Girls, get connected!

On 23 April this year, the fifth annual "International Girls in ICT Day” took place: events all over the world gave young women the chance to see ICT from a new perspective, encouraging them to imagine a career in the field. This year, CERN took part!


Joao Antunes Pequenao (CERN Media Lab) explains his interactive simulation of the Higgs field. © ITU/P.Woods.

The International Girls in ICT Day, launched and supported by the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has already involved more than 111,000 young women in 140 countries, including France and Switzerland, of course. On 23 April, 120 young women aged between 13 and 16 from five schools in the Geneva region* were welcomed to the ITU headquarters, where they took part in a series of workshops on subjects ranging from mobile app development to satellite launching.

As a key source of knowledge on the use and development of new technologies and as a strong believer in the promotion of women in science-based careers, CERN was delighted to take part in this event. “The CERN Management has been committed to improving professional equality between women and men at the Laboratory for many years; we’re constantly trying to achieve this in the course of our everyday work," underlines Kristin Kaltenhauser of the Diversity Office, who was responsible for coordinating CERN's involvement in the event. “So taking part in an event designed to encourage young women to embrace a career in ICT was a natural step for us.”

Valentina Mancinelli, from the IT Department (in the foreground, with black t-shirt), answers questions during the speed mentoring activity. © ITU/E.Okondo.

As a joint initiative of CERN’s Diversity Office, the CERN Media Lab, the Communication group and the IT department, several members of the Laboratory – notably female ICT specialists in the HR and IT departments – were at the ITU on the day to explain the role that new technologies play at CERN and to respond to questions from the pupils. “The Media Lab led a programming workshop – 'Programming Ideas' – and several CERN experts took part in a 'speed mentoring' activity, where the girls were able to talk about careers one on one with women who specialise in the field of new technology,” Kaltenhauser explains.

“The girls and young women arrived for the speed mentoring session energised by the morning's workshops and it was a real pleasure seeing their interested faces," says Denise Heagerty of the IT department, who took part in the speed mentoring and helped to coordinate the event. “They were especially interested by the variety of ICT roles and the importance of team work and human relationships. There were also lots of questions about CERN and the LHC!"

Information on the many training paths available in ICT fields, especially those offered at local schools and universities, was also available throughout the day. Of course, not all the participants will go on to have careers as programmers, but they will all have had the opportunity to meet some of the brilliant women who have built a successful career in the field.

*The Collège du Léman, the International School of Geneva, the Collège de Sécheron, the Institut Florimont and the British School of Geneva.

CERN will also be participating in the "Expanding Your Horizons" Geneva event in November, which aims to encourage girls aged 11 to 14 to enter scientific fields. More information can be found here.

by Anaïs Schaeffer