Those we have left behind

It’s International Women’s Day today and whilst we celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of women at work and at home and the progress we have made in gender equality and reflect on how much more we have to do, I became conscious that a group of women and girls (and children at large) will continue to remain invisible, unacknowledged and at threat.

We had a great All Hands today in Microsoft APAC, opening with a video from Microsoft about women inventors and to inspire young girls to consider a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It was a funny video and a sobering reminder of how we still have a lot of ways to go.

For the closing session of the All Hands, we had Angeline Martyn from Save the Children join us to share the work that Save the Children is doing in Asia. She was an inspiring speaker and a force for change in Asia.untitled

And the contrast of the situation faced by the girls in the opening video and the girls described in Angeline’s compelling story telling during her session could not be more stark.

Angeline shared some sobering statistics: every 11 minutes, a child under the age of 5 dies. Many of these deaths are from preventable causes. And 46% of these deaths happen in Asia. Girls are often more vulnerable and at risk than boys. She also spoke about children she met from the T’boli tribe in Mindanao, The Philippines, where girls are being married off as early as  at the age of 9 even though they aspire to marry and have kids much later in life. Sadly, their childhood ends prematurely, and their potential to do more and be more and to pursue their dreams has already ended even before it really began. And finally, how so much of the next generations of potential young women in Asia who could be the next inventor or who could have a promising career are dropping out of school for so many different reasons (lack of schools, long distances to travel, lack of finances, and lack of facilities such as toilets to name but a few of the things we in developed areas of the world take so much for granted)

Without taking away from the Microsoft video (which is a great and inspiring video), I felt like we are focusing on the battle and not the war. A bunch of young girls in the developed world who are safe, well-nourished and have the privilege an education do still need to be inspired to join STEM fields because we need the talent, but a larger population of girls in the world remain at risk of being deprived of the opportunity for them to contribute to their world and our world to their full potential.

So, whilst many corporations and much of the developed world today focus on the issue of gender diversity, gender representation in leadership and how to encourage girls considering a STEM career, I am glad and proud that Microsoft and our leaders choose to shine the spotlight on the issue of the many women and girls (and children) who remain marginalized and on the fringe and are at risk of being left behind if nothing is done.

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