In anticipation of the Girls in ICT Day on April 26th, EQUALS caught up with Roberta Cocco, the Councilor for Digital Transformation and Citizens Services at the Municipality of Milan, which has engaged extensively on the gender digital divide in the past
She explains how their project #STEMintheCity advances the role of girls and women in STEM fields.
1) The month-long #STEMintheCity festival in Milano places a special emphasis on empowering school girls in STEM fields. How have the events been received by the target audience so far?
#STEMintheCity includes initiatives designed for every school level, from preschool to university, with some events reserved to parents and teachers, and where male students are welcome too. In my opinion, it is necessary to fight stereotypes as soon and widespread as possible, because they influence us in subtle ways, often without us even being aware of it.
Moreover, gender identity and models of behavior begin to take shape very early in life, and we have to be ready to sustain an open discussion with our youth. The first edition, in 2017, generated a great deal of buzz; the second one just ended and the general feedback was even more enthusiastic: 20+ sponsors, 50+ partners, 50+ schools engaged, 120+ training sessions, 85 venues spread all over the city, and finally the most important result: around 5000 people reached.
2) To boost girls’ and women’s engagement in STEM requires multi-stakeholder collaboration. How has the Milano municipality managed to facilitate this collaboration across sectors?
#STEMintheCity is a project that we introduce to private and public sector aiming at collecting as many stakeholders as possible. We launch a call for proposal inviting people to actively participate in supporting the initiative, from themes to events.
The response is great, according to the idea that dissemination of a culture of gender equality is a driver of social and economic growth and confirming the good relationship that this Administration has built with all stakeholders on the territory: from associations to private companies, from institutions to public company, from NGOs to education partners.
3) How do you envision the empowerment of girls and women play a role in the development of the Milano municipality as well as across Italy? What are your next steps?
Milan is a city in which women have always had great opportunities to express their talents: employment levels are aligned to Europe’s most advanced cities.
I’m aware that gender stereotypes are hard to break down and continue to obstacle women, but we see every day signals of improvements. We know that only 38% of all female students in Italy choose STEM education careers studies, and so we consider this as a key challenge to face and overpass.
We strongly believe that these initiatives can offer a real lever to make our society more and more inclusive and overcome gender prejudices. The first immediate results should be accelerating innovation and becoming a driver of economic and social growth for all the country. Milano won’t be alone, indeed is working to boost all Italy on this specific topic.
Roberta Cocco is the Councilor for Digital Transformation and Citizens Services at Municipality of Milan.
Photo credits: Comune di Milano