. What’s more, this problem is especially acute among young women.
Why is that? Unfortunately, certain gender stereotypes about the kinds of people who work in technology still persist. In addition, there are misconceptions that Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM) subjects are better suited for boys.
The time to address the under-representation of women in the technology sector is now. Consider the fact that if women held digital jobs as frequently as men, European GDP would be boosted annually by around €9 billion (European Commission, 2013). Failing to engage young women hurts our sector’s competitiveness, slows the country’s return to growth and is a disservice to thousands of talented young people who have the potential to make remarkable contributions to their communities and to society.
Microsoft has long encouraged female students to explore possibilities in the ICT sector through global technology competitions such as Imagine Cup, now in its 12th year, as well as through global programs like DigiGirlz that encourage STEM education and aim to build a stream of future female tech talent.
For example, the Imagine Cup Women’s Athletics App Challenge invites female developers to create fitness and athletics apps. AdaJAMM, a group of Serbian young women, took the first prize with their entry ‘Playground’ last year with their Windows 8 application for teachers and students that presents six physical-activity playground games suitable for kids. The winning team also got the chance to fly to Seattle to visit the Microsoft campus!
Another one happening today is the International Women’s Hackathon encouraging young women developers to respond to key challenges. The International Women’s Hackathon is a crowdsourcing event designed by Microsoft to empower, encourage, support and retain more women in computer science at the university level. By providing a fun and safe environment in which to explore computing, the Hackathon encourages and supports young university women around the world to become producers of future innovations in technology and help solve challenges in the world today. It will be run in 5 universities in 9 different countries, including Belgium! UN WOMEN was one of the partner setting the challenge: How to grow women’s economic development throughout the world through greater awareness of STEM opportunities.
But for the +3000 talented female students we reach this week, we hope it helps them along the path towards something special.