Ladies and gentlemen,
What a tremendous pleasure and an honour it is to be here with you in New York this morning to celebrate ‘International Girls in ICT Day 2012’. And let me echo the moderator’s remarks just now by thanking Jasna Matić, Serbia’s State Secretary for the Digital Agenda, for getting the whole ‘Girls in ICT Day’ idea off the ground in the first place.
I am delighted to be able to report that more than 70 countries globally are holding well over a hundred different events in celebration of Girls in ICT Day.
Special mention should go to Cisco – a long-time partner of ITU – which has organized more than 40 different events globally today, and I know that many other tech companies have also been active in promoting events and celebrations.
Why do we think that this is so important?
The answer is quite simple: technology needs girls.
Technology needs girls for all sorts of reasons – but perhaps the most important one is that women drive social and economic growth.
So we need women to take up careers in the information and communication technology sector – the ICT sector.
And for that, we need girls to be interested in pursuing ICT studies.
Today, there is a significant lack of trained female ICT professionals, with women accounting for under 20% of ICT specialists in the OECD.
And yet over the coming decade there are expected to be two million more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them.
This is an extraordinary empowerment opportunity for girls and young women – in a world where there are over 70 million unemployed young people.
What is more, ICT jobs are among the best careers going – 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.
This is why ITU is proud to be organizing this event here in New York today, and why we recently launched our ‘Girls in ICT’ web portal, which focuses on helping girls and women to access training, job opportunities and career information. It is also why we published the ‘Bright Future in ICTs’ report – that you’ll be hearing more about a little later on, from the lead author, Nidhi Tandon, who is here with us today.
We need to close the gender gap, and getting girls and young women into the ICT sector is a great way of helping to do that – challenging their teachers and parents along the way to cast aside outdated attitudes.
It is time to be bold, and decisive.
It’s time to put the lie to some bad old clichés:
- Are ICT careers ‘too hard for girls’? Of course they’re not!
- Are ICT careers ‘unfeminine’? Not at all!
- Are ICT careers ‘boring’? No way!
Girls and young women with ICT skills will find jobs that offer creativity, innovation, and entirely new ways of working.
And encouraging girls into the technology industry will create a positive feedback loop – in turn creating inspiring role models for the next generation.
Girls looking at their career choices need real, flesh-and-blood, role models they can aspire to – like those on the ‘Girls in ICT’ web portal.
Simply put, ‘if you can see it, you can be it’.
So let me ask all of you here today – to help us in our goal to get girls into the ICT sector.
We cannot do this alone; but together, in partnership, we can make the world a better – and a far more equal – place.
Let’s do that!