This weekend, specifically 8th March, is International Women’s Day and to mark the occasion Mastercard has announced its first South African Girls4Tech programme.

The programme aims to prepare 110 girls aged between nine and 11 for careers in STEM, in particular science and technology. The reason for the focus is a glaring disparity, in Mastercard’s view, with only 13 percent of the local STEM jobs filled by women, despite it being one of the most in-demand areas in terms of careers.

The company further explains that the Girls4Tech programme will feature a hands-on inquiry-based STEM curriculum, with it incorporating Mastercard’s expertise in payments technology and innovation, and including topics such as algorithms, digital convergence and cryptology.

Mastercard employees will also serve as mentors and role models as they guide participants through practical exercises.

“Driving inclusion, and equal opportunity are key priorities at Mastercard,” notes Suzanne Morel, country manager for Mastercard South Africa.

“Through our Girls4Tech programme, we are committed to developing a strong pipeline of talent by encouraging girls to embrace the subjects that will prepare them for the workforce of the future, while helping to reduce the shortage of STEM skills that are needed to boost South Africa’s economy,” she adds.

Morel also hopes that the Girls4Tech programme proves as successful in South Africa, as it has in other parts of the globe.

Since its launch in April 2014, Girls4Tech has reached more than 500 000 girls in 27 countries, including over 1000 girls in South Africa, according to Mastercard. The firm has further committed to reach 1 million girls globally by 2025, and locally additional programmes will be rolled out to schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town later this year.

To find out more about the Girls4Tech programme, head here.