Teenage girls use computers and the Internet as much as boys do, but are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career.
In the United Kingdom, fewer than 1 in 5 computer scientists are women (Women and ICT), and in the United States, women hold more degrees than men and make up 58 percent of the professional workforce, yet their representation in ICT is less than 25 percent (NCWIT).
Companies around the world will try to reverse these trends on International Girls in ICT Day this Thursday, April 25 – an initiative organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, 80 Cisco offices will hold Girls in ICT Day events, joining the global effort to encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the growing information and communications technology (ICT) field.
The events target secondary school-aged girls and will include office visits, tours, and presentations by Cisco female employees who will discuss career opportunities and life in the technology field.
For example, 180 girls will visit 10 Cisco offices throughout Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Through Cisco TelePresence videoconferencing technology, they will engage in a simultaneous panel discussion about opportunities in the ICT field.
Participants will also hear testimonials from Cisco women about their experiences working in the ICT field, share their personal aspirations with each other, and meet representatives from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (Latin America region) and the Corporación Universitaria para el Desarrollo de Internet (University Corporation for the Development of Internet).
Ana Makhlouf, a Cisco employee in Costa Rica who is helping to organize the event, says the TelePresence panel will allow the girls to “come in to Cisco offices and experience technology itself.”
ICT jobs are expected to be plentiful in coming years. According to ITU, by 2015, 90 percent of jobs across all sectors will require tech skills and almost all jobs will be ICT-enabled. The European Union calculates that in ten years there will be 700,000 more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them; globally, that shortfall is estimated to be closer to 2 million.
Markus Schwertel, a senior manager in Cisco Corporate Affairs who is leading Cisco’s participation in Girls in ICT Day, says the event can raise awareness of these opportunities among girls and young women.
“The IT industry is not necessarily the first choice of the majority of girls around the world to look at when they think of their potential professional career,” Schwertel says. “By being part of the Girls in ICT Day movement, Cisco wants to contribute to an awareness shift – don’t leave IT just to the boys!”