No discussion about the gaping digital divide resulting from existing social exclusion is complete without addressing gender-based digital exclusion.
My vision for Digital Inclusion is to help make the digital revolution an opportunity for everyone, especially those who stand the risk of being left behind. And, women form a large part of this disadvantaged group. The digital gender gap is wider in middle and low-income countries, where women are less likely to have access to even a smartphone or internet, let alone emerging technologies.
So, then how do we bridge this digital gender gap?
Inspire young girls for careers in IT
While girls’ participation in computer science ebbs over time, the biggest drop off happens between the ages of 13–17, according to non-profit organization Girls Who Code. In 2019, we collaborated with Girls Who Code in the US and opened the doors to our offices in New York and Chicago. We invited Girls Who Code beneficiaries, mostly high school girls, for immersive and interactive activities, including knowledge-sharing sessions on unconscious bias, importance of data in the present times, and the power of technologies to transform communities. Besides our committed and passionate volunteers, who we like to call our Architects of Positive Futures, we also invited our clients for these activities.
A Digital Inclusion activity with Girls Who Code in North America.
Build digital confidence among marginalized women
An important aspect of initiating marginalized groups into the digital world is digital confidence building. This has to be done through a process of knowledge and experience sharing. In December 2019, Capgemini volunteers in London supported a group of 20 women with low digital literacy to develop their confidence and skills. The workshop focused on initiating these women to the online world and helping them navigate the social media safely, besides teaching them how to access online services. The engagement not only helped these women become more confident online, but also opened up a (digital) world of opportunities for them.
A Digital Confidence workshop for marginalized women in the UK.
For women with disabilities, the risk of being overlooked is even higher and so is the need to give them extra support to cross the threshold. With this particular group in mind, we hosted training sessions and workshops exclusively for women with disabilities in Spain last year. These sessions were made successful by the active participation from our volunteers who shared their skills and expertise to help these women understand how they can benefit from technology and the internet.
A Digital Inclusion activity with women with disabilities in Spain.
Enable access — Coding school for rural women
The ultimate goal of Digital Inclusion is to make technology inclusive, from those who benefit to those who create. Without fair representation among those who are shaping our today and tomorrow through with these new technologies, our innovations will not be truly innovative.
With this thought, to tap into an overlooked pool of talent, we started a coding school only for women in a rural pocket of India in 2019. After several rounds of discussions with our partners, both local and global, stretched over months through 2018, we agreed to start our ambitious project from the outskirts of Pune, a tier II Indian city.
Why Pune? The city is home to a movement that marked the beginning of education for women in India. In 1848, a 17-year-old woman started the first school for girls in India in the city of Pune. She went on to become the first prominent Indian feminist and a pioneer of women’s education in the country. Given the rich history of the city, it only seemed apt to start our all-women residential coding school in Pune.
Our first batch had 50 young women from surrounding villages. While some of them had prior exposure to ICT, for many it was starting from scratch. What they lacked in experience, they made up with la niaque (fighting spirit).
After six months of rigorous training in the latest technologies, our first batch graduated in 2019. I found myself beaming with pride as I watched a group of happy women throwing their hats high in the air, telling the world that they have arrived and they are ready to fly to their potential.
Since then, we have started one more coding school only for women in India, with many more to come.
Digital Academy students at their graduation ceremony in India.
This International Women’s Day, we at the CSR team pledge to continue our efforts in 2020 to ensure women are included in the digital revolution that is shaping the world around us. Because, only an equal world is a truly enabled world!
Capgemini Team Digital Inclusion supports #EachforEqual
Have you done your bit #4PositiveFutures?