One-stop shop for training, scholarship and job opportunities aimed at inspiring girls and young women to choose a career in technology

CO-00694small-8c1d3Text : ITU/Press Photo : Actionpress/VIROT
Geneva, 24 January 2012 – ITU has launched a new web portal focused on helping girls and women access training, job opportunities and career information in the fast-growing information and communication (ICT) sector.
The portal is designed to help girls and young women aged 11-25 prepare for and pursue a technology career, providing links to scholarships, training and internships, ICT contests and awards, tech camps, online girls’ networks and other programmes that will give them a boost in entering what has become a largely male-dominated sector.
It’s a little-known fact that women were the original programmers of ENIAC, the US government’s first ever computer. But while teenage girls now use computers and the Internet at rates similar to boys, they are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career.
It wasn’t always so. In the US in the 1980s, for example, young women were earning 37% of computer science degrees; today, that number has fallen to below 20%.
The lack of trained female professionals means that in OECD countries, women now account for under 20% of ICT specialists. It also means that most developed countries are forecasting an alarming shortfall in the number of skilled staff to fill upcoming ICT jobs. The European Union calculates that in 10 years’ time there will be 700,000 more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them; globally, that shortfall is estimated to be closer to two million.
Turning girls on to technology With computer and information systems professionals consistently ranked among the top 20 best-paying jobs – on a par with surgeons, orthodontists, airline pilots and lawyers – ITU is working to attract more young women and girls into the ICT sector, encouraging them to expand their horizons and urging their teachers and parents to cast aside old-fashioned negative attitudes.
Experts contend that girls and young women are ‘turned off’ careers in technology by a range of factors – from the profession’s ‘geek’ image to entrenched notions that technology careers are unfeminine, too challenging, or just plain boring.
“Research consistently shows that girls tend to choose careers where they feel they can ‘make a difference’ – healthcare, education, medicine. With this new portal, we’re trying to show them that there’s much more to ICTs than writing computer code,” said Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General. “As we move towards an ICT-based Knowledge Society, the rise of apps and the explosion in telemedicine, remote learning systems and research and development make the ICT industry the most exciting choice any young person can make. We are entering unchartered waters of creativity, innovation and entirely new ways of working, interacting and learning. I hope our new portal will serve as a showcase to attract the many talented girls and young women in countries worldwide to this booming sector.”
ITU’s new Girls in ICT portal serves as storefront for tech jobs in markets across the globe. Worldwide, the demand for technology professionals is steadily increasing; in the US, for example, there are now more ICT jobs than there were at the height of the dot-com boom.
One exciting development is the emergence of ‘mashed up’ hybrid jobs that draw on multiple disciplines, such as bioengineering, power grid informatics, digital media, and social and mobile apps. “There are many new interesting, fun, creative hybrid jobs that combine ICT with business in every imaginable field,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which created the new portal. “Encouraging girls into the technology industry will create a positive feedback loop, in turn creating inspiring role models for the next generation. Girls pondering career choices need tangible, flesh-and-blood role models they can aspire to. Simply put, ‘if you can see it, you can be it’. We hope our new Girls in ICT portal with its profiles and videos of women in ICTs will be a major catalyst in creating exciting and rewarding new choices for women worldwide.”