How to get more girls into STEM & keep them in tech careers

For the last few years there’s been an increased focus on how to get more girls into STEM fields. But that’s only the first step.  But if organizations want to be successful in the not so far away future, keeping young women interested in tech careers is just as critical.

Programs to get girls into coding, engineering, robotics and other STEM fields are beginning to make a difference not only in the way young women view learning about technology, but also in them considering a job in the tech world after graduating.

Start early to get more girls interested in STEM. Photo Credit: Andy Kelly- Unsplash

Start early to get more girls interested in STEM. Photo Credit: Andy Kelly- Unsplash

Wanna Know How to Get More into STEM? Early Introduction to Technology

Some studies show that toys can teach children important skills. Yet, contrary to what you might think, it seems that toys are actually getting more gendered than ever.  Girls continue to be targeted with more and more princesses that foster stereotypes that tend to stick with young girls, and boys with building sets that tend to encourage engineering skills.

According to Reshma Saujan of Girls Who Code, girls are “afraid of trying something they might not excel at right away.” This makes it easy for them to lose interest in things like coding, which is a process of trial and error where mistakes are not only unavoidable, but completely necessary. Teaching girls to be brave from an early age, to allow themselves to make mistakes and try new things, seems to be a key ingredient in keeping them interested.

Parents and educators play an essential part in keeping girls interested and helping them develop both skills and confidence. You can help by encouraging a balance in your kids’ toys and choosing activities you can do as a family on a regular basis. Remember, it’s not about taking all “girly stuff” away, but rather about introducing a larger variety of options and truly sending the message that anything is possible if they work hard and persevere.

Educators will have to find new ways to help girls connect with STEM subjects, providing good role models, creating programs that cater to their particular interests. They should also encourage girls to keep trying, not shy away from competition and to use their voice. The “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t working and, unsurprisingly, girls need to be given work they can be passionate about to be lured out of their comfort zone.

Offer girls toys that encourage building things- Photo Credit: Rick Mason- Unsplash

Offer girls toys that encourage building things- Photo Credit: Rick Mason- Unsplash

Closing the “Interest Cliff”

But it’s not just about integrating girls into programs that have been largely built for boys. It’s necessary to develop better computer programs in schools with different options that appeal to a more diverse group of students, with projects that girls can be invested and involved in. Studies show that girls do stick around when projects are personally relevant.

A Microsoft-conducted survey found that young girl’s interest in STEM fields peaks when they’re 11 or 12, and drops significantly between 15 and 16. This “interest cliff” happens in some places around the world where young women get the message that these fields are not for them.

So, you can help avoid this interest drop by encouraging your girls to:

  • Plan vacations that have a volunteering component such us building homes, schools, etc. Organizations such as TECHO are ideal.
  • Organize trekking trips that include geological or botanical exploration. They can prepare ahead of time information about the sites they will visit.
  • Visit hands-on science museums.
  • Visit engineering-heavy plants such as NASA’s Space Center in Houston, Boeing in Seattle, etc.
  • Find conferences and movies with inspiring female protagonists. (Hidden figures, for example)
  • Look for programs where they can meet other teens who are also interested in robotics, engineering, programming, etc.

Stay involved and reward your daughters’ efforts. Remind them often how important it is to try even when the outcome isn’t always successful. And even most importantly, encourage them to keep trying when they make mistakes.

How to get more girls into STEM fields. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Digital Content Production- Unsplash

How to get more girls into STEM fields. Photo Credit: Emma Matthews. Digital Content Production- Unsplash

Game Changers to Get More Girls Into STEM 

Creating opportunities for young girls to meet women to look up to is also ideal. Some studies show that girls are 17% more likely to feel powerful working on STEM activities if they personally know a woman in these fields. Finding motivation not just in education, but in the future ahead.

It’s encouraging to find that programs looking to get more girls into STEM and hooked on coding from an early age have become more and more common, with platforms like the Girls Who Code Movement, Canada Learning Code, Microsoft’s DigiGirlz and the African Girls Can Code Initiative by UN Women, an Africa-wide program that aims to  empower girls through digital literacy and coding.

There’s also Kode with Klossy, a scholarship program created by model Karlie Kloss sending girls aged 13-18 to coding camps where they can be mentored by female leaders in tech.

And social media movements such as #ILookLikeASurgeon and #ILookLikeAnEngineer are also sources of inspiration.

