On April 25, we celebrate Girls in ICT Day, established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2010 to inspire girls to consider a career in technology. Women are half the world's population and half the world's talent, but there's a persistent gender gap in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) field.
As a first tour economic officer with a Ph.D. in Computer Science, I'm thrilled to be able to use my background to contribute to the ITU program celebrating International Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Today, I taught 27 girls of ages between 13 and 17 the basics of programming in python, an intuitive, but powerful programming language that is widely used by software companies, research scientists, engineers, and universities. My goal was to introduce the girls to the world of programming, demystify code, and open their eyes to the possibilities offered by a career in ICT. As I walked them through their first program, they showed a great deal of enthusiasm, and I could see their confidence building as they learned to code.
The way the workshop warmed the students up to programming reminded me of how I became a scientist. I wasn't passionate about science when I started college, but in my freshman year at Dartmouth I signed up for an introductory physics course. Once they noticed my involvement, the college's Women in Science Program helped me get a job in a plasma physics laboratory. More than anything else, it was my small successes in that laboratory that convinced me I could succeed in science. With this in mind, I worked with ITU to plan a series of technical workshops designed to give girls hands-on experience in programming computers, making films, designing mobile phone applications, and managing satellites.
From the Department of State's TechWomen program, an international exchange that uses technology as a means to empower women and girls worldwide, to U.S.-Brazil cooperation and exchanges with women scientists, the Department of State is working on multiple fronts to strengthen women and girls' access to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Girls will be more likely to pursue careers in ICT if they believe they can succeed. The research shows that hearing the right policy message is an important factor, but the best way for a girl to build confidence is to try a technical project and succeed at it. I hope my programming workshop has convinced a small group of the next generation of women that they can succeed in ICT as well.