Towards a more equal European digital sector

ICT and STEM fields are historically male dominated. However, many women have contributed to the digital sector since the beginning. From Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook´s current COO. These renowned women and their innovative, scientific and technological accomplishments show girls that women's presence in ICT is not a myth. What is more, they are essential to the field.

According to the European Commission's study, Women in the Digital Age, "57% of tertiary graduates in the EU are women, but only 24.9% of them graduate in ICT-related fields, and very few enter the sector. Moreover, nowadays women make up 13% of the graduates in ICT-related fields working in digital jobs compared to 15% in 2011".

In order to improve the situation of women in the digital sector, the first imperative is to fight stereotypes, something we can only do through the visibility of women in the digital sector.
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society

Many initiatives have been put into place at the European level to tackle the digital gender gap and to make ICT-related careers and studies more accessible, and especially attractive, for young girls. The European Commission's Women in Digital strategy aims to encourage women to play a more active role in the aforementioned-sector.

In the same vein, several projects coordinated by the European Schoolnet are also working in strengthening girls' confidence in approaching ICT and STEM careers.

Analysing the gender ICT gap

One of these projects is STEM Alliance[1]. By bringing together industries, Ministries of Education and education stakeholders, the initiative contributes to innovation in STEM and ICT teaching as well as promotes the attractiveness of those studies and jobs in schools. However, is undeniably the case that these fields are more attractive for young boys than for young girls. But why?

In 2019, STEM Alliance together with Amgen Teach, published a detailed report on "The attractiveness of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects" that tries to answer that very question and many others. The report, based on a survey carried out in five EU countries, targeted secondary school students in an attempt to come to a better understanding of why and how young people in Europe decide which study and career paths to pursue.

Among other relevant topics the report analysed whether the identity marker of gender influences student's attitudes towards STEM and ICT. It concludes with the affirmation that "gender stands out as the main element which shapes student views and attitudes towards STEM careers". Moreover, it also highlights the fact that the biggest gender gap can be found in the Computing and Engineering field, where girls are three times less likely to pursue a career than boys.

A lack of female role models and gendered stereotypes are some of the factors behind biased careers choices. Nevertheless, school communities, STEM & ICT industries and many other stakeholders can have a true influence on these choices by empowering our future digital generations - girls and boys alike - by fostering equal access to ICT and STEM education and by supporting educational activities and projects that pursue this goal.

Celebrate the International Day of Girls in ICT

Even if we are confined to our homes, students and school communities can still celebrate the International Day of Girls in ICT by participating in an online event or by introducing young girls and boys to ICT and STEM activities. Under the framework of the STEM Discovery Campaign, STEM Alliance, Scientix, Bloom and many other projects organise online competitions and encourage school communities to hold online activities, webinars, chats or discussion boards.

During these days of crisis, we still can advocate for a more accessible and fairer educational landscape for the future generations. We have an opportunity to give them the tools to sidestep stereotypes and to pursue the career they love! Stay home, be part of the change and celebrate the International Day of Girls in ICT!

[1] The STEM Alliance is led by 17 major companies including Airbus Foundation, Amgen, Cisco, Dell Technologies, EPCA, IBM, LEGO education, Lenovo, Oracle, Shell, Transport Malta, Dassault Systems, GSMA, Johnson-Johnson, Microsoft, SISSA Medialab and Texas Instruments.