Cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of the hottest technology fields today, with job opportunities continuing to grow across both. However, worldwide, women make up less than 20 per cent of the professionals in these high-tech jobs, and only one in 20 girls opts for a STEM-based career. To help narrow the gender gap, Mastercard has been cultivating young technology enthusiasts as part of its signature education platform, Girls4Tech. Currently in its fifth year, this hands-on, inquiry-based STEM programme has reached more than 400,000 girls (ages 8-12) in 25 countries, more than doubling its established 2017 goal. As Mastercard marks the fifth anniversary of the programme, the company eyes an ambitious commitment to reach one million girls by 2025. Mastercard created Girls4Tech in April 2014 to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers through a fun, engaging curriculum built around global science and maths standards. The programme incorporates Mastercard’s deep expertise in payments technology and innovation, and includes topics such as encryption, fraud detection, data analysis and digital convergence. “Today we celebrate the 400,000 girls who gained new STEM skills through the Girls4Tech programme and learned that a future in technology can and should include them,” said Susan Warner, senior vice-president of global volunteerism at Mastercard. “We hope to have sparked many future careers in STEM fields, because gender parity in tech will ultimately make all companies – and our society at large – better and stronger.”

New curriculum unveiled

As technology skills continue to evolve, the Girls4Tech programme is launching a new curriculum to give girls deeper exposure to the growing fields of cybersecurity and AI. Furthermore, to continue the engagement with girls who have already participated in the programme, Mastercard is launching Girls4Tech 2.0. Designed for older students, ages 13-16, the new programme aims to keep girls excited about STEM throughout the critical secondary school years and also emphasises important 21st century skills – such as collaboration, creativity and communication – as they work in teams to apply their technical knowledge to solve real-world challenges. Girls4Tech works with a network of global partners to increase the reach and impact of its programme: 1.) In Ireland, in partnership with the golf organization R&A, Mastercard recently launched an evergreen golf-themed version of the programme, where girls gain exposure to STEM through a deeper dive into business and science. 2.) In the US, Mastercard and Scholastic will continue to work together into 2020, building upon a successful first year. The custom, co-branded programme will expand the Girls4Tech curriculum with new themes in privacy, AI and algorithms. 3.) In partnership with American Airlines, Mastercard will host its first Girls4Tech Takes Flight. The two-day event will challenge 50 girls to innovate solutions to humanitarian challenges outlined by the United Nations on gender equality; smart cities and sustainability; health and wellbeing; and quality education. 4.) In partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB), Mastercard will continue working with MLB youth academies and organisations later this year with the customized Girls4Tech programme that includes sports and STEM components.

Impact highlights from first first years

1.) To date, Girls4Tech has reached more than 400,000 girls, with events in 25 countries and on six continents. 2.) The programme has engaged more than 3,500 employee mentors worldwide. 3.) Mastercard has partnered with Be Better China, MLB, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), R&A, Scholastic, and Singapore Committee for UN Women to further scale the program and offer STEM skills in unique ways to girls ages 8-12. 4.) The programme has achieved global reach with the curriculum translated into 12 languages. “Teachers and students alike are eager for resources that help connect curriculum standards to the real world of today, and tomorrow,” said Ann Amstutz Hayes, senior vice-president of Scholastic National Partnerships. “We are pleased to be collaborating with Mastercard on this important programme to increase awareness of STEM career opportunities for all students and help drive an understanding for the importance of creative thinking and problem solving across the curriculum and throughout life.” “Mastercard’s Girls4Tech programme has been a huge benefit to our Youth Academies, especially in giving our kids opportunities beyond the playing field,” said Del Matthews, vice-president of baseball development, MLB. “Part of our mission with the youth academy network is to open up worlds of possibilities, and Girls4Tech is something that can help them prepare for a great variety of careers, in baseball and elsewhere. We are excited to continue this partnership into 2019.” To learn more about Girls4Tech, please visit the Girls4Tech website.