Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Editor’s Note: Earlier this week Geena Davis visited our campus in Redmond Washington to meet with Microsoft employees and speak about the lack of gender equality. It was a fascinating visit. This story originally appeared on our Inside Track employee publication.
By Jennifer Warnick, reporter for Microsoft Inside Track
Oscar-winning actor, activist, and archer (yes, archer) Geena Davis spoke to employees on the Redmond campus Monday about a lack of gender equality. Davis said that fixing gender imbalances in the media could help change gender disparity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics industries as well.
Geena Davis, the first woman president of the United States—on television, that is—spoke to Microsoft employees on Monday about the imbalance of gender in the media and empowering girls and young women.
Davis shared data about the representation of women in movies and television and shared her personal story as well as the reasoning for going after strong female acting roles.
"To be perfectly frank, I only have the luxury of choosing roles that I think women may like because I haven't run out of money yet. At some point, if you read that I've signed on to play Sean Connery's kidnapped wife in some movie, you will know I'm broke," Davis said, getting big laughs from the audience.
She added, deadpan: "I think that's about the right Hollywood age difference, too."
Andrea Taylor, director of community affairs, talks with Geena Davis following actor and activist’s speech on gender equality at Microsoft on Monday.
But it wasn't until she started watching children's entertainment with her young daughter that she decided to do something about it. In 2004, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which commissioned the largest research project ever done on gender in film and television.
The results of that first study (which was eventually titled "Where the Girls Aren't") and studies since, she said, are astounding.
Women comprise just over 50 percent of the population in the United States, yet in family films, male characters outnumber female characters three to one (a ration that's been the same since 1946). In crowd scenes, only 17 percent of the characters are female. From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or in politics. The most common occupation of a female character in a G-rated program?
"Royalty," Davis said. "Which is a great gig, if you can get it."
Other facts: The percentage of female movie narrators is 16. Only 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers are women. This translates to one woman for every 4.8 men working behind-the-scenes in movies.
"What message are we sending to boys and girls at a very vulnerable age? We're saying that women don't take up even half the space in the world," Davis said.
Meanwhile, the United States ranks 90th in the world in terms of female representation in government. New York Times Magazine figured out that if the United States continues to add women to Congress at the rate it has, the country will achieve gender parity in 500 years.
"I say that's too slow. Like Bill and Melinda Gates, I like to think of myself as an impatient optimist," Davis said. "I think it's time for us to see a dramatic change in gender balance. Now. Not 500 years from now. Instead of sneaking up on it like we have been."
"To me, I'm exactly the same dorky kid from a small town that I always was. I was just talking about this to my driver in the motorcade on the way over," Davis deadpanned, drawing laughs from the audience.
She called on employees in the room, many of whom mentioned during the comment and question portion of the event that they have daughters, to be "agents of change."
Davis doesn't prevent her children from watching disparate media but rather has a "running dialogue" with them while they watch it, making sure her children notice the misrepresentations.
The same goes for exposing girls to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). There are few girls or women with STEM careers represented in the media, which needs to change. It took until 2005 for television to depict the first female Commander in Chief.
"When I did that show about being president, it was just on for one season, but when it finished, there was a study done that showed people familiar with the show were 68 percent more likely to vote for a female president. They must have been like, 'Oh, that's not as weird as I thought it would be. She seems to be doing fine. She looks good behind a desk.' One of our prime goals is to not only increase the percentage of female characters, but improve what they are doing."
Davis was invited to Microsoft by Andrea Taylor, Microsoft's director of community affairs. Taylor first met Davis last fall at a cocktail hour for a United Nations symposium on women. Taylor found Davis to be very personable and grounded, and the two also had a few other common threads—they're both tall, Massachusetts-born Boston University graduates.
"And, more importantly, we're both committed to empowering women," Taylor said.
Taylor and Davis emailed about a week after the UN symposium, and Davis agreed to travel to Washington, first to visit Microsoft for a Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC) event and then to speak at a community event—both focused on gender equality.
There's an important intersection between the work of Microsoft and that of Davis's institute, Taylor said. She told Davis about some of Microsoft's programs that focus on women and other underrepresented populations, including Digigirlz and Elevate America in addition to "robust" programs to help educate, retrain, empower, and engage women.
"The intersection is around community affairs and getting women involved in careers in technology, and imagery in the popular media can affect or discourage young women," Taylor said. "It all involves women thinking about these kinds of opportunities and pursuing them and the media's subtle and not-so-subtle effect on the choices they make and the kind of future women envision for themselves."
In 2005, a year after she started her research institute on gender equality in the media, Geena Davis became the first woman to play the US president on television in the show "Commander in Chief."
"In medicine, the cure often comes from the same source as the illness. As powerful as media images are, they can have an incredibly positive effect equal to the negative," Davis said. "We have an opportunity to overcome negative behaviors. If girls can see it, they can be it. But unfortunately, girls are not seeing it, and gender inequalities are deeply entrenched."
After speaking to members of MSPAC, Davis chatted with Taylor and Akhtar Badshah, senior director of community affairs, before moving on to a "girl power" event in Seattle.
