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'Geek' image scares women away from tech industry

Girls in ICT Day suggests new ways to attract women to the field

Women don't consider IT careers because “the popular media’s ‘geek’ image of the technology field” along with other factors including a lack of female role models and support at home and work “tend to dissuade talented girls from pursuing a tech career.”

“Misguided school-age career counselling” is another problem, as it often suggests to young women that ICT careers are too hard or somehow unfeminine.

That's the conclusion of a “high-level dialogue” hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in New York yesterday. The event was staged on Girls in IT Day, an annual United Nations day to promote careers in technology for women. Girls in IT Day events were staged in more than 70 countries. Most offered the chance to meet women already pursuing successful careers in technology.

Yesterday's event in New York was attended by several prominent women from the technology industry, including Alethea Lodge-Clarke, Programme Manager of Public Private Partnerships for Microsoft; Monique Morrow, CTO Asia Pacific with Cisco Systems; Juliana Rotich, Ushahidi’s pioneering Executive Director; and Sarah Wynn-Williams, Manager of Global Public Policy for Facebook.

In his welcoming remarks, ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré said that the ICT industries need women.

“Over the coming decade, there are expected to be two million more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them,” he said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for girls and young women – in a world where there are over 70 million unemployed young people.”

“Encouraging girls into the technology industry will create a positive feedback look – in turn creating inspiring new role models for the next generation,” he added.

Dr Touré closed the event with a call for the ITU's partners to collaborate on a three-year campaign called “Tech Needs Girls” which he said would focus on “four ‘Es’: empowerment, equality, education and employment.” Details of the campaign aren't spelled out on the Girls in ICT site or the ITU's page, but the ITU has hinted at different tactics for nations at different stages of development. ®

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