UN Women statement for International Girls in ICT Day 2018

Unprecedented hunger for change brings girls expanded horizons and changed attitudes

Date: Thursday, April 26, 2018

All over the world, we are witnessing an unprecedented hunger for change. We are seeing the emerging authority of young people, who are increasingly articulating their impatience with the slow pace of change, and leading movements to accelerate it. Today, digital transformation is happening almost everywhere in the world. From cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), to blockchain technology, automation and the ‘Internet of things’ arising from smart vehicles and appliances, technological advances are transforming nearly every aspect of business. The skills to adapt to these changes are essential, as well as access to, control over and full use of technology. That is why this year for ‘International Girls in ICT Day’ we are focusing on the theme for girls of ‘expand horizons, change attitudes’.

One in three internet users worldwide is under 18 years of age, and UNICEF tells us that young people are now the most connected of all age groups. Their career paths will be very different from preceding generations. This means that education systems also need to adapt to this changing world of work and the new security aspects that accompany it. Educators and employers alike will need to embrace continuous learning on ICTs that remains up to date and relevant to career openings and the new ways in which we will all live our lives.

The next generation will need STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) skills to be better prepared to use AI, advanced robotics, and 3D printing as well as cultivating essential 21st century skills, such as creativity, problem solving, originality, empathy, adaptation and cultural and gender awareness. Greater participation by girls in these areas will create a more inclusive ICT sector and drive creative change for all of us.

Survey results published by Microsoft, based on 11,500 women between the ages of 11 and 30 in 12 countries across Europe who were interviewed about their attitudes to STEM, showed girls’ interest in STEM subjects declining by the age of 15. Girls cited a lack of female role models in STEM as a key reason not to follow a career in the sector, with a lack of practical, hands-on experience with STEM subjects another barrier. Just 42 per cent said they would consider a STEM-related career in the future. That has to change.

To prepare girls for the job market shifts yet to come, we will need close cooperation and dialogue among education and training providers, as well as policy-makers, social partners, the private sector, innovation analysts and others, united in their promotion of inclusivity in innovation and the future of work. Along with policy change, we also need a critical shift in attitudes towards girls in technology and stereotypes about them. We need to create a cultural change that will overturn these assumptions, empower girls in ICT and transform our societies, and our future.

The winners in the Fourth Industrial Revolution economy will be those who embrace the changes created by technology. We all have a role to play in ensuring that girls can access the skills and training needed to adapt to the challenges and opportunities that technology brings, so that the future of work is rooted in gender equality, and economic opportunities, arrangements and protections that work for all people. 

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