by Cheryl Miller
My passion for getting more girls and women into studies and careers in ESTEAM (entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) is linked to the opportunity for economic empowerment this presents women and to the value their participation in these areas delivers society.
Although the gender pay gap is as high as 22 percent, it is almost non-existent in ICT (information and communication technology), for example. This makes careers in these areas potentially more lucrative for women while also delivering them more job options, flexibility and independence.
Increased participation of women in strategic, innovative sectors also benefi ts employers and the economy. Despite chronic youth employment in many countries, Europe faces a decline in STEM-studies enrolment and a shortage of digitally-skilled workers that may reach 900,000 jobs going unfi lled by 2020 if current patterns persist. Since diversity is also critically linked to innovation, it makes sense to focus on getting more girls and women into ESTEAM fi elds for their sake, for the benefi t of industry and academic research, and to positively contribute to the competitiveness of the European economy.
Today more than ever, science and technology are critical to economic competitiveness and addressing the needs of society. The fact that women account for less than thirty percent of STEM students, one in fi ve employees in tech, and under three percent of CEOs in Europe’s largest companies, means that decisions and action in these areas are taken with very little involvement by women. A lack of engagement by half the population in such important decisions means that, by defi nition, the outcomes arrived at are not smart, inclusive nor sustainable. Increasing participation of girls and women in ESTEAM – as researchers, entrepreneurs and leaders – is the only way to change this.
To that end, in 2013 we launched the Digital Leadership Institute (DLI), a Brussels-based, international NGO whose mission is to bridge the gender gap and digital divide worldwide by educating and empowering digital leaders of today and tomorrow. To achieve our mission, DLI focuses on four areas of activity:
Education and Skills Development:
DLI organises grassroots initiatives targeting girls and women in order to increase their participation in studies and careers in ESTEAM. We have been carrying out events promoting ESTEAM skills to girls since 2010 and in March of this year launched a global ESTEAM learning and discovery community for girls called the g-Hive. In 2016, DLI will organise in Brussels our first-ever Digital Muse girl tech fest — promoting digital skills to girls for creating music, films, games, etc. — which we hope to subsequently bring to other cities.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship:
Through our inQube “female digital accelerator” platform, DLI carries out digital and entrepreneurship skills development activities for adult women and seeks to connect similar initiatives promoting women tech entrepreneurship across Europe. In this area, DLI recently launched “Move It Forward,” a digital starter event for girls and women which engages them to address challenges in their communities through digital skills development, access to expertise and resources, and collaboration with team members nearby and around Europe. In 2015, participants in the Brussels Move It Forward project are tackling the challenge of cyberviolence and online safety for girls and women.
Advocacy and Awareness-building:
DLI advocates on both the European and global level for greater participation of girls and women in ESTEAM and increased leadership by women across the board. We work to create greater awareness about under-representation of girls and women in these areas and the missed opportunities this represents for them, the economy and society. To inspire more girls and women to take up ESTEAM studies and careers, we promote girl and women role models through our Ada Awards in Africa and Europe which recognise top girls and women in digital fields and the organisations who support them. Women2020 is a previous DLI initiative promoting the contribution of women to the Europe 2020 Strategy, which we aim to follow up shortly with a “Europe 5050” event series. Since 2014, DLI has regularly run Ada Lovelace conferences promoting best practices to get and keep girls and women in digital studies and careers.
Research and Consulting:
DLI regularly organises high-level roundtables, authors publications, and consults to large-scale private- and public-sector organisations on the subjects of entrepreneurship, e-skills, the workforce of the future, innovation and best practices to implement diversity strategies in science and technology-driven organisations, including academia. DLI is an active member of several European and global networks including the European Centre for Women and Technology, the UN/ITU Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender and the UNESCO Global Alliance for Gender and Media.
Cheryl Miller, Executive Director of the Digital Leadership Institute