The U.N. warns that 90% of adolescent girls in developing countries will face little or no pay, abuse and exploitation when they start working.
Who run the world? Not girls, in many places.
The United Nations warns that young women across the globe have less access to education, technology and resources like the internet, and so they are falling behind boys in gaining employable skills, especially in STEM. In fact, more than 130 million school-age girls around the world are not getting an education due to forced childhood marriage, extreme poverty, post-war conflict, gender discrimination and access to quality schools.
But this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is working to change that under its 2018 theme “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce,” a year-long effort to find partners and investors to advocate for and fund ways to make the globe’s 1.1 billion girls more empowered and employable.
“Today’s generation of girls is preparing to enter a world which is being transformed by innovation and automation — but they face adversity to getting the educational training needed to enter into that workforce,” Ritah Muyambo, the senior consultant for youth at the U.N. Women’s civil society division, told Moneyish. “Girls between five and 14 spend more than 160 million hours on housework and chores than boys do … so it’s quite important for us to focus on how we can prepare those girls for the workplace.”
The U.N. dedicated Oct. 11 as The International Day of the Girl Child in 2012 to address the gender inequality that young women face, and to protect their human rights. For instance, 12 million girls under 18 will be married this year, and 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 years will become pregnant in developing regions; most of those pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted. And a quarter of young people, mostly female, are neither working nor getting an education or job training. So when the world’s 600 million adolescent girls begin entering the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector (as vendors, artisans, etc.) that are unregulated, where they will make little to nothing, and where exploitation and abuse are common.
Meanwhile, skilled workers are in greater demand than ever, particularly in tech. More than half (55%) of global companies believe there is a growing digital skills gap, according to a 2017 Capgemini and LinkedIn joint research report. They’re looking for workers who can update IT systems, design apps, code and analyze data, for example. There’s so much opportunity for girls to get involved — and that comes with a big payoff. American STEM college majors had an average starting salary of $65,000, or almost 25% higher, than those in non-STEM fields, according to a 2014 Department of Education report. Yet there’s still a gender gap in STEM, with women only making up 29% of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project,
So giving disadvantaged girls access to STEM skills, as well as career guidance and mentorship, could help them transition into the 21st century workforce. But sadly, the U.N. notes that by age 6, girls already consider boys more suited to “really, really smart” activities than their own gender.
“When I was a girl, I did not have any confidence to say anything. If we were going to have a meal, I ate last. If somebody had to go and do something, it was me who went, and not my brother,” said Muyambo, who grew up in Zimbabwe before working with the children of sex workers in South Africa. She now advocates for young women and girls at the U.N. “We have to look at soft skills, the confidence-building, and having (girls’) voices heard, and making sure that they have got all of the support that they need in terms of speaking up for themselves,” she added. “We really need to focus on girls getting the same education as boys, as well.”
So to develop A Skilled GirlForce, the U.N. is calling on the global community make moves such as creating initiatives to support girls’ school-to-work transition, such as career guidance, apprenticeships, internships and entrepreneurship; forming strategic partnerships with governments and private companies to train girls and bring them into the workforce; and financing female entrepreneurs.
It’s already got several brands and organizations on board.
Disney’s #DreamBigPrincess global video series features 21 women leaders from 13 countries, including new “Mary Poppins” Emily Blunt, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts and Apple’s Susan Prescott, sharing their stories. Plus, Disney Parks across the globe are inviting guests to dress as their favorite female Disney characters. And for every “like” or share of a public photo or video with the hashtag #DreamBigPrincess on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, Disney Worldwide Services will donate $1 to GirlUp, the U.N. program that supports girls’ leadership and empowerment, up to a maximum donation of $1 million.
"I just want all young girls to realize that there's no dream too big." ♥️@Disney teamed up with @unfoundation's @GirlUp to empower the next generation of female storytellers and they join is LIVE! https://t.co/UGJxCfkAKN#DreamBigPrincess #InternationalDayofTheGirl pic.twitter.com/WzZ1zlSUuy
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 10, 2018
Girls Who Code released a visual album called “Sisterh>>d” this week created with an advisory council of 50 girls from around the world, including hip hop artist Lizzo, Madame Gandhi and Seattle’s Northside Step Team. “We embarked on this project for our girls — who we already know are capable of changing the world,” said Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani in a statement. “We created this album to remind them that they have a Sisterhood behind them — for support, laughter and celebration — while they pursue that change.”
— Girls Who Code (@GirlsWhoCode) October 8, 2018
Girls Who Invest, which has helped almost 500 women become more financially savvy in the past three years through its online and on-campus programs, has also been sounding a call to action this week to get more women and girls to get into finance. Only about 10% of mutual fund portfolio managers in the U.S. are women. “If you can train girls and women in the management of money and financial literacy, it has a tremendous impact not only on their lives, but on their families and on their communities,” Girls Who Invest CEO Janet Cowell told Moneyish. Her program has partnered with 22 new financial firms this year, including JP Morgan, and 80% of the women who join the career placement program have stayed in finance.
Mastercard’s Girls4Tech program is teaming up with Scholastic to get 300,000 girls in 20,000 U.S. classrooms inspired to enter STEM fields at no cost to the teachers or schools. Girls4Tech has already helped almost 75,000 girls in 21 countries, but Scholastic’s magazines, in-classroom guides and a dedicated microsite on Scholastic.com also gives teachers lesson plans and hands-on demos related to algorithms, encryption, fraud detection, data analysis, digital convergence and more.
— Mastercard News (@MastercardNews) October 10, 2018
“Less than one in 20 girls consider a career in STEM, compared to one in five boys,” Susan Warner, creator of Girls4Tech and the senior vice president of global volunteerism at Mastercard, told Moneyish. “By expanding the Girls4Tech program with Scholastic in the US, and giving teachers the ability to bring real-world STEM materials into their classrooms, we’re doing our part to help create that Skilled GirlForce of the future. Because we firmly believe ‘if you can see it, you can be it.’”
Dove’s Self-Esteem Project has launched the Girl Collective Facebook support group with TGIT queen Shonda Rhimes, musician SZA and transgender rights activist Jazz Jennings, where women and girls of all ages can come together to discuss issues such as cyberbullying, gender identity and building body-confidence and self-esteem, as well as share their suggestions for resolving them.
The sisterhood is REAL! I was honored to give the #GirlCollective keynote speech to hundreds of women and girls at the @Dove Self-Esteem Project launch event. Join us in challenging beauty stereotypes and building body confidence. https://t.co/SgYl559DXP pic.twitter.com/D6qx21y1eH
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) October 8, 2018
“The Girl Collective is a safe space for women and girls to come together to vocalize emerging issues, co-create new solutions to combat them and empower each other through the support of the collective,” Amy Stepanian, the Director of Marketing at Dove, told Moneyish.
For more information or to make a donation to the #DayOfTheGirl, visit http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/.
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