“If you want to use the music from Frozen in your game, do you know how to download a gif to match?” Not the average question I have heard in a conference room at Cisco headquarters in San Jose, California, especially when asked to 7-year-old girls! The girls were part of a group of 14 children participating in a coding camp held at Cisco and put on by Embark Labs. The goal of the event is to teach 7 to 10 year olds to have fun while learning how to program.
Even though I grew up surrounded by engineers and technology in Silicon Valley, I didn’t decide to seriously study science until my freshman year in college, when I switched my major from economics to theoretical mathematics at the suggestion of my calculus professor. That was the first time a teacher told me I had a strong aptitude for math and encouraged me to expand my idea of what kinds of studies and careers to pursue. Mentors are widely recognized as being a key factor in helping girls decide to study science and technology. This is especially true in developing counties where there are traditionally fewer professional female role models. Cisco is a champion for educating girls and women in technology and understands the importance of mentors early in a girl’s academic career. This is why 70 Cisco offices in 52 countries are putting on events for International Girls in ICT Day, introducing students to successful professionals and encouraging them to study science and technology.
Women earn 57% of all U.S. undergraduate degrees but only 18% of undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees, according to the National Center for Women in Technology. Yet according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates, more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings will exist by 2020, with only enough computer degree graduates to fill 30% of them.
And globally, women comprise less than a third of workers in the computer science, engineering, and physics fields in some of the world’s key emerging economies, according to a report by Women in Global Science & Technology.
Attracting more girls and women to the technology field benefits women, their families, their communities, and the businesses they work for. Women are powerful catalysts for change in any society: When women are able to earn an income, they typically reinvest 90 percent of it back into their families and communities.
To help tap this valuable talent pool and attract more women to careers in the information and communications technology (ICT) field, Cisco is participating in Girls in ICT Day – an international event organized by the by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
This blog was originally posted on the Huffington Post
Research resoundingly reveals that when girls and women are educated, the income they earn is primarily returned to their families, which in turn helps build stronger families and more stable communities. But can something as simple as a dirty bathroom break that positive cycle?
Unfortunately, in some countries it can, especially when adolescent girls reach puberty. UNICEF finds that 1 in 10 school-age African girls “do not attend … or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools.” Girls’ attendance also drops dramatically if they are not well because of disease or poor nutrition, if the school is far away and parents are concerned for the child’s safety, or if families don’t see the value in spending limited funds on their daughter’s education.
To help more girls become educated, we must first remove these and other barriers that prevent them from attending and staying in school.
Many organizations are doing that — they are building schools in impoverished or politically and socially turbulent regions, establishing schools just for girls and women, and providing qualified female teachers to underserved communities, particularly in developing or underdeveloped countries.
It can be lonely for a woman in the technology field.
At the college level, men earn 82 percent of engineering and computer science degrees. And while women make up 47 percent of the overall workforce, they constitute only 27 percent of the science and engineering workforce. Isolation and lack of mentors often prevent women from pursuing and advancing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
View our feature on the Huffington Post ImpactX about women who are excelling in the technology field and serving as mentors for other young women.