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Female leaders in technology

Rachel Gauci speaking at the DigiGirlz event.

Rachel Gauci speaking at the DigiGirlz event.

“ICT is a very exciting career and it is not about sitting behind a desk and coding. There’s so much more than that. The country needs more girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects because this is the way forward. Unfortunately, prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping, are still the main factors that are discouraging female students from considering a career in ICT. Family, educators and society all have an active role in encouraging female students to pursue a career in ICT.”

This was stated by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca in a recorded welcome message to 80 Form 1 female students from Sacred Heart school who attended DigiGirlz Day at the Microsoft Innovation Centre.

This fun-filled day was an opportunity for the students to learn about careers in technology and getting a closer look at what it might be like to work in a technical environment.

“Technology is a vital, fast growing field that’s not just for boys,” said MIC business development manager Mary Downing. “Technology innovation is for everyone. With DigiGirlz events Microsoft hopes to break down stereotypes and help young girls realise that technology is not only a growing industry, but also one that’s fun and exciting to work in.”

The event featured stories about exciting innovations in technology and was designed to encourage participants to explore the possibilities available in the fields of STEM. It gave the girls the opportunity to explore careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on digital Lego Education workshops driven by IMS Ltd, official distributors of Lego Education in Malta.

Angela Micallef, philanthropies lead at Microsoft Malta, a passionate and dedicated ambassador promoting STEM subjects for girls through the DigiGirlz programme, explained that educators, parents and positive female role models can help entice girls to consider choosing computer studies and ICT subjects at school.

“Giving access to positive female role models is the first step to help encourage future women leaders in technology. Girls and young women who know a woman in a STEM profession, are substantially more likely to feel empowered when they engage in education and career-affirming activities,” said Ms Micallef.

DigiGirlz day events form part of the Microsoft Philanthropies Youth-Spark initiative.

“Technology is a force for social and economic inclusion and Microsoft continues working to create a future where everyone has access to the benefits it provides and the opportunities it creates,” Ms Micallef added.

“Computer science is about more than learning to code. It teaches creativity, computational thinking, analytical reasoning and complex problem solving. We believe technology should be an equalising force in Malta and it should be inclusive, not divisive. Through such initiatives, we continue to invest our greatest assets, those being, our technology, our people and our voice.”

The event at the MIC featured guest speaker Rachel Gauci, a young Maltese who graduated with BSc (Hons) ICT in Malta and later pursued her MSc Informatics masters degree at the University of Edinburgh.

Since March 2017, she has been based at Facebook’s offices in London working as a software engineer, specifically on Facebook’s product Workplace. She travelled to Malta purposely to speak to the students at this event and spoke about her education and working experience so far.

She explained that today, IT is not just about coding or working at a computer all day long but is a subject that today is found in countless industries and careers. Anyone should consider IT as a career without compromising on their passion and encouraged students to work on what they love and to remember that today, there are many opportunities that can help us combine IT with what we love doing best.

A Unesco global survey published in 2017 estimated that by 2020, 98 per cent of STEM-related jobs will require ICT skills and there will be around one million vacant posts in computing because of a lack of skilled personnel.

Women are significantly under-represented in ICT, accounting for only three per cent of ICT graduates globally. In Europe, only 29 out of 1,000 female graduates had a degree in computing in 2015, and only four went on to have ICT careers.

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