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  • Writer's pictureElzbieta Visnevskyte

Interviewing codeHER Girls: from Small Ideas to Big Initiatives

We are aware of how critical it is to empower adolescent girls to claim their rights and to pursue education and opportunities to make their own choices. We truly believe a world where young women can live free from discrimination and violence is the one we should all collectively strive for. But how do we achieve that?

Paving the way for future careers

Over the years, some progress has been made to bridge the gender inequality gap. The gender pay gap has been shrinking, and companies are employing more women in leadership and management roles.

However, the gap very much does exist affecting women worldwide. According to the United Nations, women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work daily, contributing to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year. In comparison, it is more than three times the size of the global tech industry. Women are still highly absent in the highest executive roles, and even when they get there, they are paid 84.6 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

The pandemic worsened the situation and erased a lot of the progress made so far. A recent report from the National Women’s Law Center found 2.3 million women left the US labor force since the start of the pandemic. The current participation rate is at 57%, the lowest since 1988.

At codeHER, we believe that empowerment starts with giving young women the right tools -- tools they can apply right away to make decisions that’ll have a positive impact on their future. Through our programs and conferences, participants can learn the skills to become future leaders.

A 19-year-old Nouhaila Ayouch from Kenitra, Morocco, has been a part of codeHER Social Entrepreneurship programs for the last two years. She joined the program to deepen her tech knowledge and learn how to make her ideas come true.

“It was a pleasure for me to be part of this amazing family. I learned so many things: programming, coding, hacking, website and logo creation. All of that helped me a lot in my professional career,” says Ayouch.

Many young women come to codeHER with innovative ideas. They bring experiences from their communities and even proposals on how to solve local and global problems. What they achieve during the programs is the skillset on how to make their ideas come true. Whether it is environmental issues, human rights, or mental health awareness, codeHER girls learn to use technology to their advantage and tackle complex topics.

“We learned how we could transfer a small idea to a big project that can be a solution for a problem in our community or the world in general,” observes Ayouch.

Teaching confidence

While the right skills and knowledge are essential, sometimes the obstacle is the lack of confidence in the young girls and women. A growing body of evidence suggests that the confidence gap can be devastating for women and their career opportunities.

“There is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities. This disparity stems from factors ranging from upbringing to biology,” wrote Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, the authors of “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know.”

Young girls do as great or even better than boys in primary school, but the confidence gap increases later on. Especially when girls are incessantly rewarded for being “good” or “beautiful.” Eventually, they are progressively more scared to take risks, speak up, and express their opinions.

Confidence is strength. It is what turns thoughts into action. Confidence is also the byproduct of our programs at codeHER. When girls join our trainings, they are taught not only the technical skill set and knowledge, but they also learn to express their opinions and present their ideas. Those ideas are in return listened to and supported, reminding the participants that their opinion matters.

“I hope to be a successful woman in the future. The meaning of success for me is a good career and a happy life. I hope I can run my own international business and earn more money for myself and my family. I also want to have a sense of personal achievement. I strongly think that these hopes are not a dream. I have the confidence to make these come true through my relentless effort,” says Nouhaila Ayouch. “codeHER made us stronger to face and solve problems in our life.”

As noted in the UNICEF report, we cannot afford to live in a world where scientific and technological solutions are desperately needed – and exclude half of the world’s talent. We need girls and women. We need to educate and empower them. Through tech and leadership skills, social-entrepreneurship programs, young women pave their future career paths and inspire many others to follow.

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