I have spent most of my adult life advocating for women and girls to reach their full potential. This is now more important than ever as researchers at New York University, the University of Illinois, and Princeton University found that girls by the age of 6 become less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender and are more likely to avoid activities said to require brilliance.
Corporations, enterprises and organizations have a tremendous opportunity and duty to inspire, empower, and develop women and girls. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields are our future and initiatives like Girls in ICT Day look to encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technology (ICT). This initiative provides a catalyst not only to demonstrate how technology helps society and makes a difference, but to showcase female role models who can inspire young girls.
I have that opportunity today to continue to foster these initiatives, as Head of Diversity & Inclusion in one of the ICT industry’s global communications companies – Ericsson.
I am privileged to work for a company that understands that diversity in the workplace leads to greater collaboration, engagement, ideas, innovation, business results and customer satisfaction. Girls in ICT is firmly established as one of our key global activities to help meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5, ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’. This year we aim to have Girls in ICT Day activities in 45 countries.
Organizing activities in 45 countries can be a challenge – one size doesn’t fit all. There are different needs and motivators in different parts of the world. Many cultural aspects are different, and even legislation may impact what is even possible to offer.
Taking these issues into consideration is why our Girls in ICT activities are locally driven, but globally supported. We need to be close to our audience, we need to know the specifics of the market and the customers, the details of the future opportunities, and be able to extend a friendly welcome to the youngsters in the community we are a part of. From a global point of view, we try to gather our forces, have common targets, ambitions and key messages, learn from and inspire one another, and share best practices and ideas.
Ericsson will officially launch Ericsson Innovation Awards: Girls who Innovate! on April 27 this year, this is a competition for girls 9-18 years old. The competition is similar to the Ericsson Innovation Awards for college students. The theme for this year will be the same for both: the future of food.
Both competitions challenge the younger generations to explore and imagine how ICT can transform the way the world produces, transport, distributes and consumes food. By 2050, the global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion. Ensuring that food production and consumption are sufficient and sustainable is not only a major challenge; it is also an opportunity to improve people’s lives and the health of our planet.
With innovation at the heart of our company, we have already seen firsthand how ICTs can have a positive impact on the world. But what impact can it have on the future of food? The top three suggestions from the three different age categories in the junior competition, will be invited to blog on our behalf and further stretch their imaginations and explore what other options there may be to make the world a better place. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on their suggestions.
The Girls in ICT activity list is varied with team exercises, study visits, campus gatherings and similar. A popular arrangement is the visits to our VIP customer centers found at several of our offices. Reflecting back on one of our organizer’s experience last year, a group of teenagers gathered at our headquarters in Sweden with expectations obviously on the low end of the spectrum at the beginning of the day had, by the end of the same day, tried to persuade their teacher to please let them stay a while longer, saying: “We’ll call our parents and have them pick us up here. Later. Much later.”
At times, that’s all that it takes: an introduction to a world unknown with lots of unexplored opportunities. And that is the least we as role model organizations can do – make the introductions.
Welcome to the exiting world of ICT, girls!