Celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of April, International Girls in ICT Day is an initiative to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technologies (ICT). With a skills gap of over 800’000 jobs predicted in ICT in Europe by 2020, and the forecasted creation of over 1.4 million ICT jobs in Canada and the USA in a similar time frame, this sector is in dire need of new talent. Compounding this problem is the fact that the number of female technical students is disproportionately low in comparison to males.
Spearheaded by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ specialised agency for ICT, International Girls in ICT Day was also celebrated locally in Geneva, on 27th April 2017. Joining other schools from Geneva, Ecolint sent a delegation of female students to take part in hands-on ICT workshops, led by the schools and facilitated by the ITU and external experts in this field.
Accordingly, Ecolint came prepared with its own set of workshops to share with fellow students. With support from the HES-SO HEPIA and Informascience, the Campus des Nations group presented programming through Scratch, a visual programming language that can be used to create animations, games, and much more. Coached by ITU experts, La Grande Boissière students led a workshop on satellites – a tool central to bringing about greater access to information – and taught fellow delegates how to build a paper model of a satellite. For Ana, a Year 8 La Grande Boissière student, the satellite workshop was particularly interesting and she was touched that “women are encouraged to do something so interesting.” In exchange, students learned about programming robots with Thymio and Thymio 2 from other independent school delegates, programming with Python from local schools, and how to reduce the digital gender gap from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
La Châtaigneraie delegation explains their study of ICT at school to ITU Deputy Secretary-General Malcolm Johnson
In addition to presenting their workshops, student delegates also had the chance to meet experts from the field of ICT and receive coaching and advice from them. Whether paired up with engineers from the ITU or with university researchers, Ecolint students came out full of new ideas to share with their classes. Thinking back to her exchange with her mentor for the day, Year 8 student Afek agreed that “what we did was really fun and I learned a lot. It opened me up to new ideas and a new way of thinking. It was really helpful and encouraging.”
Yet this event was not just an occasion to find out more about ICT. It was also a great opportunity to share ideas, brainstorm together and make friends with students from other schools in Geneva, and come together as one united voice in calling for greater female participation in the ICT sector. “Today was amazing! I am already considering a career in computer science,” concluded Victoria, one of the students present at the ITU. In line with Ecolint’s historical ties to the United Nations, and dedicated to playing their part in accomplishing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly as regards Goal 5 on gender equality, Ecolint students and their new friends came out convinced that girls have as large a role to play in ICT as boys do.
To date, over 240’000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 7200 celebrations of International Girls in ICT Day in 160 countries worldwide. Ecolint is proud to count its students among them.