Helping Young Women Overcome Barriers to Meet their Potential
By: Johanna Ottolinger, Governance and Pro bono at Salesforce
Today across the globe people are celebrating Girls in ICT Day. The day aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs (itu.int).
Salesforce and Salesforce.org support and promote innovative, scalable solutions in education and STEM programs with a focus on computer science and increasing exposure of underrepresented groups and girls. And we realise that a holistic approach to this is required. There are so many fundamental challenges underrepresented groups and girls face that are way beyond the classroom. One program that we support, lead by Salesforce Germany that seeks to address some of these challenges is Connect to Learn.
We are currently working with two “millennium villages”, in Nigeria and Rwanda. Each region faces different obstacles, but those we have thus far been confronted with are poverty, war, balancing cultural / religious rites vs. modernity, and to a lesser degree, terrorism from anti-Western organisations.
Mentoring Support with CTL
Through the program, Salesforce women assist in providing a broader view of what is possible for participants to achieve. This pertains to their professional paths, as well as combining professional and the very pronounced personal goals, often set by their immediate society (familial, cultural expectations). While we can not nor endeavor to change their environment, we try to provide anecdotes from our own life experiences, as well as obstacles we have faced in realising our career aspirations.
Additionally, we provide practical examples related to our educational backgrounds, e.g., in finance, law, business, tech, etc. and help them to answer some of their queries and resolve current problems in their small family businesses.
“Working with the women at Salesforce to design and implement our e-mentoring program with Connect To Learn’s girl scholarship students in Nigeria and Rwanda has been a great experience,” said Tara Stafford, Program Manager at Connect to Learn. “The girls have had the opportunity to discuss how to balance their responsibilities at home without sacrificing their commitment to school and entrepreneurship, and have been guided through the process of strategizing for the success of their small businesses. We hope our partnership with Salesforce is one that can grow in the future.”
So far, about 10 women from Salesforce have been involved and each has voiced how impactful this program is, and how it transports them out of the daily mill into the girls’ environments. It gives us insight into some of the real issues faced in rural Africa, as well as inspiring us through the motivation, enthusiasm and positive spirit of the girls.
Our engagement with Connect to Learn began in Nigeria, and has since expanded to Rwanda. We have also expanded our Salesforce participants from EMEA Central to EMEA Central and South regions.
Change happens in small steps, but we are confident that every little step counts towards driving a change in the acceptance of women and their roles in society.
“Millennium Villages throughout Africa are showcasing… how effective an integrated strategy for health care, education, agriculture, and small business can be. We are seeing how to make the most of new technologies. And we are seeing how empowering women can empower whole societies” – UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon
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