Today is International Girls in ICT Day, an initiative launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2010 to encourage more girls and young women to consider careers in information and communication technologies.
Founded in Paris in 1865, the ITU is now a specialised agency of the United Nations with a membership of 193 countries and some 700 private-sector entities.
While its first area of expertise was the telegraph, the ITU now covers the whole ICT sector, from digital broadcasting to the Internet, and from mobile technologies to 3D TV, meaning it is very well placed to address issues of inequality within its field.
Girls in ICT Day is an opportunity not just to celebrate the careers of those women who have made an impact in digital technologies, but to consider how best to address the barriers to more taking up a career in the sector.
I have just taken the post of Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment, as part of the Scottish Government’s prioritising of gender equality. We now have a Cabinet that is 40 per cent female and have asked public bodies to adhere to the same standard.
Myself and other ministers also recently took part in activity around International’s Women’s Day and in March we also had Make Young People Your Business Week, a series of events specifically geared towards the ICT and digital technologies sector, which included the announcement of £6.6 million for the sector.
We want everyone in Scotland to be able to take full advantage of the economic, social and cultural opportunities of the digital age. We want to ensure everybody has the opportunity to share in the benefits that new technology can bring. Today’s launch of the Digital Participation Strategy at Pilton Equalities Partnership by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, reinforces our determination to build upon the progress we are making in developing world class digital skills for all of our citizens.
I was very clear throughout the week that there should be a particular emphasis on young women. Research shows that women in the sector had decreased to around 17 per cent in 2011 and I was able to speak at the Scottish Women in Technology conference, attended by around fifty women in the sector, to outline how the Scottish Government wants to address those numbers.
Alongside the First Minister at Scotland’s first Women’s Employment Summit in September 2012, I announced £250,000 for CareerWISE, intended to encourage more girls into the sector do exactly that.
I hope to see this investment, which has funded female champions in STEM subjects to go into our schools and take the time to chat to girls about their work, making a difference in the coming years.
While levels of working women in Scotland are currently very promising, our economic recovery is still continuing, and more needs to be done to level the playing field for women in the workplace.
Girls in ICT Day is an excellent opportunity to highlight both the opportunities for young women in digital technologies but to ensure employers are aware of what they can bring to their business.
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