Microsoft inspires Ireland’s young women to create the future with technology

International Girls in ICT Day sees the world come together to encourage and empower girls and young women to pursue studies and careers in technology, and Microsoft has hosted a variety events across Europe to help embrace the cause.

In Ireland, Microsoft has committed to enabling 10,000 girls to engage with technology in a positive way over the next two years, through their studies, careers, or in their personal pursuits. At a major event hosted in UCD, the company encouraged young women to #GoForITGirls and highlighted the range of support that is available to enable them to explore all that technology has to offer.

Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President of Microsoft Corporation, was in Dublin to help celebrate global Girls in ICT Day, and addressed the event along with a number of role models who all use technology in different walks of life including fashion designer Natalie B Coleman and Irish electronic artist Elaine Mai.

Microsoft has a long track record of taking an innovative approach to encourage and engage more girls in the exciting world of technology, and as part of the YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft is encouraging girls and young women to #MakeWhatsNext.

The challenge, however, is that despite becoming interested around the age of 11, Microsft’s published research shows that girls start to lose interest in technology – and specifically in STEM subjects – around the age of 15. This fall off is limiting the career and life choices of some of Europe’s brightest young people, and is also having a negative impact on Ireland’s ability to grow its economy as it further aggravates the growing IT skills shortage.

A total of 44% of Irish girls responding to Microsoft’s poll stated that, when they picture a scientist, engineer or mathematician, they still picture a man first. To tackle this perception barrier, Microsoft is reimagining how to communicate the benefits of technology to girls and young women. Under its YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft Ireland has set an ambitious target to showcase the possibilities of technology to 10,000 females through a number of initiatives.

The perception amongst young women is that a career in technology requires them to be a software engineer, a coder or software developer. While there are many opportunities in these fields, Microsoft plans to demonstrate to young women that a career with technology at its centre can be one of many, many things.

The pervasiveness of technology means that it is now at the heart of retail, design, architecture, medicine, sales, marketing to name but a few. Acquiring the right skills while in school and at college gives graduates a competitive advantage regardless of the future career path they choose.

In it together

Working closely with CoderDojo, Microsoft will continue to drive a busy programme which will introduce young people to coding through Hour of Code and Coolest Projects.

Hour of Code encourages young people to participate in an hour of coding in the classroom, while Coolest Projects celebrates the best projects completed in CoderDojos across the Country.

Microsoft will engage more girls attending primary and secondary school to capture their imagination from an early age, too. With Junior Achievement, Microsoft will deliver a programme that speaks to students in a broader way about STEM related subjects and technology.

Microsoft will also engage young females who are early in career through Codes, and a partnership with GirlCrew which both focus on networking, and highlighting the opportunities a career in technology holds. With its long-term partners Fastrack Into IT (FIT), Microsoft will be developing a new training programme intended to introduce more females aged 18-24 to the potential of a career in technology.

“I loved maths and science in school, but never considered a career in technology until the mentors and teachers in my life made an effort to show me what was possible,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development for Microsoft. “Every girl deserves that kind of encouragement, and it’s a privilege to be here in Dublin to celebrate Girls in ICT Day and speak with such an incredible group of girls and young women.”

Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland said: “We are focused on diversity and inclusion as an employer but we also want to ensure that we give young people the opportunity to engage with Microsoft and get an insight into the latest and greatest technology. We can see from the trends that young girls are opting out of technology, by creating this ‘tech taster’ focus under YouthSpark we are hoping to inspire young women to seek to learn more and do more with technology. By changing the minds of even 10% of the young women that we engage with we can have a real impact on society. We’re looking forward to engaging with many girls and young women in collaboration with our partners over the coming year.”

At the event held in UCD O’Reilly Hall, Microsoft brought together a panel of speakers using technology in different ways. Sinead Burke a primary school teacher, PhD candidate and blogger hosted the discussion with Andreea Popa, Software Engineer, Microsoft Ireland; Irish electronic artist Elaine Mai; Young CoderDojo Ninja Lexi Schoene and fashion designer Natalie B Coleman.

Speaking on the panel Natalie B Coleman said: “I am a fashion designer and creative but what people don’t realise is that I couldn’t do my job without technology. All of my design work is digital – it allows me to create, change and create again, so while my dreams of being a designer were long-held, I never would have anticipated that my technology skills would have been as essential to my success as my creativity. I support Microsoft’s rallying cry to #GorForITGirls as without IT, you are limiting yourself – regardless of what role you anticipate for yourself in the world in the future.”

Follow Microsoft Ireland on Twitter @MicrosoftIrl and search #GoForITGirls for more information.

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