What would she say, in parting, to Microsoft employees?
"You at Microsoft are developing technology that has a tremendous impact around the world, so think about how what you're doing and working on can impact equality," Davis said. "Is there something you can look at in what you're working on that could improve equality? We need to learn to look at everything with a gender lens—to be consciously sure we're not leaving women out."
By Lynne Stockstad, General Manager, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft
“Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world,” Larry Summers wrote as chief economist of the World Bank. As someone who has worked for years in the traditionally male-dominated IT industry, I wholeheartedly agree in the importance of providing women and girls with the education and opportunity to achieve their potential.
Every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day, we celebrate the progress made towards achieving gender equality, but also reflect on the many changes still needed. Great strides have been made in the past century towards female equality, but inequality persists in many areas like access to education and health, while many economic sectors and career paths remain dominated by men.
At the United Nations, UN Women is leading the commemoration of International Women’s Day. At Microsoft, we work with many UN organizations at the frontline of supporting women’s rights and gender equality. By developing innovative programs and campaigns, often with partners from civil society and the private sector, these organizations are having a real impact on providing women and girls with opportunities and a voice.
On International Women’s Day I wanted to share some of the outstanding work the United Nations has underway to address gender inequality.
UN Women is leading United Nations efforts to ensure equal participation for women in all aspects of life, with a special focus in 2012 on their economic empowerment and political participation.
The World Economic Forum’s research on 134 countries has found that countries with greater gender equality have economies that are more competitive and grow faster. To promote gender equality in the private sector, UN Women, together with the UN Global Compact, has developed the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a set of actions companies can take to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
Women hold only 19.5 percent of seats in parliaments, still far below 30 percent recognized as the critical mass needed to advance a gender equality agenda. UN Women is working with partners to support electoral law reform around the world to facilitate the inclusion of women as candidates and voters and provide training for women candidates.
UNESCO, the lead UN organization for education, has led a variety of female empowerment-focused programs to ensure future generations of women and girls have the skills and education needed to compete for jobs and improve their livelihoods.
A UNESCO-supported eco-friendly textile dyeing factory in Bamako, Mali is providing employment to 200 women, trained to use new equipment and empowered to manage the site themselves. The new facility has not only reduced health hazards for women working in the factory, but they’re also exporting their products throughout the surrounding sub-region.
Pictured is Mariko Awa Bamba, a fabric dyer in the Dianéguéla district, in Bamako, Mali. Copyright: © Lâm Duc Hiên
To encourage women in science, UNESCO partnered with L’Oreal 14 years ago to establish the Women in Science Programme, which seeks to recognize women researchers through awards and fellowships who have contributed to overcoming the global challenges of tomorrow.
Using the power of community radio, UNESCO is giving women in Nepal a voice by supporting the woman-operated and -managed Radio Nari Aawaj. The station broadcasts daily discussions on contemporary matters like health, employment, women’s rights and environmental issues. As one regular listener to Radio Nari Aawaj said, “for the first time, we have the possibility to voice our opinions and concerns and to be heard. We can speak for ourselves and not just through someone else.”
Nepal – Radio Aawaj signboard Copyright: ©UNESCO/Terhi Ylikosk
Meanwhile, the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger, World Food Programme (WFP) is spearheading efforts to empower women as a critical means of improving food security and fighting hunger globally. Far too often, women have unequal access to resources, education and income, and participate less in decision-making.
WFP’s Women4Women campaign aims to fight hunger and malnutrition amongst women by providing nutritious meals to school girls and pregnant or new mothers.
One of the girls receiving free school meals through WFP is 12 year old Molly, pictured below.
Copyright: © WFP Rein Skullerud
‘Molly’s World’ is a collection of videos showing scenes from her daily life growing up in the slums of Nairobi, showing how similar girls like Molly are to other teen girls all around the world. Take Molly’s quiz and provide a nutritious meal to a young boy or girl in school.
Refugee and displaced women face a multitude of challenges and barriers to work, including legal restrictions, physical and psychological trauma, and lack of financial resources. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) initiates programs to enhance the economic independence and rights of refugee and displaced women and girls.
As part of its ‘Women Leading for Livelihoods’ campaign, UNHCR staged a series of Regional Dialogues with more than 1,000 forcibly displaced women and girls living in countries as diverse as India, Colombia, Jordan, Uganda, Zambia, Thailand and Finland, with the aim of giving female refugees a voice.
The annual Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI), funded by the German Government and UNHCR, support tertiary education for refugees, including many women and girls. In 2011, DAFI enabled 1,680 students to pursue higher education in 40 countries. DAFI has helped women like Lemma, an Afghan refugee living with her family in Russia since age 2. Now 21, she works as a nurse in the outpatient clinic of Magee WomanCare International, UNHCR's partner organization that provides medical services to refugees and asylum-seekers.
At Microsoft, in addition to the work we support through partnerships around the world, we also have programs aimed at reducing education gaps and gender inequality in otherwise male dominated fields. The DigiGirlz Technology Program, for example, provides girls with the opportunity to improve their technology skills through courses such as Visual Basic and HTML programming. Since its inception in 2000, the program has grown each year and now reaches more than 3,700 students worldwide.