Initiatives like Girls in ICT Day and the She Can STEM look to empower young women with an interest in STEM fields and encourage them to stick around, introducing them to role models in their fields of interest. These success stories can sometimes make the difference between choosing a career in these fields or giving up.

A New Kind of Education in Tech

Some software schools are trying to find new ways of tearing down inclusion barriers and shift the numbers in their classrooms and, hopefully, the workforce.

To achieve this, the Holberstone School of Software Engineering, for example, has an automated application process built on a challenge that can take 8 to 80 hours to complete. It’s built for beginners and ignores the applicants’ background, ethnicity, gender and experience to focus only on the motivation of the person taking on the challenge.

To get more girls into STEM fields and help them stay in tech careers will take a village. There are some hopeful signs that we are taking steps in the right direction.

Tearing Down Inclusion Barriers in the Workplace to Narrow the Gender Gap in Tech

One of the biggest challenges the tech world currently faces is coming up with new ways to narrow the gender gap that exists at big tech companies, both in executive positions and programming. Tearing down inclusion barriers is key to create a world we are excited about.

The lack of diversity in executive positions and programming is a noteworthy problem because it means that these voices and their invaluable insights are not being heard. Change is taking time. According to some studies, the stats for women who earn degrees in computer science are still pretty low. The numbers are even lower for young women who choose to go into computing jobs and even worse for executive positions in Silicon Valley companies.

But while the talent is out there, it needs to be lured out of its hiding place and nurtured and seduced with a brighter future for a more diverse tech world. One with possibilities for young women with an interest in fields like programming.

Tearing down inclusion barriers to narrow the gender gap in technology. Photo Credit: Karl Pawlowicz -Unsplash

Tearing down inclusion barriers to narrow the gender gap in technology. Photo Credit: Karl Pawlowicz -Unsplash

The Importance of Tearing Down Inclusion Barriers

Leveling the playfield in technology and creating a future we can be excited about has a lot to do with tearing down inclusion barriers that have allowed a pretty homogeneous group of people to occupy the big offices at tech companies for years. These barriers have kept others from reaching their full potential and holding progress back.

According to Monique Morrow, president and co-founder of Humanized Internet, it’s more important than ever for people in the technology world to make sure their teams are “diverse in thought and reflect the recipients or benefactors of the technology”. Emphasizing that it’s important to shine a light not only on women, “but also people of color and various diverse backgrounds via film, social media”.

More diverse teams not only serve better an organizations’ clients but they can help prevent unconscious bias within programming and even AI. (Think about recent controversies about facial recognition programs racial biases due to the homogenous  team of programmers who trained the algorithm.)

So it’s critical that organizations make Diversity and Inclusion a real priority and set specific interventions to overcome implicit biases when hiring and promoting.

Tearing down inclusion barriers. Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle Unsplash

Tearing down inclusion barriers. Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle Unsplash

 The Rise of Remote Work

Remote work is among the many ways in which technology has made life easier. There are some simpler, positive aspects of working from home, but there’s more to it than comfort or avoiding long commutes and traffic. A remote workforce can also play a critical role in tearing down social, geographic and physical barriers, making it easier for more diverse teams to come together naturally and for team leaders to avoid any issues of predisposition they may consciously or unconsciously have.

Working remotely also creates job opportunities for people who in the past would not have been considered for the role.  It pays no mind to location and allows a special flexibility in schedules that, in many ways, is unique to our day and age. This also makes it possible to focus on the work that’s being delivered and the proficiency of employees.

For women who take up on the role of primary caregiver of their families, remote work can open a world of possibilities and make it easier for them to grow and compete in the fast-evolving tech world.

It's important to focus on narrowing the gender gap to include more women in tech. Photo Credit: Marvin Kuhn- Unsplash

It’s important to focus on narrowing the gender gap to include more women in tech. Photo Credit: Marvin Kuhn- Unsplash

 Digital Fluency and Alternative Recruitment

 While women are still fighting for their much deserved spot in the world of tech, the tools and initiatives to tear down barriers and help companies operate outside the stereotypes are becoming more readily available. Finally, the recruitment process has started to change to give way to a more inclusive workforce.

Increasing number of companies have adopted automated processes in recruitment, employing algorithms that eliminate biases. These programs overlook variables like gender, past titles, years of experience and even names and last names making it possible for candidates to be hired based on skills alone. Companies like tilr.com go as far as skipping the interviewing process to provide its clients with background and skill ratings of their hires.

