Even though the gender gap within the digital era has been persistent throughout the years, women and technology have no contradiction to one another. History has shown us several women making their way through their contributions to mathematics and computing. 

Despite the fact that women in tech are gaining ground, with 10.3 per cent of females choosing to pursue a STEM career according to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, the underrepresentation in the tech field is still perceived as they are facing headwinds from education to employment to business. 

Studies by Microsoft pinpoint that we only have a few years to cherish a girl's affection for STEM before they give up on it as they turn 15. Most female undergraduates will embark on STEM courses after early exposure to STEM subjects. We have witnessed girls younger than 21 with a keen interest in tech and coding before age 16. With Gen Z, girls are considered digital natives, with 25 per cent before age 15 due to educational opportunities.

Over the years, several research bodies have suggested that diverse teams are more innovative and result in better performance within a workplace. Industry leaders now recognise this and have seen affirming results for their businesses. The participation of women in STEM provides society with several substantial economic benefits, such as aiding in the work put forward towards gender parity within the EU's position. In the next five to 10 years, we will reach 40 per cent of women in tech positions globally (Techjury, 2022). 

It also acts as a domino effect on the growth of the global economy by improving the quality of additional talent to companies and leading the tech industry to a more gender-equal future. Having diverse talents adds innovation and provides new insights used in product development and services to cater to different aspects of society. 

STEM career paths are experiencing a lower presence of girls and women not due to poorer maths or science skills but due to stereotypes and expectations surrounding women during their formative years. Women themselves can act as decisive factors in encouraging more girls and women to choose tech or other STEM careers, according to the ITU - United Nations specialized agency for ICT.

Overall, increasing girls' STEM involvement in Europe necessitates broad support from families, schools, businesses, national and European governance, but most crucially, the willing and active participation of girls themselves. Developing a network of local, national, and European advisors for girls thinking about what they want to achieve. If females are excluded from this process, their wishes may be ignored, further marginalizing them. This digital divide, if not addressed, will result in a loss of female talent, creativity, and entrepreneurship, hence widening the gender gap. 

There have been significant developments on setting a strong foothold in encouraging women to embark a career in STEM, both locally and on an EU level. The Women4IT project is a multi-stakeholder cooperation supported by EEA Grants and the Norway Youth Employment Grants Fund. The initiative is backed by nine European partners from diverse industries. The initiative is carried out in seven countries including Malta, with the assistance of two specialist partners: the European Centre for Women and Technology and DIGITALEUROPE.

Tech.mt is spearheading the Women4IT project, which aims to boost local competencies, digital skills, and employability. The project aims to raise awareness about the digital gender gap; it promotes concrete solutions to enable young women between the ages of 18 and 29 explore their potential through training and obtaining tech related employment and career opportunities in line with the EU's digital agenda. 

For more information and to apply for the Women4IT courses, visit www.tech.mt or email us at women4it@tech.mt.

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