These programs are just a few examples of the scope and diversity of action being taken to address gender inequality, and I find it encouraging that so much progress is being made across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Through continued effort and committed partnerships, there is hope that we will help future generations of women face even fewer barriers to making a real impact.
Find out more about International Women’s Day here.
The two-year anniversary of the devastating, magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile offers a unique vantage for grasping the value of investing in community technology. The earthquake revealed that community technology centers – telecenters and libraries – played a critical role as information hubs and social spaces so that community members and emergency agencies alike could coordinate the local response.
In the immediate aftermath, the need was dire. The earthquake disabled huge swaths of the nation’s communications and power systems. People needed food, shelter, and medical assistance. They needed information on how to access these services. They needed to contact friends and loved ones. Telecenter and library staff members rallied to assist their communities. They opened the physical buildings where possible—to help community members get information and to mobilize agency response. They gathered information on services and posted it on flyers throughout the community. They established temporary Internet access points and helped people use social media to contact loved ones and services. Their response was swift and comprehensive.
After one year of research with libraries, telecenters, community groups, and local government officials, my team at the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington has found that for many Chileans libraries and telecenters are trusted social spaces to rely upon for critical emergency services. The training and the access that citizens received prior to the disaster built the trust and the knowledge that brought them back to these community technology centers when their need was most acute. And they came in large numbers.
Photos courtesy of the University of Washington
Community access to information and communication technologies has many benefits. The role that ICT played in response to the disaster in Chile makes the case that investments in community technology are investments in critical infrastructure that dramatically improved the recovery and resiliency of Chilean people.
For more information about this study, please visit the University of Washington’s Technology & Social Change group:
About the author
Maria Garrido is the Research Assistant Professor at the Information School in the University of Washington. Maria’s research explores how people in communities facing social and economic challenges use information and communication technologies to promote social and economic development and advance social change. Much of her work focuses on technology appropriation in the context of social movements and in international migration.
Guest post from Emeline Cokelet Meneken, a writer and editor at PATH
As a harried project coordinator for a team spread across the globe, Erin Kester’s job can sometimes feel like herding cats. She tracks deliverables, corrals content for progress reports, and keeps communications flowing so technical staff can get at their goal: bringing key lifesaving vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.
In her role at PATH, a Seattle-based global health nonprofit organization, Kester has adopted Microsoft SharePoint as her tool of choice to keep a project running smoothly behind the scenes so her teammates can accomplish the important work on the front lines.
“The end is getting a vaccine to Yemen,” Kester explains. “The means is accuracy, clarity, efficiency.”
SharePoint is a growing resource in achieving PATH’s vision of a world where innovation ensures that health is within reach for everyone. The successful results of PATH’s work—more children vaccinated against deadly diseases, more families with access to safe drinking water, more babies thriving—are supported by tools that aid in the equally important task of monitoring project goals and reporting to donors.
Accessible across organizations
Kester uses SharePoint as a portal to house several hundred project documents as well as internal communications for her team—a consortium of eight collaborating partners that includes Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others. The PATH consortium is part of a global effort launched by the GAVI Alliance to bring vaccines against pneumococcal pneumonia and rotavirus (the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children) to more than 40 countries each by 2015. With collaboration as a key tenet of PATH’s work, SharePoint offers a valuable common space for colleagues across organizations to work together.
Internal and external staff can access the team’s SharePoint site to view, edit, store, and tag work plans, reports, agreements, and other documents. Centralized project tracking allows Kester to quickly compile status reports and meet on-call requests from the project donor, monitor project implementation, and provide other crucial information to the consortium leadership to keep the project moving forward.
“It’s a tool that clears obstacles,” Kester says of SharePoint.
A cornerstone technology
Other teams at PATH use SharePoint to track ideas, link to relevant documents, and streamline electronic clutter.
“Versioning is a major benefit of SharePoint,” says Jai Sutherland, a program assistant, whose team focuses on bringing affordable solutions for clean drinking water to poor communities in India and other countries. Using the shared workspace, team members have reduced the number of documents they work on each day and can maintain a single link to a report, proposal, or other document with multiple authors throughout its creation and development.
Today, PATH has more than 130 SharePoint sites, most of which are program focused. SharePoint has become a cornerstone technology for collaboration across organizations. It is helping PATH stay efficient and transparent as the size of its staff, now at more than 1,100 worldwide, continues to grow. Kester sees the SharePoint platform as a valuable tool that ultimately helps achieve lasting impact in the lives of children across the developing world. “I do the work I do,” she explains, “so the technical staff can get to what’s really important.”
A baby receives an oral vaccine against rotavirus.
PATH works in the developing world to bring lifesaving vaccines and other health solutions to the poorest communities.
Photo credit: PATH/Miguel Alvarez
PATH is an international nonprofit organization that transforms global health through innovation. PATH takes an entrepreneurial approach to developing and delivering high-impact, low-cost solutions, from lifesaving vaccines and devices to collaborative programs with communities. Through its work in more than 70 countries, PATH and its partners empower people to achieve their full potential.
For more information, please visit www.path.org.
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