This makes it paramount for women to work on honing their tech skills and mastering “digital fluency”. The extent to which women can comfortably embrace new technologies plays a key role in narrowing the gender gap. Female leaders can and have thrived in the business, but education is key in the process of reaching those spots.

Together we should work on reducing the gender gap in tech. Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder-Unsplash

Together we should work on reducing the gender gap in tech. Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder-Unsplash

A future we wish to have

Creating a more inclusive workforce is, not surprisingly, a crucial aspect of creating a world we are excited about. Until there’s a better balance in the world of tech, the views, opinions and needs of a considerable part of the population (half in the case of women) will continue to be ignored in a digital era that needs them.

However, there’s hope. Hope in education, platforms and companies that have what it takes to change and inspire change in others. With opportunities being created in spite of how easy it may be to feel hopeless sometimes. It’s a process. An ongoing fight.

Morrow sees opportunities in spite of how easy it may be to “paint a dystopian world”, and she seems to feel optimistic about the future of young women in tech in fields like healthcare, cybersecurity and privacy: “There is so much to do and I am personally excited about the possibilities to truly create the world we wish to have not the one we would like to avoid!”

Aric Dromi Helps Design the Future We Wish to Live In

Aric Dromi is a keynote speaker, futurologist, digital philosopher and self-proclaimed professional troublemaker who helps people and organizations design the future they wish to live in.

He has one simple mission: inspiring a change in the way the world and the technologies that govern it are viewed and experienced. To question the status quo and stimulate the kind of critical thinking that’ll shift priorities and better equip us against challenges ahead. Challenges we’re not prepared for.

Aric is passionate about the transformation necessary at political, societal and personal levels in preparation of a rapidly evolving future and the technologies taking over it. He is CEO and founder of TEMPUS.MOTU and creator of Dead Rabbit Society – both dedicated to coming up with ways to make the world and its leaders take notice of a fast-moving digital era we are already a part of.

Here’s what the story-maker had to tell Red Shoe Movement about experiencing technology, the importance of critical thinking and creativity, and navigating our way through a new technological revolution that’ll be like nothing humankind has experienced before.

Aric Dromi helps people and organizations think about how to design the Future

Aric Dromi helps people and organizations think about how to design the Future

How to design the future

Aline Cerdá­n— Can you explain a little more about your role as a futurologist and what it entails? What are some of the elements you consider when navigating the future?

Aric Dromi— always take the simple approach answering the question of what a futurologist is. I tell stories about potential futures that could happen and reverse engineer these potentials into concepts and trajectories of futures that should happen. In this context, you can’t merely be reactive but rather build proactive frameworks that can design future trends. If you do that, you control the narratives of the future. Navigating the future is about controlling the waves, then the wind, and the sea rather than building better ships.

AC—How will things like work, life, and travel change? Is there a way to prepare for a digital age?

AD—We live in a world where technology is augmenting almost every aspect of our lives and enabling us to enhance our virtual presence using code. Empathy, freedom, wellbeing, intelligence, education, governance, creativity, economics, and politics are the primary benefactors of the exponential growth and impact of technology.

For the first time in the history of humankind, natural evolution has reached the zenith of its potential. There is no place to go from a biological point of view. Yes, we might become a little faster and jump a bit higher, but we have reached a point where our organic structure cannot evolve anymore. Even with genetic modifications – sooner or later – we will hit the limit of our evolutionary potential.

We live in a world where technology is observing us more than we are observing it, and it is reality, the information doesn’t exist behind the screen anymore – we are the information. Every aspect of our existence is being quantified, stored, and monetized. This has already fundamentally changed (even if not on the societal level) the narratives of work, travel, mobility, and more. The App economy improves the way we book a hotel, order taxi, pay for services, work remotely etc.

I don’t think we should put any effort into preparing for a digital age, as we are already living in one. My main concern is that we keep driving our economic models based on buzz words that force our resources to focus on technology rather on the development of humankind, individuals and strategic thinking.

When we keep building “smart” things (smart phones, smart cities, smart cars) the word smart means Technology. We keep surrounding ourselves with technology and forgetting that our entire infrastructure, that may be cities, legal, educational, political and economic models can be traced all the way back to the Roman Empire. Moving forward, we need to rethink the fundamental building blocks of societal development and evolution or we are simply building a house of cards.

