More girls in ICT - a challenge and a need

May 18, 2023
UNDP Srbija

Girls in information and communication technology learn and work every day, and a special day during each year that is dedicated to them, the International Girls in ICT Day, is a reminder that there should be even more of them. Because, ever since they entered the world of science, girls and women have been contributing to knowledge, introducing innovations, breaking down prejudices and serving as an inspiration.

Bojana Vukosav, student of the Ninth Belgrade Grammar School “Mihailo Petrović Alas”, wants to become a programmer and she is interested in everything related to information technology: "Up until a couple of months ago, I had been thinking about medicine and physics... then I realised that I actually understand IT the best". Student of the final year of the IT Grammar School, Ana Savić, plans to study art after finishing high school. Game-art and gaming design are her choice: "I have been loving video games ever since I was little and as I was growing up, I realised that this was something I wanted to do professionally. This is how I realised that I’m interested in both programming and art." Her peer, Maja Marković, student of the Sixth Belgrade Grammar School, has been a part of the digital world since her early childhood: "My dad is a programmer and I have "gazillion" computers a home. I have lived with technology for as long as I can remember, I started to programme when I was ten, so that’s all familiar and very natural to me".

Bojana Vukosav, student of the Ninth Belgrade Grammar School “Mihailo Petrović Alas”

UNDP Serbia

In Serbian schools, there have been more and more specialised IT classes, with more and more girls in them. The number of those who plan and develop their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics has also been on the rise each year. The times are slowly changing, and the era of girls in IT has only just begun. "They all used to say to me, well that’s only for men, that’s something they do, and this was simply an additional motivation. I think that there should be no restraints imposed on people, and that everyone should do what they find interesting" – says Bojana who, after the high school, plans to enrol in the Programming Stream at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. "I have been aware that there are fewer women engineers, but not that the ratio is so unfavourable" – says Maja, who wishes to express her creativity with the help of digital technologies.

More girls in ICT implies that more girls and young women are empowered and encouraged for careers in STE(A)M1 disciplines. Constant learning and development go without saying: "I try to make drawings in as many apps as possible, in order to develop a wide range of skills, and I try to learn new things as much as I can, in order to be in the loop with the things happening in the digital world" – says highly motivated Maja. Bojana does not lack motivation either. She knows how to find time for studying, but also for socialising: "I study when I need to and I try to organise everything so that I always have time. I go out with my friends, have different hobbies, I like to read, listen to music, watch movies and series. I have time for everything".

Maja Marković, student of the Sixth Belgrade Grammar School

UNDP Serbia

These girls spent the fourth Thursday in April in the Centre for the Promotion of Science, where, on the occasion of the International Girls in ICT Day, and organised by the Petlja Foundation, Ministry of Education and United Nations Development Programme, the creative coding workshop entitled When Technology Draws was held, together with a lecture on visual disentanglement of data. One of the participants was Marija Radosavljević. This student of the first year at the Faculty of Biology is smiling as she speaks of science: "I am hopeful, and I really want to say to the girls who might decide to pursue science as their profession not to lose their enthusiasm and ambition, and to always give 100% in everything they do". In her case, her parents’ support goes without saying, and she can also count on the help by her professors: "It all started with mathematics, then chemistry and biology, and while the different sciences I was exposed to multiplied, I realised that this was something that made me feel fulfilled, while constantly delighting me, changing my way of thinking and enriching me in many ways". She learned how to overcome obstacles: "I most definitely experienced disparagement and underestimation many times in my life, not only by men, but also by women: Why do you do that? There’s no point! You’ll do something else and become a housewife. These are some things that are still present in the society, I must admit, regardless of the fact that we’re living in the 21st century. Still there’s a lot of resolve in me. I have the resolve to show that I can do that. That I want to do that".

Marija Radosavljević, freshman at the Faculty of Biology

UNDP Serbia

Digital literacy is the foundation of the future, hence this call to girls and women to become involved. Jelena Ružičić, UNDP Portfolio Manager for digital innovation, shared her experience with the participants: "Whatever you might graduate from, either some technical faculty, or art, you will need digital skills, not only now but as a lifelong learning process. You are the young generations to come, and I now feel like a girl or a woman who is learning from you, and I’m glad for it. I am also glad to see some of my male colleagues here, because for a woman to be successful in her IT career, she needs support. And remember this for the future, for when you start your professional career – the best teams are the mixed teams, the best teams are those in which you work together."

The celebration of the International Girls in ICT Day was organised as a part of the project "Building Key Computer Competences – Towards the Workforce of the Future", implemented by UNDP with the support by the Government of the Republic of Serbia.