Most inventors will tell you that everything starts with a question, that quickly grows into bigger questions, and eventually a change in history. This story is no different, except that it brings together thousands of brilliant young women across Europe, inspiring female role models and a whole new generation of makers, asking the one and same question: how can we inspire ourselves and the next generation of girls to #MakeWhatsNext?
Our journey started when we asked young women to name female inventors. Surprisingly, none came to mind. Remembering who invented the telephone, light bulb or motion camera came easily enough, but somewhere along the road, our greatest women inventors fell off History’s top 10 list. And that’s not good. What happened to female role models for young inventors? Truth is, most of us are unaware of the enormous debt we owe to female inventors.
Maria Telkes created the first solar powered heating system. Bertha Benz invented brake pads and Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer algorithm. These European inventors, scientists and mathematicians had disruptive ideas and innovations that changed the world. Yet their names are much less familiar to us than Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci or Alexander Graham Bell.
A lack of gender diversity in the technology sector means we could miss out on the discovery of the next ground-breaking idea or innovation, and huge opportunities. Today, fewer than one in five computer science graduates are female, and even after they graduate, only 43 percent of women choose to pursue a career in these fields (OECD Gender Equality report).
Young Europeans need opportunities, and with the right skills, even the craziest dream can become reality. As we’re stepping into the 4th industrial revolution, female leadership and innovation in the digital economy is absolutely fundamental. According to the European Commission, having more women enter the EU digital market will allow a boost in the economy and can create an annual GDP increase of 9 billion euros, and as many opportunities.
In other words, if we can provide more opportunities to learn – and fall in love with – computer science earlier in their lives, it’s more likely that girls and young women will stick with STEM subjects throughout their education, go on to consider STEM-related opportunities as a viable career path, and most probably be inspired to make the next major breakthrough in science, math or engineering.
With that in mind, we spent the last three months calling all young women and role models across Europe to come together and share their ideas for the future. The #MakeWhatsNext movement has been running across 50 events, mentoring sessions & trainings in 27 countries, engaging, inspiring and providing the tools for girls to achieve more and create a real impact in their communities.
More than 7,300 girls and young women across Europe have benefited so far from mentorship connections, role-model talks, exciting networking opportunities, and, of course, offline training in coding, social marketing and digital communications, personal branding, to name a few.
The journey is far from over, and as part of our efforts to raise awareness of the STEM gender gap and provide support to bridge that gap, we will continue to partner with industry, NGOs and the public sector here in Europe to make sure that girls and young women aren’t left behind.
From advocating for curriculum reform, providing training, mentoring and apprenticeships we are committed to helping young Europeans #MakeWhatsNext. It benefits us all.