#BeBoldForChange: Making Education More Accessible for Women and Girls

  • 3 Min Read

D2L COO Cheryl Ainoa talks about how equal access to education unlocks opportunities and human potential.

What can I do to make opportunities more accessible to women and girls?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering after reading our CEO John Baker’s post on the International Women’s Day website. He closes by writing: “On International Women’s Day, I think it’s important for educators —  and those of us who support them — to #BeBoldForChange and think about the role we can play in providing equal access to education for all.”

One of the ways I’m involved in improving access is where I’ve chosen to work. D2L’s mission is to help transform the way the world learns. We envision a world where learning can be accessible, engaging and inspiring. Access to education is an important part of that. Providing equal access to everyone is the key to unlocking opportunities and human potential.

The inverse is also true. According to UNESCO, almost a quarter of young women aged 15 to 24 (116 million) in developing countries have never completed primary school and, because of this, lack the necessary skills for decent-paying jobs.

Technology can help. The growth in mobile devices worldwide has created new opportunities to deliver education. As we’ve seen in our work with MEDA, using technology to make education more accessible can allow women to get the training they need to help grow the economies of their communities. I’m proud — and excited — about the role Brightspace can play in making education accessible for far more learners.

In developed nations, the challenges can be different. While education may be more accessible to women, possibility doesn’t always translate into participation. I’ve seen this first-hand; I was one of two women in my electrical engineering undergraduate class. Not surprisingly, once I graduated, I worked on teams with few women. In fact, across North America, women hold about a quarter of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs.

Yet, there’s good reason for organizations to work to become more diverse. Attracting diversity isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also smart business. Studies show that diverse teams deliver more business value. For all leaders, especially in innovative sectors, finding ways to attract a diverse talent base is an important component of building and growing high-performing teams. And, one of the best ways to attract and retain people with different talents, skills and perspectives is to create an organizational culture that works well for everyone – an accessible culture.

That sounds like a call to revolution, but, in my experience, it’s the small things that can have a huge impact. A few years back, I worked at a company that wanted to highlight the smart women we had through the Anita Borg Institute’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. I asked people leaders to identify women working on cool projects, and also asked them to reach out — through an actual face-to-face conversation, rather than a blanket email — to encourage them to submit a proposal for presentation. The result? We tripled the number of women presenting. Smart women had a chance to profile their great work. Small steps matter.

I’ve been fortunate; I’ve built an interesting, fulfilling career in technology, working with some incredibly talented people — women and men — building and delivering some very cool products. My pledge as a leader to #BeBoldForChange is to build a technology platform that helps make education more accessible for everyone. And, as a leader at D2L, I pledge to help create a culture where all kinds of people can do their best work and make their contribution to reaching every learner and transforming the way the world learns.

Happy International Women’s Day!