Not only is International Girls in ICT Day 2020 a day to celebrate the astounding work of girls and women in ICT and STEM fields, but it is also a moment to reflect on how the global community has progressed in including and advocating for girls and women’s inclusion in STEM and ICT.
There is no doubt that women have been contributing to these sectors since long before they were given any credit. From Ada Lovelace, the world’s “first computer programmer,” to Katherine Johnson, the African-American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were pivotal in the launch of the first U.S. crewed spaceflights, women have been leaders in STEM and ICT, despite the biases and institutional barriers they have faced and continue to encounter today.
In addition to a global absence of girls and women in ICT and STEM, in comparison to their male counterparts and proven academic performance, evidence also reveals a paradoxical relationship between levels of equality and the number of female STEM degrees. As reflected by the Women’s World Atlas, countries experiencing lower levels of equality between women and men, exhibit higher percentages of female graduates in science, technology engineering, and mathematics.
While these trends seem antithetical, they do highlight the importance of a global and collaborative approach. They also direct much-needed attention to the hidden societal, economic, didactic, and political factors that may contribute to lower levels of girls and women in STEM.
It’s up to world leaders to call attention to this issue, especially during a time when technology is more important than ever and equitable access to this technology could determine who moves forward and who is left behind.