Sergio Kaufman of Accenture shares how technology levels the playing field for women
Helping design the future you want. Photo Credit Clay Banks.Unsplash

Helping design the future you want. Photo Credit: Clay Banks. Unsplash

AC—How are algorithms affecting us as human beings? How can we rethink the way we experience technology?

AD—What is an algorithm? It’s math and code coming together creating a set of routines that are designed to solve a problem (OK, I’m over simplifying). How many people actually understand what an algorithm is? Yet we are surrounded, directed, and even manipulated, by algorithms every day. From phone notifications, to content recommendations, digital communication, food consumption, online shopping, and social interactions, algorithms are the invisible puppet masters that frame our existence in the modern age. I’m not trying to be negative, but rather emphasize the need to better research and understand the side effects (that are fast becoming the new norm) of living in a world where the control strings are written in code.

AC— What is The Dead Rabbit’s Society? What is it about discomfort that helps challenge the status quo and better design the future?

AD— The Dead Rabbit Society was born out of few lectures I did with students outside the normal academic framework. I saw a need to rethink the narratives of education and the objectivity of the important questions we need to ask ourselves to secure our desired future. In a world of sanitized, politicized and agenda-filled news broadcasts, finding the truth has become a full-time job. We are confronted by a cacophony of trite media stories that have little or nothing to do with our reality in the present or, more importantly, the future. Yet for all the noise there is no clarity, no critical thinking, no objective voices to defend our society from an imminent future for which we are more than ill-prepared.

The Dead Rabbit Society’s role in all of this is to highlight the major questions of our time and to get people thinking about potential solutions the will carry us forward toward our desired future.

We do this via our online community, through hosting events, conferences and keynotes and we are embarking on an ambitious plan to produce documentaries around these questions. The first documentary will examine The Future of Work in a world that will be increasingly run by artificial intelligence and automated production capacity.

Aric Dromi speaks about how to design the future. Photo Credit Owen Beard. Unsplash

Aric Dromi speaks about how to design the future. Photo Credit Owen Beard. Unsplash

People don’t seem to have fully grasped the implications of AI and automation. Our society is on the verge of seismic changes, the likes of which we have not seen since the Industrial Revolution. This revolution will also displace a lot of employees and professions. But it won’t just be truck drivers and taxi drivers that are affected. Lawyers, doctors, surgeons – all manner of professions will be threatened by this technological revolution. But you don’t hear people talking about this. Our goal is to change that. We would like to highlight the issues, the questions, and have people put pressure on their political representatives to come up with a direction, a strategy for a future where we may not be employed as we currently know it. We can either sit back and hope that someone puts the genie back in the bottle, or we can be proactive and try to shape the narrative so that the future we encounter is one of our own making and not the result of a string of poorly made decisions based on incomplete facts that exclude the most important component of our future – people.

What we have seen so far is that most people are blissfully ignorant of the coming changes and have blind faith that things will work out for the best. Guess what – they won’t. Without clear and agreed direction we will be at the mercy of despots, corporations the size of continents and we will be slaves to our own data footprint. We have a choice. The Dead Rabbit Society’s aim is to highlight the choices and instigate an informed discussion.

Companies design the future by thinking differently

AC—How can companies instill a culture of creativity and risk-taking?

AD— I think the keyword here is “culture”. Companies must remember that we are born into culture, we are not born with culture. It is something we learn through the interaction set by our environment. To instill a culture of creativity and risk-taking you must have an assertive leadership team’s commitment to set the example.

Focusing on increasing your core earning model – and forgetting how to nurture and defend it – will never give you the tools and know-how to expand the foundation of your business.

So, this is the end destroying the means. If you focus on how profitable your business is today, your organization will not be productive tomorrow. Engaging in iterative change ensures you follow the pack as opposed to reap the rewards of being a thought-leader. Fear is the spawn of ignorance. If you only consider what has happened – or worse, what is happening – you can’t help us with tomorrow. Learn from the past, be present in the moment and let that insight allow you to think differently about the future.

We are in a major technological revolution. Photo Credit Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

We are in a major technological revolution. Photo Credit: Johannes Plenio. Unsplash

Traits we need to prepare for what’s coming

AC—What can we do to educate ourselves on connectivity and the way we experience technology? What traits and abilities will we need moving forward to design the future we want to live in?

