Luciana Ferreira's father was hopeful that his daughter would one day become a medical doctor. Instead, after completing high school, Luciana began exploring courses in engineering. After passing an entrance exam, she was offered a place to study electrical engineering at Universidade de Brasília. That was the start of Luciana's journey in the telecommunication and ICT sector.
Luciana joined Brazil's Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações (ANATEL) in 2007 where she works as a telecommunications engineer. She has worked in telecommunication surveillance and satellite management and currently works in the spectrum management department which regulates the use of national radiofrequencies.
"The engineering sector is still male dominated. But at the end of the day it is the quality of work you do that counts, not whether you are a woman or a man," says Luciana. "Working in the ICT sector has been a major fulfilment of my dreams. It was not easy at the start but I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many people who have been a source of encouragement. My determination and enthusiasm have never been greater," she adds.
Luciana says there are many opportunities for women and girls to excel in the telecommunication and ICT sectors. "Unfortunately not many women and girls are aware of these opportunities even when they are very good in mathematics and sciences at high school. I think there should be more efforts to create interest in engineering and ICT related studies among girls from a very early age in school," says Luciana.
Promoting technology based careers among women and girls was the main reason behind the establishment of the International Girls in ICT Day by ITU Member States at the Plenipotentiary Conference in 2010.
In adopting Resolution 70, Member States were called upon to review their policies related to the information society to ensure the inclusion of a gender perspective in all activities and to promote and increase the interest of, and opportunities for, women and girls in ICT careers during elementary, secondary and higher education.
Now in its fifth year, the International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday in April.
Various activities are organized by ITU Member States worldwide to raise awareness about the opportunities of the ICT sector and empower girls and young women with the knowledge that careers in ICT can be for them.
"With over 3 billion people now using the Internet and over 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, ICTs offer girls and women unlimited opportunity to make rapid and profound advances in global social and economic development," says Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU's Telecommunications Development Bureau.
"Together with its Members, ITU is working to promote ICT friendly frameworks in education and careers to encourage young girls and women to be part of the digital economy," adds Mr Sanou.
Since its inception, the International Girls in ICT Day has been gaining huge momentum around the world.
To date, over 111,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 3,500 events held in 140 countries around the world and even more events were held this year on or around 23 April.
Through the Girls in ICT Portal., girls and young women get an insight into the ICT sector and students and young professionals find practical information on ICT scholarship programs, internships and training opportunities, online networks and ICT career information.
"We are encouraged to see the growing commitment by countries in the Americas region in support of the Girls in ICT initiative," says Mr Bruno Ramos, Director of ITU Regional Office for the Americas. "We have promoted and supported the initiative in more than 20 countries. In the coming years we hope to expand the range of activities and organize ICT challenge contests and encourage companies and government agencies to have 'ICT open days' during which girls can be invited to experience working in an ICT environment," he adds.
Luciana is a regular visitor to the Girls in ICT Portal and says she is impressed by the efforts put in place by ITU and partners to encourage more girls and young women to take up careers in the telecommunications and ICT sectors. "To the girls and young women out there, I say to you do not underestimate your capabilities. The opportunities for you in the telecommunications and ICT sectors are limitless."
It's now 16 years since Luciana started her journey into the world of engineering and ICTs. "I never became the doctor my father always wanted, but he never stops reminding me how proud he is of the choice I made," she adds.