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 ITU launches Girls in ICT web portal

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

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.”

What does the portal contain?

The Girls in ICT Portal houses  some 400 programmes, including over 100 scholarship programmes and an equal number of contests and awards, some 60 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and Girls in ICT Day activities.

It also includes a link to a Girls in ICT Toolkit, developed by ITU partner WITNET (the Global Network of Women ICT Decision Makers). Organizations wishing to add a programme to the Girls in ICT Portal simply need to log on and register.

ITU members recently voted to make ‘Women and Girls in ICT’ the theme of ITU’s upcoming World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, which will be celebrated on 16 May 2012. At its 2010 Plenipotentiary Conference, ITU also endorsed the celebration of an annual global Girls in ICT Day, which in 2012 will be held on 26 April. Governments, private industry, UN agencies and NGOs are encouraged to invite girls and university students to spend the day at their offices, or organize ‘shadowing’ programmes with female mentors, so that they gain a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.  For more information, contact the team at girlsinict@itu.int

For more information, please contact:

Susan Schorr

Head, Special Initiatives Division,

tel +41 22 730 5638
tel susan.schorr@itu.int 

Sarah Parkes

Chief, Media Relations and Public Information

tel +41 79 599 1439
tel +41 22 730 6039
tel pressinfo@itu.int
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