Technology and Role Models Enabling New Life Trajectories For Women

Primary tabs

Technology and Role Models Enabling New Life Trajectories For Women

Combining the powers of new communication technologies and role modeling can help challenge gender stereotypes and transform lives of girls and women around the world, as demonstrated by ConnectEd, a Signature program of the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation.
tweet me:
Technology and role models enabling new life trajectories for women Blog post by @eeude director @ALU_Foundation #IWD
Saturday, March 8, 2014 - 8:30am

Imagine the scene (or see it in action): a young local woman carrying a laptop in a bag, striding purposefully down a rough street in a migrant community on the outskirts of Delhi, weaving her way through the rubbish and open drains, and eventually reaching a simple classroom, full of girls and boys, where she sits down on a mat on the concrete floor, unzips her bag, takes out her laptop and starts teaching the days lessons…

In many such communities where Alcatel-Lucent Foundation’s signature program – ConnectEd - operates, access to computers and ICT proficiency is still associated with power, social status and men. The visible presence of these female ConnectEd teachers, themselves recently disadvantaged and of low caste, going off to work with a laptop in hand and committed to improving the lives of children in the community, has proven to be a powerful way to not just improve teaching and learning quality, but to help break down gender norms and provide important female role models.

The transformative power of role models is something we know well at both our organizations – Alcatel-Lucent Foundation and World Education – and our partnership in implementingConnectEd has allowed us to utilize role modeling to its max to help set girls on new trajectories.The majority of the young girls ConnectEd works with do not have many role models in their daily lives that can inspire them to take a different path in life, or to open their eyes to other possibilities for women. Over the last three years of running ConnectEd, currently in five countries across the globe, again and again we have seen local female program staff, facilitators and Alcatel-Lucent female employees truly making a difference - by teaching, by taking an interest in individual girls’ lives, by sharing experiences, providing encouragement, and perhaps most importantly by simply showing there are ‘other ways of being’ for women.

Not surprisingly, the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation and World Education have been quick off the mark to harness the power of technology to increase the impact of role modeling. Online video interactions between Alcatel-Lucent senior female staff such as Christine Diamente, Alcatel-Lucent Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability, and Radwa Hafez (Sales Operations Head for the META region) and young girls in Australia and India have been hugely inspiring, with the women explaining their own life journeys and encouraging the girls to follow their dreams and beliefs. Using ICT in this way has connected these young girls with women they would never have met, and opened their horizons to new possibilities. Learning how other women have managed to do it has the potential to expand these girls’ hope, push the limit of what seems possible and challenge the status quo. Technology has allowed ConnectEd girls to get this type of support and motivation from women across the world. In our hugely successful International Day of the Girl social media campaign, women from Alcatel-Lucent offices around the world took time to post photos of themselves and their banners pledging their commitment to girls’ rights and toConnectEd. 

There have been many other ways we have used technology in our role-modeling and mentoring approaches. In Brazil, for instance, technology is used to ensure that ConnectEd’s support for youth does not finish once they finish the training courses and are placed in jobs. Through online contact via Facebook or email and phone calls, local coordinators continue to give guidance as the youth deal with the challenges of their new job. Campus in the Cloud, also a signature program of the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation, is another fantastic example of how technology is being used byConnectEd to bring new role-models into the lives of the girls we serve.

In this video, see girls in India watching and discussing videos on how to get a job and the importance of education, made by Alcatel-Lucent women thousands of miles away:

Reports and data coming out of ConnectEd show beyond doubt the effect that role-modeling is having. Alcatel-Lucent women in each country have had a huge part to play - training teachers and youth in ICT, co-facilitating workshops on social media, financial literacy, careers; or giving interview simulations.

“I am really confident now because I know how to look for a job and how I should behave! I am also much happier and confident about my future,” said Cleissa, from Brazil, just one of many ConnectEd girls across all ConnectEdcountries who have visited Alcatel-Lucent offices and met Alcatel-Lucent women, who showed them a different world, new career pathways, and advised them on how to do successful job interviews, write resumes and behave in the workplace.

Regular tutoring activities that help students with difficult subjects such as English and math have had a great impact on girls’ learning and development. For example, a group of staff in Indonesia went on a regular basis to the ConnectEd site to tutor youth preparing for their national high school exams and ended up becoming a strong source of inspiration and motivation for their ambitions and career planning more generally.

Across all the ConnectEd countries, the stories of lives that have changed through the program’s approach give great cause for hope: “ConnectEd  prepared me for a new life and taught me to dream and to hope for a better future,” commented Monique, a ConnectEd Brazil student; Rachel from Australia reported that her maturity and confidence has increased as a result of ConnectEd; and before ConnectEd, Ritu in India expected to marry young like her sisters. Now, she is one of only a few girls who have been able to complete Class 12 and continue her studies to become an accountant.

This International Women’s Day we are celebrating the thousands of Moniques, Rachels and Ritus whose lives have changed as a result of ConnectEd, and we are remembering the role that technology and role modeling has had in helping us get here. Visit and post on our ConnectEd Facebook page to celebrate with us, and see our special International Women’s Day montage showcasing the Alcatel-Lucent women and the girls who have connected and grown through the program. Read our complementary blog on the Huffington Post. And, to find out how to volunteer your own time, take a look at the volunteering manual on the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation website.

In partnership with the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation, World Education, Inc. is implementing the ConnectEd program in five countries across the globe. The program aims to help disadvantaged youth, with a focus on girls and young women, achieve better learning outcomes, be better prepared for the world of work, and engage meaningfully in their communities. ConnectEd focuses especially on the use of technology to transform learning, work and life outcomes for its young participants. 

Keywords: Education | Community | Corporate Social Responsibility | Diversity | Education | Engagement | Equality Means Business | International Women's Day | Social Change | Technology | UN Global Compact