On April 23, Teach For All partnered with AT&T and Girl Up to host a virtual conference in celebration of International Day of Girls in ICT. The event, aimed at inspiring girls ages 15-18 to consider careers in information and communications technology (ICT), featured dynamic women leaders from the tech industry who followed their own unique paths to leadership and impact. Girls from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Namibia, and beyond attended the event, making it a truly global celebration.
The conference opened with an overview of the state of women in the tech industry. Girl Up’s Program Coordinator of STEM for Social Good, Maren Roberts, shared global statistics illustrating the dearth of female employment in ICT careers. In the US, women of color represent fewer than one in 20 employed scientists and engineers; globally, women make up only 30% of employees in ICT. Those numbers dwindle as the roles increase in seniority: Roberts shared that only 6% of the CEOs of the 100 top global tech companies are women, with women representing only 19% of executives in the ICT sector overall.
The hope is that these figures are changing as more women trailblazers carve a path for themselves and for others, and as companies are committed to closing the ICT gender gap. Highlighting this evolution were AT&T’s Vice President of Global Business & Healthcare Solutions, Maria Lensing, and Alisha Seam, Product Developer & Solution Engineer at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto. They engaged in a lively panel discussion on their career choices and experiences as women leaders in the ICT field. Both Lensing and Seam shared vivid personal stories highlighting the gender gaps they witnessed and how they overcame them. Both, for example, discussed how few women they studied with during their degree programs, despite undertaking those programs years apart.
Reflecting on how she managed to claim her rightful seat at the table, Lensing shared that “confidence is the great equalizer.” Similarly, Seam shared insights around the power of her leadership on teams, even—or, especially—when she was the only woman present.
Teach For All then led the second part of the conference by inviting participants into small groups for intimate “Ask Me Anything” sessions with women from diverse tech backgrounds. During these conversations, girls had the opportunity to learn more about the personal and professional choices the speakers made in their careers. Speakers for this session included:
- Miriam Altman, CEO and Co-founder of Kinvolved
- Mariana Costa, Co-founder and CEO, Laboratoria
- Toni Maraviglia, Director, Virtual Learning & Community, Teach For All
- Leah Siskind, Civic Technologist
- Micaela Stump, Solutions Consultant
“Hearing young women from places like Namibia, Rwanda, and Bosnia express their dedication to learning new technologies in this ever-important sector made me so hopeful that our future in the ICT sector will include women in leadership positions," said Maraviglia, a Teach For America alumna who founded an ed-tech organization in East Africa. "Women who push the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to technology.”
Rounding out the conference, Girl Up announced that they are offering $500 grant for girls around the world to launch a STEM for social good project in their communities. Learn more about this opportunity.
Learn more about Teach For All's Girls' Education Initiative.