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Cracking the Gender Code. A 20-year longitudinal study in 6 months

Why are there so few women in computing? Jobs are plentiful – demand exceeds supply – and they pay well. Simple, right? Girls don’t like computers.

But that’s rubbish. At primary school age, girls and boys have similar interest levels. It’s at secondary school that their interest declines relative to boys.

Girls Who Code (GWC), a US-based NGO, asked Accenture Research to investigate this conundrum – and to suggest how they might help solve it.

In an ideal world, we would have conducted a longitudinal study, tracking a group of girls from birth to college. But we didn’t have 20 years; we had about 6 months.

Ultimately, we needed to build a quantitative model; Girls Who Code wanted to understand what interventions would make a difference – and what impact they would have on the pipeline of women into computing.

Phase 1: Identifying the problem

However, before even beginning to think about questionnaire design, we needed to understand the mindset of girls – and their wider ecosystem of support (e.g., parents, teachers, friends).

But who knows what goes on inside a teenager’s head? Sure, we’ve all been teenagers. Some of you might today be parents/carers for teenagers. But can any of us, hand on heart, say they understand what teenagers think and feel? Do we understand the language they use? And the relationship these digital natives have with ubiquitous technology?

We also needed to consider how best to tap into insights from different groups: A traditional focus group might be intimidating for younger girls – and we needed to get their parents onboard for legal as well as research reasons. And how could we tap into the energy and natural curiosity of high-school girls?

We turned to PSB for help, and through extensive desk research and brainstorming sessions, settled on a ‘Community Case Study’ approach. Mimicking the life-journey that makes or breaks a girl’s interest in computing we not only needed to speak to girls of different ages, but also to other life stakeholders who shape a teenager’s development. This of course meant that we needed to tailor our methodology to each audience we spoke to: Ethnographic ‘kitchen-table’ discussions with primary school girls, their friends and their parents; fun conflict or ‘swing’ groups with high-school girls to learn the language they use to advocate a career in computing; classic focus groups with coding students and young professionals to better understand the life stories behind their decision in favour of computing.

And, given the huge role of societal factors, we wanted to follow an anthropologist-like approach by selecting two contrasting cities, Atlanta and New York, in which we spoke with more than 150 people.

Phase 2: Framing the solution

We used the language and insights from the case studies to build an online quantitative survey which was answered by ~9000 individuals drawn from the same groups as the community case studies.

We combined this survey data with labour force statistics into a model to identify the factors that most influence girls’ decisions to pursue computing further at each stage of their educational journey.

The model allowed us to show how the proportion of women could rise from 24% to 39% by acting on the most positively influential factors – and was also used to calculate the associated $299 billion uplift in women’s earnings.

Pleasingly, the barriers we identified in the community case studies were very strongly evidenced during the subsequent quantitative analysis. The need to spark interest at middle school; sustain interest at high school; and inspire interest in college, were all suggested by the qual – then proved by the quant.

The research within “Cracking the Gender Code” has supported the work of GWC by helping the organization tell the story of the gender gap in tech and make the case for interventions earlier in the academic pipeline.

The report has been used by GWC to rally support to programmes which have reached 185,000 girls across the United States. GWC founder and CEO Reshma Saujani said: “In order to create a more equitable tech industry, we have to understand the extent of the problem – how many girls and women are participating in the field, when they drop out of tech, and why. The research within the Accenture and Girls Who Code report “Cracking the Gender Code” has been invaluable as we work to rally support for our programs, for solutions to closing the gender gap in tech.”

Read the full report.

 

About the authors

Dominic King is a Senior Principal at Accenture Research. Accenture Research is a team of ~300 researchers and analysts across 23 countries. It shapes trends and creates data-driven insights about the most pressing issues global organizations face.

Brita Cooper is a Project Manager at PSB. With roots in innovative political campaign strategy, today PSB are a full-service research insights agency engaging blue-chip organizations across all sectors.

Successful parenting – Harnessing aspirations to save lives in rural India

India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, still loses 300,000 young lives each year to pneumonia and diarrhea, diseases that we have the tools to prevent. If practiced together, handwashing with soap at key occasions (HWWS) and complete immunization, two of the most cost-effective child survival interventions, could significantly reduce under 5 mortality. Lifebuoy, Unilever’s leading health soap brand and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an innovative public-private partnership working to immunise children in the world’s poorest countries, came together to design an integrated communication platform called ‘Safal Shuruaat’. Translated as ‘Successful Beginning’, the program harnesses parents’ aspirations for their child’s success to help mobilise parents to handwash with soap at key occasions, immunize their children and other key parenting behaviours. The program aims to achieve sustained behaviour change in handwashing with soap and immunization under the ‘aspirational’ umbrella of successful parenting as a communication platform to save lives of young children and help them reach a better potential while intervening in the first 2 years: bringing down the under 5 mortality rates. Safal Shuruaat is being implemented by a consortium led by GroupM, with Kantar as the research partner responsible for monitoring and evaluation.

A successful start

‘Safal Shuruaat’ has been implemented in an initial two pilot districts in Uttar Pradesh, India.  Further scale-up in 12 additional districts is planned for the second half of 2019. The program takes parents of children under 2 years on an engaging journey through a series of village events, home visits, and a group encounter at the rural childcare centres and school.

