But we are trying to use the #girlsgonna project to break down the gender prejudices associated with technology so girls can be what they want to be, using technology.
The first thing we have done at #girlsgonna has been to understand the multidimensional nature of the problem. Studies and reports by various authors conclude that gender stereotypes, unconscious prejudices and gender biases are key factors leading to women having a low presence in the digital and technology sector. Technology professionals’ stereotyped beliefs lead girls to rule out careers in this sector as an option.
According to the book ¿Por qué no hay más mujeres STEM? Se buscan ingenieras, físicas y tecnólogas (or Why aren’t there more women in STEM?) by Milagros Sainz,the answers to the question in the title are quite clear:
Social expectations and beliefs about the talents of girls and boys
What are your talents? What about your sons´ and daughters´? There is a belief that boys have a greater talent for math, physics and technology and girls for social and verbal skills. We project this on to girls and boys, who develop preferences and motivations in line with our social expectations at an early age.
The multicomponent structure of gender stereotypes
What do you imagine engineers are like? We have stereotyped beliefs about people who work in specific areas. In the collective imagination, the ideal professional from the STEM world is an intelligent, rather geeky man with little social life. He is likely to be introverted and may even look disheveled. These stereotypes are reinforced in television programs and series. When we choose a profession, we project ourselves into the future and visualize what we would be like in a particular situation. If our perception of our image coincides with the prototypical image of a person working in a specific area, we think about choosing that profession.
Boys’ and girls’ motivations and interests
Our self-perception and our expectations of success are greatly influenced by gender socialization. According to certain studies and publications, such as the news item headlined “¿A qué edad concreta pierden las niñas el interés por la ciencia?” published by Mujeres a seguir, girls’ interest in STEM professions is awakened at the age of about 11. If we do not support their vocations at this age and help them to continue discovering science and technology without gender prejudice, they gradually lose interest over the next four years.
One of the most successful ways the initiative is contributing to counteracting the gender bias associated with technology is provided by the #girlsgonna workshops. For two hours, families gather to program together and discover the stories of leading women in science and technology. This model has already had an impact on over 450 girls from more than ten cities through more than 25 workshops.
But we also know that, to make a real change, we need to take the initiative outside our company. The #girlsgonna experience has now been taken into many forums, including other companies committed to increasing the number of women in the world of business and technology.
One of the most successful experiments has been carried out together with professionals from BBVA and their families. In ten sessions in Spain and Mexico, more than 400 people – boys and girls, mothers and fathers – have come together to learn to program, create and invent, following in the footsteps of Margaret Hamilton, one of the female role models featured in the workshops.
The #girlsgonna initiative puts into practice our commitment to equality and increasing the presence of female talent in scientific and technological professions. We are also actively contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
There is definitely a long way to go, but you can do much more than you think.
What can you do to combat the factors influencing gender prejudices and bias associated with technology?
We would like to share some guidelines you can apply wherever you are to help you move into action:
- Help make sure that girls express themselves and speak confidently. Generate a positive environment and encourage them to acknowledge their own success rather than undervaluing it.
- Let children know about female role models in the history of science and technology. Combat women’s invisibility in STEM subjects and champion the role of women in science and technology.
- Identify female role models in your immediate surroundings.
- Celebrate when a girl decides to take a step forward and take the lead to break down gender stereotypes! Inspire girls to achieve what they want, take risks and consider making mistakes as part of the process.
- Use engaging, inclusive, non-exclusive language. Language is important. Each person must feel as if we are talking to them and that we are expecting their attention and contributions to the experience.
- Encourage exploration, experimentation and risk-taking. Mistakes and failures are part of learning. The problem isn’t getting it wrong, it’s not trying!
We encourage you to apply these tips in your everyday life so boys and girls see that STEM subjects are for everyone! And download the #girlsgonna initiative tools, where you will find more information, resources and materials.