‘Ladies in Tech’ helping female students reach gender equality

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(From left to right) Ladies in Tech’s founders Preap Somanith, Kao Menghorng and Chhum Somnang. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Seeing the gap in access to education and jobs in the field of technology between young men and women, a group of high school students have formed a programme to help young women gain gender equality in this essential field.

Ladies in Tech was formed by three high school students from different schools under UNICEF’s Generation Future 2022 programme.

Kao Menghorng, one of the founders, is studying in the 11th grade at Hun Sen Peam Chi Kang High School in Kampong Cham province’s Kang Meas district.

“The number of women involved in technology is still small compared to men,” she said.

Her two co-founders are Preap Somanit, a grade 11 student at Samdech Akka Moha Thomma Pothisal Chea Sim Prek Anchanh High School, in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district and Chhum Samnang, a grade 11 student at Chbar Ampov High School in Phnom Penh.

They say there are many volunteers involved in the programme, including Emcee Team presenters, graphic designers, content writers, and technical and communications consultants.

To date, the project has trained 30 girls and 10 volunteers from Phnom Penh and other provinces.

“We set up a seven-week online workshop where we train in new topics related to technology, such as in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), networking, web development and the difference between Computer Science and ICT (CS Vs ICT),” Menghorng told The Post.

“We invited speakers who are studying technology at university to share their experiences. In addition to online workshops, we have also established a discussion forum where we have invited speakers to share opportunities in the field of technology,” she added.

17-year-old Mao Dana, a grade 12 student at Sovannaphumi School, is receiving training through the project. She is gaining an understanding of technology systems for women and empowering women in technology.

“I have the opportunity to participate and share knowledge from Ladies in Tech every week. I am gaining technological knowledge that I did not have before. I also receive encouragement and guidance and get to meet a lot of talented people,” Dana told The Post.

Ladies in Tech is not only addressing the issue of gender inequality in technology, but also has a clear plan to promote more girls and women in the sector. This is why Ladies in Tech was selected to be a part of UNICEF Cambodia’s Generation Future 2022 project.

“We also received coaching and support from our coach, Jamie Raine,” said Menghorng.

Subjects like CS and ICT, as well as how those technologies work, and how to create a personal website, all provide opportunities for jobs and careers in the field.

Heng Sotheany, a 16-year-old grade 11 student at Beltei International School, spoke about the benefits of taking Ladies in Tech training in the technology age, including the use of sophisticated devices such as mobile phones and laptops and many other electronic devices.

“I learned about all the equipment, how it was made, how necessary it was and how to create a website,” she said.

She believes that Ladies in Tech is a great programme that provides opportunities for students to develop their skills beyond traditional learning.

The 11th grade student said it was also an opportunity to meet new friends and volunteer with strangers, which used to be a challenge for high school students like her.

“I am currently volunteering for the Ladies in Tech project. I work in a communications team that oversees the presence of members who attend each training session,” Sotheany told The Post.

Although the participation of women in technology is still limited, the workshops have spread to students in the provinces.

Ly Houyling, a 15-year-old grade 10 student at Kampong Speu High School, also attends the classes. She is learning what AI is, how to use AI in any industry, and exploring networking and website design, including several STEM skills.

She said she has gained a lot of experience and met many mentors, including Menghorng, who is a role model to her in the field of technology.

“I learned to build a website through Web Flow that does not require coding. Sometimes I do not fully understand what the instructor is teaching, but at least I know what software I need to use to do it,” she said.

“I will be up-to-date because we will use the knowledge we gain a lot. Technology will eventually permeate everywhere, including the workplace and business management,” she said, as she completed week six of the seven week course.

Menghorng, cited one of main reasons for the slow increase in girls and women’s participation in the field of technology is the individual mindset that the subject is only suitable for men, along with the lack of motivation and training opportunities to participate in this field.

“I expect that when receiving the training as well as through the workshops we have organised, our trainees from different cities and provinces will learn more about technology through sharing topics and encouragement from our speakers,” she said.

The founder acknowledged that the implementation of the Ladies in Tech project encountered a number of issues, such as limited time management, as the attendees are all high school students.

One other issue is that managing all 40 members, including trainees and volunteers, requires strong leadership. It was only possible thanks to the support and assistance of coaches, as well as the Generation Future 2022, she said.