Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology, Senator Kay McConney, has sent out a clarion call for national organizations to “shadow” girls who want to pursue careers in Information Communication Technology (ICT).
She was speaking at the opening ceremony for the Caribbean Girls Hack – 2019 Hackathon and Interactive Tech Expo last Saturday, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Barbados was the final leg of the regional hackathon, which encouraged girls to create technological solutions to issues surrounding climate change and gender-based violence.
Senator McConney stressed that any society which failed to recognize that women were powerful catalysts for change in society and failed to include them “not just in tech, but any field” would fall short of reaching its full potential.
She said the hackathon, which was organized by SheLeadsIT and Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) Tech Clubs, would help in getting girls interested in pursuing careers in ICT.
The Minister further added that full and equal access to ICT education for girls has been a global drive.
“It takes all of us working together to create the kind of future that is inclusive, where there is opportunity for all, regardless of gender. And I want you to remember the Sustainable Development Goal 5, which has the intention of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. And, there is a specific target under that goal that speaks to enhancing the use of ICTs to empower women,” she explained.
Senator McConney pointed out that in the 25 and above age group, there was a disproportionately larger number of women compared to men. Taking this into account, she said it was therefore critical that this gender group was included in national initiatives.
The Innovation Minister said the hackathon came at a time when Government was committed to building a smart Barbados to ensure that the country built a future where it could participate actively in the digital economy.
“And all of you as young people in another five to ten years or so will see a government that is truly a 21st century government and that is truly a place where you want to be and is the kind of government that is enabling a community and a society that is globally competitive,” Senator McConney told the participants.
She said the push should not just be about educating girls in ICT, but also actively engaging them. Caribbean Girls Hack was a part of that engagement process, she noted.
Senator McConney made it clear that the emphasis was not on promoting girls over boys, but bringing them alongside their male counterparts “so we can build a global ICT sector together”.
“Research has told us that from as young as the age of six, girls start to determine whether or not science, technology, engineering or math is for them. And when asked what are the major influences, a number of those girls have said their parents and their teachers are the ones who would have more often than not discouraged them from going into [those areas]. I shared that because I want to commend the parents who have supported their children as a part of this Caribbean Girls Hack,” she stated.
Senator McConney implored the girls who participated in the event not to let the hackathon be the end of their experience with ICT.
She urged them to consider the vast and “exciting opportunities” and careers available in the area of technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, animation, web design and social media.