AD—I would start by asking the question, what does it mean to be human in a world where technology determines almost every aspect of our existence? I think we have already passed the point of no return where we can “live” without technology and as such we should find way to partner with it to define the next steps of human evolution. We need better-educated leaders and politicians. We need a better understanding of policymaking.

We can easily list the skills that today’s children will need to successfully navigate the future:

  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Originally
  • The ability to solve complex problems
  • Emotion and passion

But why is that list different from the skills we have always needed to excel in life and rise to the apex of our own potential? The truth is it’s not!

We do, however, need a set of new ideas for these skills:

  • We can’t use code the same way we use bricks
  • We need to move from managing-for-profit, to managing-for-impact
  • Experience should be measured by the quality of choices and not by the number of its functions
  • Don’t confuse symptoms with the appearance and root cause
  • Assets need to build up into properties and capital to deliver value to society
  • Think of technology as a legal system. The legal system was designed to be used (and sometimes abused) by lawyers – entrepreneurs use technology – technology is never the end goal, but simply a path.

We shouldn’t focus on experiencing technology but how technology can enable us to better experience ourselves and life. Think of technology as fire. Mankind learned how to tame fire (for the most part) – but we have already lost control of technology. This needs to change – quickly.

We have already lost control of technology. Photo Credit: William Daigneault. Unsplash

We have already lost control of technology. Photo Credit: William Daigneault. Unsplash

AC—How can concepts like morality and trust be redefined? Who will determine what the code of conduct in the digital age should be?

AD— I often ask people in my keynotes: If I visit a brothel run by robots and have sex with a robot, did I cheat on my wife? Can she rightfully sue me for divorce? What if someone hacked my artificial intelligence digital assistant and deleted the code. Can I sue that person for murder? I don’t have one simple answer around the future of morality, ethics and trust but rather a suggestion. We need to understand that our current system will never scale into a future that is anchored in code. We need to start telling stories about potential futures and stress-test them in front of policymakers to better help them rethink the process narratives that they use to design their policies. We can do this in a number of ways:

  • Identifying the unknowns in domains critical to the stability and development of humankind’s current societal structure
  • Defining the questions around which leaders and politicians can design a desired vision of the future
  • Developing strategies to realize this future by implementing the necessary tools and processes to deliver on the desired vision
  • Designing a set of experiments and scenarios in various domains to better prepare local, national and global leadership to tackle the upcoming challenges.

This is how we work with policymakers and governments, high business leaders and NGOs with our Think– Do–Rethink Tank, www.tempusmotu.org

Only by bringing the best minds together and providing space for them to develop these potential future narratives can we stress-test them and improve them through an iterative process. This is something that I am extremely passionate about.

In the end it is about defining the world you wish to live in, modelling it, testing it and improving it. If we continue to use the past as the gateway to the future we will not move very far. This is challenge I put to every leader I speak to. We can make the world a better place, if we want to.

8 Ideas to Make the Most Out of Working from Home

It’s not for everyone. I’ve met people who look at me in complete shock and horror when I tell them that I spend most of my time working from home. To some, the prospect of losing things like the social interaction and usual distractions of a day spent at the office, is simply unthinkable.

I really can’t blame them. It’s easy to lose track of time and blur lines when your workspace is also your home. Easy to either spend too much time working or to fall into procrastination with the excuse of some chore that just needs to get done. Still, it’s achievable. And all that time that’s not wasted in traffic, commuting back and forth can leave you with some unexpected – and much appreciated – free time.

I’ve been working from home for a few years, which has given me enough time to do it all wrong and learn a little bit from my mistakes. I’m not going to say I never surrender to the appeal of my favorite couch, but I know how to prioritize and how to be productive and respect my workspace and schedule.

Working from home. Photo Credit Ella Jardim. Unsplash

Create your own space within your home. It helps keep boundaries.Photo Credit Ella Jardim. Unsplash

The Subtle Art of Working from Home

1Designate a work space. Stay out of your bedroom unless it’s absolutely necessary, that way that area can be a getaway from the workspace. If you have the room to create your own office, do it. If not, find a corner of the house and make it your own. A designated work area will also make it easier for others to respect that this is where you keep your work stuff. A concept that can seem a little bewildering to office goers.

2Have a morning routine.

Have breakfast, take care of personal calls or emails, shower and change before starting the workday. You obviously don’t have to dress up, but it helps to make the beginning of the day real. If I don’t change into street clothes, I will very rarely manage anything productive once I’m done with the more pressing work. This is how you end up with last-minute assignments that can take over your entire weekend.

