Encouraging women & girls to take up space online

Jayne Cravens
Posted April 23, 2019 from United States

Back in the early 1990s, I went into debt to buy a computer - a Mac Classic II with a black and white screen - and a modem. It came with an America Online account. I didn't have access to this new "Internet" thing at my work, so the first time I logged in, I was at home, via AOL. I learned about online communities before I learned much about email, because I didn't have any friends that had email - I sent postcards to all of my friends with my email address and asked them to contact me if they were online as well - I'll never forget my very first email!

At a later job, also at a nonprofit, I was the internal communications manager - but the marketing manager, a consultant who came in only a few days a month, announced he didn't want anything to do with this "Internet" thing, especially the World Wide Web. I happily accepted those responsibilities: answering emails, participating in online communities on USENET and AOL related to our nonprofit's work, and building and managing web sites for all of our many initiatives. I had so many web responsibilities, I couldn't keep up, and since the organization really wanted more young people involved, I recruited a couple of tech-savvy university students to volunteer with me and help me build and maintain web pages. 

All of this lead to a career I never planned for and couldn't have dreamed: directing the Virtual Volunteering Project at the University of Texas for more than four years, directing the United Nations Online Volunteering service from Germany and helping to manage the United Nations Information Technology Service as well for four years, and becoming a consultant regarding nonprofit communications and community engagement, working all over the world, including Afghanistan, Egypt and Ukraine.

All this time, I've gone out of my way to encourage women and girls to leverage computers and the Internet themselves for their personal and professional aspirations. I want every woman and girl to feel she has the right to take up space on the Internet: to share their opinion, to discuss, to debate, to promote their own work, to learn and to explore. I amplify their voices on Twitter and try to help them via my blog with articles, like

This is how I've tried to build the technology skills to girls and women anywhere. I hope I've played even a small role in encouraging women and girls online - and off. 

The challenges I have faced are those that I continue to face: scarce funding, working in male-dominated environments, online and off, where women's input are ignored or dismissed, and out-and-out hostility, in the form of insults, from men online. What keeps me going? The women who write me and say I have helped. 

25 April is International Girls in ICT Day. I hope my efforts, even this story, has inspired women and girls to take up space on the Internet, in classrooms and in work places around the world. 

Girls in ICT Day
This story was submitted in response to Girls in ICT Day.

Comments 10

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Corine Milano
Apr 23
Apr 23

Thank you Jayne, for sharing your story and expertise! I love the resources you have developed and shared - they are so relevant to the World Pulse community. I am certain your story has—and will continue—to inspire many.

Jayne Cravens
Apr 25
Apr 25

Thank you! I love World Pulse and really need to contribute much more - and encourage the many women I work with in other countries to do so.

Dawn Arteaga
Apr 24
Apr 24

YES! I love your story and the courage you have demonstrated at each turn. Congratulations. I also love your challenge to women and girls to "take up space" - that's something that seems so hard to do - like we don't have that right. But we do! I think especially in places like World Pulse where online bullying is not permitted, it feels easier to take up space and let our true voices out. I hope that more of the internet will reflect this culture down the road.

Jayne Cravens
Apr 25
Apr 25

Thank you!

Jill Langhus
Apr 24
Apr 24

Hi Jayne,

Your story inspired me! Thanks for sharing your story and how you've impacted women and girls.

Hope you're having a great week!

Jayne Cravens
Apr 25
Apr 25

Gracias! Much more work to do...

Jill Langhus
Apr 25
Apr 25

You're welcome:-)

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Such an important message for women and girls to claim their spaces online and off-line!

Jayne Cravens
Apr 25
Apr 25

Thank you!

Hello, Jayne,

You are an ICT she-roe! Thank you for sharing your ICT journey. I still remember my first email add, too! Wow, you'vre written a lot of informative blogs. Thank you for sharing them to us, too. Please keep posting!