It's school elective time; there's a long line of girls signing up for home economics and a larger group of boys milling around the bandsaw.
Well, maybe. Gender roles are evolving, equality between the sexes growing and perspectives changing. Long gone are the days of girls and boys studying different courses. Life in the 21st century has brought new challenges that reinforce the notion that gender equality isn't just important, it's critical to the growth of a sustainable society.
The UN sustainable development goals, signed off by world leaders in 2016 have an overarching theme of equality and empowerment for all. The primary driver for these goals is supporting women to take part in the progress of society as we yearn for sustainable growth.
Empowering women to take part in the global economy is key to sustainable development.
Reducing gender inequality in education is key to sustainable development. Failing to inspire and educate girls is a waste of human capital. Women and men hold equal leadership qualities and are equally intelligent. Men and women are equally able to solve problems, make tough decisions and enable profitability for large corporations.
If men and women don't make up equal numbers in critical leadership and innovation positions, we can't optimally use our resources. As a society, we want our best and brightest citizens to be our leaders, if there is a disproportionate amount of men or woman at the top, this can't happen. Globally, women fill only 24% of leadership roles. A Mckinsey report shows that if men and women participated equally in labour markets, $28 trillion (26% of the world GDP) could be added annually to the global GDP. According to Jeff Sachs, it would cost the world $175 billion per year to end world poverty. Gender equality and poverty sorted in one knockout punch. Swoosh. If only it were that easy.
Increasing secondary school attendance among girls, especially in developing nations, is key to empowerment.
The gender gap in the labour market isn't due to ability, skills or intuition; it's because the system isn't as good as it could be. A system that fosters equality at every level is a big step to closing the gender gap. The obvious and most pertinent place to begin closing the gap is in education. Empowering young woman with engaging projects in STEAM, making and coding is a great way to get started.
As with many ideas, starting a grassroots movement in school paves the way for gender equality to be normalised as younger generations move into their professional life. Targeting gender inequality in schools will cause equality between the sexes to be a natural way to construct teams. Once gender equality is naturalised, students arriving at a non-diverse workforce will fight to bring it back to what they see as the status quo. That status quo will be equal numbers of women and men making big decisions, heading up companies and leading innovation.
Diverse teams are better
Diverse teams are more creative, innovative and adaptable.
The technology sector leads the way with gender equality as they see the importance of diverse teams. An article, titled "Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter" in the Harvard Business Review cited many and far reaching positives of diversity in teams. Diverse teams were found to be more innovative, able to generate more profit for companies, less prone to errors and have heightened critical thinking. The innovation created by diverse teams also leads to more new products and ideas.
Women holding leadership roles in big tech companies are fantastic role models for students. A vocal and well-informed leader for gender equality comes from Facebook, COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg is a best-selling author, mother of two and is on the Walt Disney Company board. Other acclaimed women in senior leadership roles in big tech companies are are Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube, U.S, Meg Whitman, CEO, HP, U.S, Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM, U.S, and Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP, Apple, U.S. Celebrating these high-achieving women with female students, will highlight women's ability to manage, lead and inspire at the highest level.
It's time to get your girls started in STEAM activities.
Knowledge of possibility is key to filling STEAM jobs with women in the future. Many female students don't see themselves in STEAM roles because traditionally they've been occupied by men and girls just don't know and aren't encouraged into these roles. The pipeline that fills tech and STEAM roles can also be discriminatory. This discrimination, created in part by school, university and company culture stereotypes, needs to be overcome to fill the 2.4 million current unfilled jobs in the STEAM industry.
A powerful way to break down stereotypes and get girls into coding is to develop projects that have a clear social benefit. When girls are part of a collaborative group and working on projects that include big ideas such as happiness, sustainability and change they are given a much sturdier platform to get into tech. When in a collaborative group and coding for something that is real and relevant to their world, stereotypes dissolve and all members of the group; boys and girls excel.
Closing the gender gap in the STEAM sector is critical for building a sustainable future. If we can create more gender equality in the classroom, these students, boys and girls will want and need to work in teams that are diverse. Diverse teams are more profitable and innovative. We can close the gender gap by promoting and celebrating positive female STEAM role models, incorporating collaborative learning and focusing on what is real and relevant to the students.
How are you going to develop a classroom that empowers girls, and fosters diversity?
Last November, Kalebr began #HappyPlant. #HappyPlant is a happiness and sustainability initiative that was taken on by equal numbers of boys and girls. The diverse teams had to design, make, code, engage and celebrate innovation while working together. Students of all needs and abilities collaborated their way to innovation and happiness. Kalebr Projects and #HappyPlant can help you empower girls into pursuing coding, making and tech as they learn their core curriculum. Good for girls, great for diversity and perfect for your school!