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Following in the shadow of Commissioner Reding

As Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, made her way through the crowds of delegates at the official opening of the IST2006 conference and exhibition in Helsinki on 21 November, a 16-year old Finnish girl by the name of Mikaela quietly follo...

As Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, made her way through the crowds of delegates at the official opening of the IST2006 conference and exhibition in Helsinki on 21 November, a 16-year old Finnish girl by the name of Mikaela quietly followed close behind. She is one of several young girls from around Europe participating in an initiative started by Ms Reding, dubbed 'shadow girls'. It involves matching women CEOs in IT companies or high-level national government policy makers with young girls, the aim being to instil in them an interest in information and communication technologies (ICT). The hope is that the interest will turn into a desire to become a researcher or a business leader. The girls get to follow their mentors over the course of one or several days to find out more about what it is like to work in the sector. 'We have noticed that if we want to boost ICT business, it will be not enough for young men alone to become CEOs and researchers,' Ms Reding told journalists at a press event. Earlier this year, the Commission published 'She Figures 2006', which revealed that although the number of female university graduates is increasing, women's participation in research is generally low across the EU, representing just 18% in the private sector and 35% in the public sector. This is a worrying trend given that Europe needs an extra half a million researchers to meet the EU's Lisbon goal of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy, and women are not filling these posts quickly enough. Speaking to Mikaela, CORDIS News asked her what she had gained from a day of 'shadowing' the Commissioner. 'I have learnt a lot today about IT as a career,' said Mikaela. She explained that she had toured many interesting exhibits which showed just how technology can be used to help people in their everyday lives. 'Before coming here, I had no idea of what I would like to do as a career, but now I am considering IT,' she added. In order for Mikaela's positive message to reach a larger audience, the Commission plans to make a documentary film to record all of the shadow girls' experiences, which will then be sent to schools all around Europe. Mikaela and her fellow shadows will also take part in a special event in Brussels to highlight the issue, which is expected to coincide with European Women's Day on 8 March.