When girls are given equal opportunities in life, they have the power to change the world! In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 to be “International Day of the Girl,” recognizing girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face across the globe every day. These challenges come in many forms — such as poverty, violence, exclusion, and discrimination — and are certainly not limited to girls who live in developing countries.
Girls in Canada and the United States, for instance, may face obstacles to reaching their full potential as the workers, entrepreneurs, and political leaders of tomorrow. Women are vastly underrepresented in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship, and their talents can make great contributions to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields that drive today’s and tomorrow’s economies.
Here’s the good news: in the true spirit of International Day of the Girl, organizations like Technovation — Girls in Technology Entrepreneurship are working hard to close this gap in education between girls and their male classmates. Originally started in the United States but now with local chapters in 28 different countries, including Canada, Technovation teaches girls to start high-tech companies, challenging them to solve problems through the invention of mobile apps.
Last March, 50 young girls from Montreal had this very opportunity during a one-day workshop run by the city’s local Technovation chapter with support from the United States Consulate General in Montreal. TechnovationMontreal got its start after two members of the U.S. Embassy Canada’s International Visitors Leadership Program, Amina Gerba and Stéphanie Jecrois, visited Silicon Valley and met Anar Simpson, Global Ambassador for the Technovation Challenge.
First, the girls heard advice from women who work in high technology and learned about key entrepreneurial tools like the “elevator pitch” (a short presentation of a business proposal). Then they split into groups, each with a mentor, and went to work mapping out the app and business plans they would develop over the coming 12 weeks.
The end goal? The best projects, as decided by an international jury, would move on to San Francisco to pitch their ideas to the start-up community there and compete for a $10,000 prize. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to be sure, but the real impact of this challenge had less to do with winning the grand prize and much more to do with empowering a group of Canadian girls through mentorship and education. The hope of organizers and sponsors is that these young participants walked away with confidence in their abilities to succeed in the high-tech world, proving and believing that the key factor is talent, not gender.
The theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030,” focusing on the importance of social, economic, and political investment in adolescent girls. Let’s all reflect, then, on how we can each do our part to help girls reach their “power” potential through access to equal education! Interested in opening a Technovationchapter in your area? Visit www.technovationchallenge.org to find out how.
Watch video new coverage of Montreal’s Technovation Challenge here: http://goo.gl/tnynWm