3Schedule your work ahead of time. I’m easily distracted, so anything that brings a little order to my day is appreciated. Look at what needs to be done through the day and set goals before you decide when to take breaks and when to stop working for the day. It helps to have a fixed work schedule if the nature of your job allows it. It may be impossible to avoid projects that demand more and may sometimes entail working late or on weekends but administering deadlines can let you plan ahead. In order to do this, you need to set clear expectations with your boss, your clients and yourself.

4Prepare your lunch ahead, just as if you were planning to leave the house. There are two reasons this is a good idea. First of all, it makes you keep up the illusion that “you’re not home”, which can be key in concentrating. Second, it can save you time, money and keep you away from unhealthy meals and snacks. You can assign time to get out of the house and get something to eat now and then, but your pocket will probably appreciate occasionally staying in. To avoid overdoing it with the snacks, (it’s easy to fall into this trap when you’re so close to your very own fridge and pantry) prepare some for the day as well. Also? Research shows that when we choose all our meals for the week at the same time, we tend to have a healthier and more varied diet.

5Avoid family and friends during work hours. My mother has a really hard time understanding that working from home doesn’t mean I’m just hanging out at my place, a misunderstanding she shares with friends who have free time during working hours. Likewise, some friends have mentioned how important it is for their kids to understand that mommy’s working, even if she is home.  Avoiding them will not only make you more productive, it’ll help them understand that your work hours must be respected. Just as they would be respected if you were at the office. Having your own office space also helps set boundaries and avoid interruptions from your children, partner and other house guests.

6Get out of the house. Make sure that you make time to do other things, like taking a walk, going to the gym or having lunch with work colleagues. It helps you clear your mind and it’s important when so much time is being spent in your house. Remember, vitamin D is important so make time to step out into the sun. A certain flexibility comes with working from home and that can usually mean you can take that class or wander off for a couple of hours to do something that will make you happy.

7Take advantage of projects that allow you to collaborate with others. While there are many upsides to working from home, creating your own schedule and being in charge of your own time, it can be pretty isolating too. Being part of a team and the interaction that comes from it is good for our mental health and can motivate us to work harder, providing a fresh perspective that’s not always available when doing home office. Look for projects that will allow you to collaborate with other people and make time to meet up for lunch, coffee or drinks every now and then. You don’t always need to be confined to your workspace. If you collaborate with larger companies, it may be a good idea to stop by the office to say hello now and then.

8Stay in touch. Make sure you’re talking to the people you work with, especially when you’re a part of an international team with multiple time zones. Differing time zones can make it harder to keep up with everyone, especially if you’re trying to stick to your work hours. Try to schedule conference calls and video chats at times where all, or at least most of the team can join. If it’s not up to you, be open to them and try to engage and make your presence felt. It’ll help you and others to feel like a part of the team, even if you and others are working remotely.

Working from home has its advantages. You decide when to take a break. Photo credit: Free Stocks. Unsplash

Working from home has its advantages. You decide when to take a break. Photo credit: Free Stocks. Unsplash

The Benefits of Working from Home

While some people feel that working from home would affect productivity negatively, a robust two-year study held by Nicholas Bloom, from Stanford University, proved that people in a work-from-home situation actually worked full-shifts and found it easier to concentrate while working from home.

The main problem for most people is how isolating it can be. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. Some people need the very specific aspects of a more conventional work environment to be productive. However, more and more companies are finding that the rise in efficiency of their home office teams and the money that can be saved by reducing office space might be worth looking into.

If done right, home office can make you the master of your own time. It takes some effort to perfect it, but you can learn not to procrastinate, to choose the right collaborations and the best people to collaborate with. It’s all about avoiding distractions, managing your time, sticking to your priorities and building a good relationship with the people you work with.  In any case, it’s looking more and more like it could be the standard for the future, so this is a good time to start exploring the benefits!

 

Working from home. Photo Credit Emma Matthews. Unsplash

Prioritizing and sticking to your plan is an important part of being productive. Photo Credit Emma Matthews. Unsplash

Greta Thunberg and the rise of powerful young female voices

A teenage environmentalist becoming TIME’s Person of the Year is one of the things I loved most about a year that was often difficult to deal with. It’s symptomatic of the rise of powerful young female voices that is defining our times.

