Last weeekend, Nigerian information technology (IT) practitioners met to dissect why few females students were taking up science and technology courses in institutions of higher learning and only a handful were playing active roles in the sector.
Also, global leaders from the United States of America, Europe, Africa and Asia at the same time joined in a debate to define a roadmap that will help break down barriers and overturn outmoded attitudes in a bid to get more girls into technology-related studies and careers.
Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, speaking at the maiden edition of Girls in ICT Day organised by E-Business Life Magazine lamented the low level of ICT access to Nigerian girls compared to the way male children were taking up career in ICT. Johnson, who was represented by a Deputy Director in the ministry, Ms Manilla Udoh, said taking on career in ICT would position female children to be more employable even after their marriage.
Explaining why female children should take career in ICT seriously, Johnson said it was a known fact that girls are more brilliant at very young ages and evidence abound from nursery and primary schools globally to verify this claim. “Early marriages and children also contribute to the reduction in young women’s academic achievement. “Girls must therefore be exposed to ICT education very early in life, so that the culture, orientation and requisite ICT skills would have been acquired.
“The good news, however, is that with ICT, you can now be at home and build your productive skills, obtain a degree and even earn a living all online while you have enough time to look after your children and take good care of the home. In order to close the digital divide between the male and female gender in terms of education in, ownership of and access to ICTs, girls must pick interest in ICT and related careers.
A high-level dialogue held at New York’s Institute of International Education and hosted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN-specialised agency for information and communication technology, identified misguided school-age career counselling, the popular media’s ‘geek’ image of the technology field, a dearth of inspirational female role models, and a lack of supportive frameworks in the home and workplace as factors that, together, tend to dissuade talented girls from pursuing a tech career.
ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré said: “Over the coming decade, there are expected to be two million more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them. This is an extraordinary opportunity for girls and young women – in a world where there are over 70 million unemployed young people.”
Dr Touré emphasised the need to cast aside outdated attitudes that are keeping young girls from considering technology as a career option. “ICT careers are not ‘too hard’ for girls. ICT careers are not ‘unfeminine’. And ICT careers are certainly not ‘boring’. Encouraging girls into the technology industry will create a positive feedback look – in turn creating inspiring new role models for the next generation.”
Inspired by the tremendous dedication of NGOs, universities, government agencies, industry and others around the world in organising Girls in ICT Day, participants sketched out a basic blueprint for more successful approaches to attracting school-age girls to the fast-evolving technology field, and agreed to work together to change attitudes and boost female tech enrolment rates.