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ITU celebrates global ‘Girls in ICT Day’

Annual day celebrates women’s achievements in the field of technology, promotes tech opportunities to young girls worldwide

Geneva, 25 April 2013 – Every year on the fourth Thursday in April, ITU and the global technology community celebrate ‘Girls in ICT Day’, an awareness-raising initiative designed to pay tribute to women’s contribution to the technology industry and promote tech careers to a new generation of girls with an interest in science and maths.

Since its inception in 2010, the day has been gaining huge momentum around the world, with over 1,300 events organized in 90 countries in 2012, and even more activities set to take place in 100+ countries spanning 21 time zones during the course of the day today.

This year, ITU is celebrating the event both at home and abroad, with events organized at its Geneva headquarters as well as in Brussels, in partnership with the European Commission’s DG Connect, and with the personal support of EC Vice-President Neelie Kroes.

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré started the day in Brussels at a tech breakfast focused on promoting opportunities for girls in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), organized by the Women2020 organization. The event featured a high-level panel debate, followed by the launch of the new Digital Girl of the Year and Digital Woman of the Year awards.

Dr Touré then joined EC Vice President Kroes, Belgium’s Minister for Scientific Research Céline Frémault, and a group of local high school students for a series of hands-on ICT workshops exploring visions of tomorrow’s Digital Future and  the technology behind Digital Music Production and Performance, including a ‘digital DJ’ component hosted by DigitalMuse.

During a networking lunch at the European Parliament, Dr Touré accompanied ITU partners Cisco, Intel and WITIN (Women in Technology in Nigeria) in awarding Tech Needs Girls prizes to five talented young individuals, and a group of young Nigerian girls, for innovative technology-based projects. The WITIN ‘Princeton’ group comprised Adeola Augustina Fasan, Abisola Chinonye Jegede, Chiemerie Mary Okoro, Joy Ayomide Olufemi, and Chikodili Grace Ozoagu. Cisco winners were Florence Boden, Thea Bradley and Caitlin Wilson, while Intel awarded its prizes to Meiri Anto and Naomi Shah. Cisco is also organizing 80 of its own Girls in ICT Day events in 60 countries around the world.

Dr Touré rounded off the day’s activities with an address to the European Parliament in which he highlighted the urgent need to redress the growing gender imbalance in the technology sector.

“Despite some progress, only 21 of the Fortune 500 companies are run by women. There are only 16 women ICT Ministers out of ITU’s 193 Member State governments, and only 10 of the world’s 160 independent ICT regulatory authorities are headed by a woman. In a world where over 95% of all jobs now have a digital component, and where there is a large and growing skills shortage in the ICT sector, we need to get more girls involved in science, technology, engineering and maths, and we need to get more girls taking an interest in ICT careers,” he told MEPs.

Dr Touré said Girls in ICT Day has an important role to play in raising the issue at a global level, and thanked the European Commission for its vision and commitment in creating an exceptional awareness-raising event.

“I am convinced that events such as this – and the many hundreds of other ICT & Girls events taking place today around the world – will make a real difference, and that we will see a dramatic change in the coming decades, as more and more girls study tech subjects, gain tech degrees and pursue tech careers,” he said.

Meanwhile, back at ITU headquarters in Geneva, a compelling programme was held around the theme ‘Discover, Learn and Share’. Co-organized by ITU and the US Mission in Geneva, the event welcomed over 70 schoolgirls aged 14-17 from local Swiss and French schools, and kicked off with a tour of ITU’s interactive tech learning facility, ICT Discovery, followed by workshops around four topics: satellites, coding, mobile app creation, and digital videography.

It concluded with a lunch with female professionals from ITU, the US Mission and the Swiss Engineering Network. “I am delighted that ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), which plays a key role in coordinating Girls in ICT Day events globally each year, is now organizing its own event to empower girls and young women,” said BDT Director Brahima Sanou.  “We are very privileged to have the support of high-level guests, including US Ambassador Betty King, who addressed the participating girls and young women we hosted today.”

For her part, Ambassador King emphasized the wealth of opportunity available to young women considering a career in the booming tech sector. “In our modern, connected world, ICT has become increasingly the means with which people learn, become informed about the world around them, connect with friends and opportunities, and give themselves a voice. The more pervasive they become, the more opportunities there will be for those who are up to the challenge,” she said.

The event also featured a special video message from Geena Davis, ITU’s Special Envoy for Women and Girls. “Events like Girls in ICT Day are important in engaging and inspiring girls to explore careers in technology,” said the Academy Award winning actor and advocate. “Studies by the Geena Davis Institute confirm that negative gender stereotypes in media influences the way girls see their future and possibilities. We want to empower them to be whoever they want to be, and reach their full potential.”

Activities concluded with a convivial lunch with students and female professionals from both ITU and the US Mission.

An annual event on the UN calendar, Girls in ICT Day’ is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday in April. It was established through a formal Resolution at ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in 2010.

Follow the discussion around the event on Twitter at @ITU #GirlsinICT, Facebook at ITU’s campaign page for Tech Needs Girls www.facebook.com/TechNeedsGirls and Storify at http://storify.com/ITU/girls-in-ict-day-2013

View Girls in ICT Day video messages from ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré and Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau at www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5rXOSDmDJU.

Video from the Brussels event will be available for download (broadcast quality) at: www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/videos.aspx and for viewing on ITU’s YouTube Channel at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5rXOSDmDJU.

Photos from both the Brussels and Geneva events will be available for download from ITU’s Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures/collections/72157629541186854/

Information, pictures and videos from all national and local Girls in ICT Day events are available on the ITU Girls in ICT Portal.

More information is available on ITU’s Tech Needs Girls page at: http://www.techneedsgirls.org/.

For more information, please contact:

For the Brussels event: For the Geneva event:
Sarah Parkes
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information
tel +41 22 730 6135
tel +41 79 599 1439
tel sarah.parkes@itu.int  
Nicolas Jammes
Girls in ICT Project Coordinator
tel +41 22 730 5996
tel nicolas.jammes@itu.int   
Note for media: ITU’s video newsroom provides fast access to broadcast-quality footage and news packages. Register at www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/videos.aspx


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