By Carolina Hadad
A wide gender gap has persisted over the years at all levels of STEM disciplines throughout the world. Although the participation of women in higher education has increased, they are still underrepresented. Latin America is no exception.
A workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is crucial to Latin America innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Shortages in the supply of trained professionals in STEM disciplines weaken the innovation potential of a society. This leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment.
In Argentina, women represent only 18% of the graduates in tech careers.1 This creates inequalities in income distribution and intellectual capital, and deprives the tech sector away from the vision of half of the population.
There are many possible factors contributing to the discrepancy of women and men in STEM jobs, including: gender stereotyping, a lack of female role models, and less family-friendly flexibility in the STEM fields. Regardless of the causes, we have a need to encourage and support women in STEM. We also have to transform the way technology and engineers are seen, engaging more girls into tech careers at an early age.
Chicas en Tecnología2 is an Argentinian non-governmental organization working to do this. We have a two-pronged approach that simultaneously builds programs and a support networks that motivate, educate and inspire girls aged 13 to 16 to become involved in STEM, while at the same time we work to develop the pipeline that will bring gender parity to tech fields. With a focus on gender equity and diversity, our curriculum is focused on education, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.
Programando Un Mundo Mejor (PUMM)3 is one of the projects of Chicas en Tecnología. PUMM is an intensive project-based program, pairing instruction in app development with social impact education, mentorship and exposure to real-world technology companies. With the help of Chicas en Tecnologia, the students identify, design, develop and pitch a mobile app to solve a social problem.
The results speak for themselves. The participants have developed apps for to stop bullying,4 set up book share school books,5 and map incidences of sexual harassment,6 and many more. More than 100 girls have finished Programando un Mundo Mejor (#PUMM) and created 35 prototypes of apps with social impact. All the projects can be found at this link.7
Chicas en Tecnologia is committed to giving voice to marginalized groups. We want to inspire others to continue working together as a country, as a region, and as a world to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities – not only to use technology, but to create it.
Carolina Hadad is the co-founder of Chicas en Tecnología. She graduated from the Universidad de Buenos Aires with a degree in Computer Science. She is currently a fellow with Innovation for Equality, a program created by Prospera and supported by CLAS.8