I’ll be honest, it puts my own inconsiderate teenage years into a harsh perspective, but while the adult part of me is deeply ashamed of needing young girls like Greta Thunberg to take matters into their hands, it provides vital hope in a time of crisis. Hope that these new strong young female voices that are fighting for the world have inherited not just the chaos previous generations have created, but also the courage to bring the necessary change around.

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

Greta Thunberg striking for climate change- Post from her Instagram account

One of the most powerful young female voices today

She may only be a teenager, but Thunberg knows what she wants and won’t stop until she’s made sure people are listening. She has managed to get attention where others have failed to do so; she’s achieved commitment where there was none before, inspired young and not-so young to act and shamed those who continue to fail to do what’s right, no matter who they are or how they may retaliate.

She speaks frankly; she doesn’t do sugarcoating. Greta knows that we’re running out of time to right some of our wrongs before it’s too late. She offers facts and expects them to be enough to scare world leaders into action. To scare people into demanding a change from the politicians in charge.

Unless something is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature will continue to rise. According to scientists this will “expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030”.

With a future that’s increasingly bleak and world leaders who don’t seem very interested in doing something about it, it’s no wonder that she’s gone from a muted depression to anger that’s gone viral. Anger that represents thousands.

The face of a youth-led climate movement first heard about climate change at school and tumbled deep into depression triggered by hopelessness and disbelief. How could global warming be a reality if politicians and world leaders were doing nothing about it? How  could adults be so unconcerned by the dreary future being handed down to children? How could they not listen to warnings scientists have given us for years?

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

Young female voices are leading the fight over many key topics of our times- Photo Credit: Markus Spiske- Unsplash

At first, she went quiet and stopped eating, inspiring her family to make changes in lifestyle like giving up meat, growing their own food and installing solar panels to appease her anxiety. Gradually, she began to find her voice once again. An uncompromising, no-bullshit voice that she’s been using to wake the world up to the urgency of the planet’s current situation.

Greta’s Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis may have explained why she took her findings on the condition of the planet so hard, but as her father pointed out to TIME, she’s not wrong. While she has been mocked and bullied, her uncompromising passion and straightforward approach has also reached millions.

Her outrage at being forced to begin a climate strike instead of enjoying her childhood made an impression, especially on other young people who share her anger and disappointment. As they should. The demonstrations that have happened worldwide have brought about the kind of pressure that’s hard for leaders to ignore.

Emmanuel Macron told TIME that these weekly demonstrations by young people helped him change, “You cannot remain neutral”.

So, it’s probably a good thing that youths seem so involved. That Greta is not alone in wanting to make things happen where “grown-ups” have failed to succeed, or to even try. According to Al Gore, a Nobel Prize Winner for decades in climate advocacy, “many great morally based movements have gained traction at the very moment when young people decided to make that movement their cause”.

This could be a good sign considering young people, young women, seem to be at the forefront of change. Different, real, flawed, diverse, eloquent, young women who are making big things happen. It’s pretty inspiring.

I often wonder about the kind of woman my niece will grow into as a product of the world she’s been inherited. Of a world that’s fought for great new freedoms and has bred unlikely social champions unwilling to watch it burn. A world that’s at a breaking point that has forced kids out of classrooms to stand up and do what adults can no longer be trusted to do.

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

Powerful young female voices being heard worldwide. Photo Credit: Brianna Santellan. Unsplash

In recent years, names like Jamie Margolin (climate change), Emma González (gun control), Marley Diaz (diversity representation), Malala Yousafzai (education for women and girls), Mari Copeny (access to drinkable water) and Zoey Luna (trans youth rights) have proved that Greta is not only not alone in her fight to create awareness – she’s in good company. With more young female voices rising above the static as we stumble into the next decade.

I found the women I looked up to making music, or movies or writing stories. It worked for me – their messages were empowering and helped me define who and how I wanted to be in a lot of ways. It felt a little more self-involved on my side though, more limited. More about changing myself than changing the world. It feels like these kids are changing the world.

At sixteen, Greta is the youngest person to take the title given by the magazine every year. She joins Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Pope Francis in the long list of names who have claimed the cover, which has pleased some and, unsurprisingly, annoyed a few others. The unconventional young hero makes me feel ashamed of myself, but also excited about what she means to girls watching.

The women my niece will look up to are fighting for others. They tear through social convention. They are everywhere. They do everything. And, in a lot of ways, they’re just like her.

Read about the Women’s March that took place in the US