Girls Empowered to Use Technology to Address Social Injustices

 
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Three female students from Toronto, Canada blended technology and their passions to create tech-based solutions to global problems. Read more to learn the story or these young advocates.

Cindy Zou was watching the nightly news with her parents when she first heard about injustices surrounding child labor. Although the story only occupied a short amount of time on her TV, Cindy was struck by the lack of awareness or attention given to the issue. Meanwhile, Nadine Al-Jundiai and Ivy Co discovered a passion for addressing gender and racial inequalities after watching recent current events unfold in front of them and dominating their media streams.

Prior to their goIT experience, the three girls thought the only way to address these issues was through nonprofit work and advocacy.

Nadine thought her path to helping women fight health injustices was to become a doctor. However, throughout July 2020, the young innovators realized that technology was more powerful than “just a bunch of people typing away lines of code in front of a computer for hours.”

During the summer, students from across North America participated in virtual goIT summer camps. In one such camp, in Toronto, ON, Canada, a group of young social activists learned the importance of computer science, and its role in the community by creating a digital innovation that solves or addresses issues related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Students worked to create tech-based solutions to problems facing the globe.

In response to the murder of George Floyd, schools opened the conversation of social injustices by asking students to focus on SDG #10: Reducing Inequalities. Motivated by the social issues they had previously developed a passion for, Nadine, Cindy, and Ivy spent the duration of their goIT experience ideating apps that would bring awareness to women’s rights, social inequalities, and child labor, respectively. Their ideas are:

  • Female Force by Nadine – an app that anonymously branches women from all across the globe together and provides them the opportunity to share each other’s history, experiences, and advice towards certain topics within gender inequality and sexism.
  • Fight for Equality by Ivy – an app that spread awareness about gender and racial inequalities in fun ways. There is a fact component, a “share your story” and also a current event screen that you can access all in a click of a button.
  • Let’s End Child Labor by Cindy – an app that will spread awareness to empower people to stop child labor. You can educate yourself with real facts and stories as take a quiz to see how many products that you use are produced by the hands of children. You can also find ways to help those affected by child labor.

Each of these aspiring tech entrepreneurs claimed a top spot in one of this summer’s goIT Monthly Challenges, which reached students across all of North America. These young women are bucking social trends surrounding gender roles in the computer sciences.

Although we have recently seen a number of girls on the top of the podium in national STEM fairs, this doesn’t seem to represent a larger movement of young women into the computer sciences (CS). The national institute of women in technology (NCWiT) has recorded a steady decline in the presence of women and girls in technology careers, representing less than 20% of computer science degrees each year. Additionally, Code.org notes that in some US states, less than 10 girls take the AP Computer Science exam every year.

The reason for the decline of female participation in CS can be attributed to a number of factors but is heavily influenced by preconceived myths about what it means to work in the field. Cindy said, “Before goIT I thought of technology as something super boring and robotic. But now I find it so much more interesting and engaging and I really value technology, so it's definitely a possible career path for me.” Similarly, Nadine, who thought computer scientists sat in a room and coded all day, said, “After this project and getting to pitch a presentation and learning more about technology in the real world, I realized that it is way more interesting than I anticipated it to be.”

In order to engage girls more fully in the world of technology, goIT aims to debunk the stereotypes surrounding computer science, and show future innovators that technology is a powerful tool, deeply rooted in empathy, that can be used to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. Throughout the program, the girls prided themselves on learning different skills related to technology, including problem-solving, pitch creation, and wireframing.

Nadine further explains that, “I realize the empathy and logical problem-solving abilities are required for this job and that there is way more communication involved in it than I had thought. I am so fascinated with how we can use technology to solve social justice issues. We live in an evolving world I think and with that it is my responsibility to keep educating myself on technology and how it can be better used. When it comes to science, I love the way it allows you to understand the way things work around you in a chain or a system and I like seeing where I fit into that system.”

The three girls want to encourage other girls to pursue careers in technology. Cindy says, “For girls who might be interested in technology, I completely understand that it might be hard getting confident and pursuing it as most of our friends are never interested in such subjects. It can get lonely being the only girl wanting to pursue technology. However, I would strongly believe that they should follow their dreams and continue pursuing technology.”

Do you want to inspire the next generation of digital innovators through goIT? Contact us at goIT@tcsempowers.com