- Centre for Technology Innovation and Engagement
As part of the COINS project, I spend a lot of my time at the Ericsson Headquarters in Stockholm. This year, whilst conducting research at Ericsson, I had the opportunity to take part in and facilitate a remarkable event – Girls in ICT Day 2018. The main aim was to introduce young girls aged 11 to 13 to the world of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and give them a chance to experience what it is to be an innovator. Inspiring more females to work in technical professions is something which strongly resonates with me and I have no doubt that sparking an interest in the inquisitive minds of the younger generation will pay off in the future.
In terms of my personal experience of the event, there were a number of things that really stood out. First of all, it was amazing to have the chance to communicate with such an international group. The girls who attended the event were pupils of the British International School of Stockholm. Despite their young age, many of the girls had experienced living in different countries and as well as speaking fluent English, they also spoke one, two and sometimes even three extra languages.
Another aspect that surprised me a lot was how active these young innovators were during the session. My expectation (based on how it happened in my school many years ago) was that it would be challenging to engage school pupils in discussion, but how pleasantly surprised I was to see how every question would result in a great number of raised hands. The creativity of the girls was amazing. The ideas they came up with when we asked them to think about an innovation for a bag / school backpack were unusual and wonderful, for instance we had:
- a hovering bag working on magnetic fields
- a party bag with integrated confetti, lights, and music
- a pillow bag, so when you need to you can use your school bag as a pillow for a quick power nap during the day
- a bag with an integrated charger (which I think is already going to the market)
My final take-away from the event was how the girls demonstrated great enthusiasm for teamwork. They worked together on a solution for improving education in developing countries, and despite their young age, they could identify the main problems, including access to educational materials, access to schools, and education of tutors. The girls were also able to come up with solutions to these problems using modern technology. Who knows, maybe we will see these ideas in future Girls Who Innovate competitions.
As a result of this event, we have seen an inspirational, ambitious and creative new generation of girls who have qualities like creativity, open-mindedness, confidence and teamwork. Our role as academics and educators should simply be to foster this creative potential, with the hope this new generation can change our world for the better. We have to facilitate curiosity and ensure that this new generation becomes a generation of innovators.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the views of Leeds University business school or the University of Leeds.