This article has been co-written by Heleen Keijer, Plan the Netherlands.
By combining our areas of expertise, Plan and Accenture aim to contribute to finding a sustainable and scalable solution for the lack of women in IT by focusing on girls! Together, we aim to maximize our impact to equip youth, especially girls, with the skills they need to succeed and be part of the workforce of the future all around the globe.
How to Overcome the Youth Bulge?
Many countries worldwide experience a youth bulge—a demographic trend where the proportion of people in the population aged between 15 and 24 is significantly larger than other age groups. This youth bulge has severe implications for labor markets worldwide. Each year, approximately 121 million adolescents turn 16 years old, most of them in developing regions, and will enter the labor market. Most of these young people who want to work are unable to find jobs. Plan International believes it is crucial that these young people, and especially girls, have the knowledge and skills to succeed in life if we are to break the cycle of poverty. Moreover, with nearly 1.1 billion new potential workers expected between 2012 and 2020, demographic forces will only exacerbate youth unemployment over time. Ensuring all young people, including the most marginalized and disadvantaged, can unlock their potential through access to decent work will drive progress towards sustainable, inclusive development.
Women in ICT
Luckily, there are a couple of sectors worldwide that are in constant demand of new employees. The IT sector is one of them. There is a large gap between the demand for IT workers and the supply of job seekers worldwide. That said, only 25 percent of the IT-related positions is held by women, which is a very small percentage. Therefore, we see girls as the untapped pool of potential IT talent. The scarcity of women in IT forms a barrier for women to study and pursue a career in IT. Moreover, a lack of exposure during primary and secondary school and lack of female role models in IT further contributes to the image that women don’t belong in IT. With this joint ‘Girls in ICT’ initiative, we aim to motivate girls to make an impact with and in IT.
The Goal of Our Girls in ICT Program
So, what do we wish to achieve with our joint program? Obviously, we’d like to motivate girls to seek a career in IT . The IT industry is in dire need of talent, already today and even more in the future. But we also want the girls to find out for themselves what their personal skills are and what the future might bring for them. By experiencing IT skills first hand, they can better judge whether they would see a future in IT or not. In addition, we’d like to break the stigma that surrounds IT: it’s just as fun for girls as it is for boys!
When more women will enter the IT workforce, the benefits of a more balanced workforce are manifold: more gender diversity means better collaboration, a differentiated approach to business challenges, improved decision-making, better financial performance, and much more.
With the help of our partners, we aim to improve awareness of the lack of women in IT. Increasing corporate engagement is one of the methods to achieve that, to involve other organizations and use their network to expand quickly. Furthermore, we’d like to introduce a scalable, replicable and impact-trackable initiative that can be used across the world – with the first focus on Accenture’s and Plan’s global offices.
Our Girls in ICT Day
Plan and Accenture started a joined search for a solution to empower girls worldwide, though starting in the Netherlands. On June 28, we jointly organized the first edition of the Girls in ICT kick-off event. 19 girls from Amsterdam high schools joined us at the Plan International Netherlands office. This first kick-off event was meant to interact with the target group directly, as the event focused on showing how girls can contribute to the IT sector given their specific talents and skills. This translated into a morning with a variety of sessions on, for example, app development, digital divide awareness, coding, and robotics.
We think it was an inspiring and energetic journey for all of those involved while calling the pilot a success. The girls that joined our event felt motivated to dig deeper into what opportunities IT has in store for them. These girls have become ‘Girls in ICT Day’ ambassadors. We're happy to inform you that these quotes show us how much the event was a success. Please note that the quotes do not necessarily match the girls in the photos.
“I learned a lot of new and different aspects of the world of IT”
“It is great to see that there are people working to empower women and girls in the world. Today was really unique for me, because it got me thinking about the opportunities I have and the opportunities that I might be able to give to other people.”
The IT world really needs women to bring new ideas to the table
“At first, you would think that it's more for boys, but it is actually very interesting, and coding is a very useful skill to learn!”
Accenture and Plan International have set up a year-round program for girls worldwide. In our program structure, we'd like to take the girls on a journey across corporates who are seeking to engage and inspire girls through different workshops. At their offices, the organizations can show the hands-on applications of IT in practice. Our ultimate goal is to adapt and scale-up the year-round ‘Girls in ICT day’ program to developing countries, to ensure we make an impact on those girls that need our support the most.
Join us in our quest to make this happen and contact the project leaders at Plan International Netherlands (Heleen Keijer) or Accenture the Netherlands (Lakshmi Adapa).