To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Sunday 11 February, the Vodafone Group has announced that it will train 1000 teenagers from 26 countries under the Girls in STEM programme, the largest global face-to-face programming project for girls . In Portugal, after conducting a pilot project which ended in December, Vodafone is launching a new edition of the programme, organising 40 courses during the year.
For many years now, women have played key roles in the development of science and technology. Without the work of pioneering women such as Hedy Lamarr and Barbara Liskov, we would not have Wi-Fi or e-mail today. Even so, women continue to be a minority on courses and in professions related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Only 35% of women and girls further their knowledge in STEM areas, and many of them lack the motivation to develop the skills needed to be successful in these industries.
In 2017, around 500 girls from all the countries where Vodafone operates learned to program. In Portugal, in late 2017 Vodafone conducted a pilot in collaboration with Happy Code, providing programming training to 23 students of D. Filipa de Lencastre Secondary School in Lisbon. During the 12-hour duration of this pilot course, participants learned the first concepts of programming and databases. The experience also led to the development of various apps and games for mobile phones using, for example, proximity, motion, time and location sensors available on any mobile device.
“In recent years, we have seen significant progress in tackling gender disparity in various aspects of society globally. However, in many countries this disparity is worsening in STEM careers. Vodafone’s #codelikeagirl aims to arouse girls’ interest in a sector that is currently more popular among boys, helping them to expand their opportunities and widen their career options in the future”, said Luísa Pestana, Vodafone Portugal’s Director of Human Resources.
This disparity was confirmed this year by UNESCO, which expressed concern that female participation is declining in an area that is expanding worldwide, with programming now one of the most sought-after professional skills in all industries. In Portugal, a study entitled ‘Benefits of Higher Education’ reveals that there are more women in higher education, but in STEM professions they account for less than one-third. In addition, women postgraduates in these areas still earn less than male postgraduates in non-STEM areas.
About Happy Code
Happy Code Portugal is the first technology and innovation school exclusively for children and young people in Portugal. It opened its first unit in February 2017 and now has eight schools in the country. Happy Code also offers its courses through partnerships with other schools and companies, covering a large part of Portugal. It follows the STEM methodology, which unites the contents of the basic disciplines, developing students who are better trained and qualified for the challenges of today and the future.