More tech training for girls

More tech training for girls

The Digital Life - Editor's Write

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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There is excellent news that more girls are getting the opportunity to access skills-building training in technology. This edition of Digital Life salutes Juleen Gentles, an outstanding young woman who has become a vital voice and an ambassador on behalf of young women at home and abroad. Gentles is among those calling for more exposure to technology training for young women.

There is good reason for the call. Recent research points to the disparity between men and women in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, referred to as STEM. Academics have also shown that there are significant benefits to the general populace from having greater equality. Steps in that direction could include a narrowing of the gender pay gap, enhancing women's economic security as well as ensuring a diverse and talented workforce and reducing biases. STEM fields are often viewed as masculine-only territory and, unfortunately, teachers and some parents often underestimate girls' math abilities.

An international coalition has taken on the task of changing this, and work is already underway in the Caribbean. The EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality has taken the lead by staging a series of workshops to expose young women to the skills-building programme of Tech4Girls.

EQUALS held a workshop in Trinidad and Tobago recently, and this week it is Jamaica's turn with Caribbean Girls Hack and regional counterparts CANTO and RSC Tech Clubs organising the GSMA-led Tech4Girls workshops. It will take place on December 5, followed by a virtual awards event on December 12.

The telecommunications giant Verizon is funding the workshops, and their role models will introduce tech through e-commerce and aim to inspire and familiarise young girls and women with career opportunities in the tech sector, especially in the local and regional e-commerce industry.

The workshops benefit from the leadership of RSC which, in conjunction with EQUALS Skills Coalition members, provides award-winning technical expertise in digital skills training to achieve the set goals and key perfomance indicators (KPIs) for upskilling young women. The half-day events will teach participants how to set up and run an e-commerce business with Shopify as the platform of choice.

Credit should also go to GSMA regional partner CANTO and its member organisations, including Flow Jamaica, Global Affairs Canada (in Jamaica) and the Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation at GraceKennedy Limited.

In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, more young women are searching for new employment openings; training and exposure to technology provides exciting possibilities. One thing is sure: many new role models are emerging in our Caribbean technology sphere, many right here at home in Jamaica. They are sure to inspire numerous young women, sparking their increased interest in these fields which are so much more than the examples of female scientists and engineers in books, media and popular culture.

In all of this, let us not forget that there is a role for female teachers, who make up a significant portion of their profession. They and others who help shape the future of our young girls are cautioned not to pass on their math anxiety, and are urged to shy away from grading girls harder for the same work, and not to assume girls need to work harder to achieve the same level as boys.

Another critical input comes from parents who should be discouraged from making distinctions between girls and boys in their approach to education. The research shows that when it comes to brain development, the disparities between the two sexes are relatively small. It turns out that behaviour and development have more to do with life experiences than they do with gender.

Finally, mentors can play a significant role in changing the perception of girls' relationship with science, technology, engineering and math. So step up and let's change the world for our girls and young women. After all, one of them figured out how to safely reach to the moon.

Send feedback to digitallife@jamaicaobserver.com


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