The overall research design, provides 360-degree support to program implementation, with multiple components set out with the following objectives:

  • Formative: To understand the status quo and build a hypothesis that could be tested and utilized to inform initial program design and strategy.
  • Concurrent Monitoring (initial two pilot districts):To track key indicators on handwashing and immunization in synergy with the pilot intervention roll-out, and provide strategic inputs for course correction through learning, preparing the program for scale up.
  • Impact Evaluation: To estimate the effectiveness and impact of the program on the knowledge, attitudes, intents and practices around handwashing and immunization by comparing treatment and control groups (pre-and post-intervention) in the scale-up phase.
  • Sustainability Measurement: To capture behaviour regression and relapse to understand the intervention’s contribution to sustained behaviour change.
  • Documenting and Dissemination: To capture and record ‘positive deviance’, capturing insightful stories and creating a strong learning & sharing culture with internal as well as external stakeholders.

The Formative research formative research included 800 face to face CAPI assisted quantitative surveys with parents of under 2 years, along with 70 qualitative activities with key influencers and enablers, including extended family members, village heads, and field-level workers. Findings showed that parents broadly considered children’s health issues to be beyond their span of control and an unavoidable part of their life. Childcare practices were mostly governed by prevalent social beliefs, norms and rituals, which potentially contributed to the low uptake of suggested practices, even though promoted by front line health workers.

Concurrent monitoring was undertaken for a period of 10 months across 108 villages. Six monitoring touch points took place before and after program visits; each program visit covering progressive modules on HWWS, immunization and parenting. In a sample of about 4000 respondents engaged during the monitoring, a longitudinal panel sample of 320 households was followed to enable a deeper dive into handwashing behaviours.

The first round of concurrent monitoring (MV0) set up a baseline for knowledge, attitudes and practice indicators on HWWS, immunization as well as relevance of these in being a successful parent.

The incidence of handwashing post defecation was as low as 13% at the baseline and showed a rise of 53% within 6 months (MV4 after 3 program visits). The high engagement strategy, including the use of engaging audio-visual aides, managed to target other handwashing occasions as well. The incidence of handwashing with soap by the mothers before breastfeeding a child rose from 2.7% to 14.8 percent. In terms of the proportions, the percentage of people never washing hands post defecation dropped from 86.1 to 29.3 percent. These trends were similar for cross-sectional as well as the longitudinal panel participants.

The Mother and Child Protection Card (MCP Card) is an essential tool[1]designed to inform and educate the mother and family on different aspects of maternal and childcare, linking maternal and childcare into a continuum of care[2]. The program stresses the importance of using the MCP card and keeping it safe. Monitoring at MV4 showed an increase of 12 percentage points from the baseline (85.2%).  The compliance for three priority vaccines – Rotavirus, Measles Rubella and Pentavalent – relevant for children under the age of 2, grew by 45%[3], 35% and 20% points respectively.

Several social and religious constraints also act as barriers to immunisation uptake. Breaking down misunderstandings and finding a way to leverage or transform social norms becomes critical if we are to increase the uptake of vaccines.

Finally, the parenting component, which was the foundation of the integrated communication platform was also monitored. Awareness of key parenting behaviours, including the understanding of the need to bond with the child, ensure adequate nutrition and maintain hygiene behaviours increased by 18%, 23% and 11% points respectively. With respect to washing own hands with soap and getting the child immunized positive trends with a 2% rise in vaccination and 11% in handwashing was reported as actions to be a good parent.

The data was analysed to examine differences in the cohort exposed to specific program visits with access to assets distributed vis-à-vis the others. The proportion of people, who received the handwashing station always washing hands with soap post defecation was 10% higher than who did not receive. Similarly, the more exposures to the program visits the higher the proportion of ‘always washing hands with soap post defecation’. An immunization calendar was given to parents to facilitate reminders around immunization dates. The ones who received the calendar showed 12%-point higher compliance for pentavalent vaccine, 11% points higher for rotavirus vaccine and 15% points higher compliance for measles-rubella vaccine as compared to the cohort that did not receive it.

This project has been a rich learning experience for each of the stakeholders and the 360-degree research component has played a critical role from strategizing and creative design right through to implementation and monitoring. At the end of the 3-year program Safal Shuruaat will have reached 5000 villages and a minimum of 300,000 households with children under 2 years.

[1]Developed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.

[2]Implemented through the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme of Ministry of Women and Child Development and the National Health Mission (NHM) of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW)

[3]Rotavirus was introduced during the period of the programme so the increase of 45% is measured between MV1 and MV4

 

About the Authors:

Pallavi Dhall, Director- Research Services, Kantar

Esha Sheth, Sr. Global Brand Manager, Lifebuoy Social Mission, Hindustan Unilever

Susan Mackay, Technical Lead, Demand Generation, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Surya AV, CEO-South Asia, Public Division, Kantar

Smita Singh, Senior Director, Groupm Media India (Pvt). Ltd.

Carol Szeto, Senior Country Manager, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Abhishek Singh, Senior Director, Groupm  Media India (Pvt). Ltd.

Pradakshana Kaul, Assistant Manager, Lifebuoy social mission, Hindustan Unilever