It was in Buenos Aires, at my first summit as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader that I learnt about the incredible work of Mariéme Jamme, fellow YGL. Jamme, born in Senegal, and later of French-British citizenry, is renowned for promoting the idea that to make the world a better place, one of the most important current things that we must do is teach girls technology. She is the founder of iamtheCODE.org, the first such African-led global movement to teach girls how to code—the target is one million by 2030.
I thought of Jamme while sitting down to write this essay because more than that, it is critical for us to accept that part of the problem of our world of technology giants is that they are overwhelmingly owned and dominated by men. From Amazon to Google, Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Spotify, no matter where you look, our world has been taken over by tech companies which are mostly run by men.
These companies, broadly known as Big Tech, in many ways run our world, and possess, often, even more resources and power than many national governments. Gender diversity at the very top of Big Tech would, undoubtedly, bring new perspectives and ways of approaching business and society that are critical to the future of the use of technology in society.
But this lack of diversity also points to another, deeper, need.
For a long time, it was widely known, and repeated, that if you want to change societies, change the world, if you will, one of the most important ingredients is—teach girls. For it is unambiguously established that there are almost countless development benefits of educating women.
As the World Bank notes, “Girls’ education is a strategic development priority. Better educated women tend to be more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers. They are more likely to participate in the formal labour market and earn higher incomes. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty.”
In this essay I want to expand this idea and argue that more than ever it is important to extend that idea—at a time when more and more girl children are attending school in India—to teaching technology.
That is why the emphasis on introducing coding and basic technological knowledge early in classrooms, as envisaged by the New Education Policy (NEP), is such a welcome idea. Introducing computer science, especially coding, at an early age gives students, and especially, girls, early access which could develop into a lifelong passion and nurture talent.
Global evidence supports this theory.
UN Women, for instance, has an interesting case study on the positive impact of teaching girls coding at the Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya, and in New York, organisations like the not-for-profit Girls Who Code are promoting the cause for greater tech training for girls. According to the not-for-profit, “In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it is only 24%. The percent will continue to decline if we do nothing. We know that the biggest drop off of girls in computer science is between the ages of 13 and 17.”
So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, it might be worthwhile to expand the horizon of what education means for girls and for the world and include the vital point of technological knowledge.
It will help us bring greater gender diversity in Big Tech (and small tech) which would make our world a better place.
Views are personal. The author is a multiple award-winning author of nine books. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.