INTERVIEW: Suzanne Morel, Country Manager, Mastercard, Powering Women in South Africa

August 17, 2020
Posted in Article
August 17, 2020 Tumelo Moloi

Mastercard has extended access to its signature STEM curriculum, Girls4Tech™, through a suite of new online, creative educational resources. The programme has been designed to help parents and teachers engage and inspire kids, ages eight to 12.

Through the newly launched website Girls4Tech Connect, as well as through activities made in collaboration with Mastercard’s education partner Scholastic, teachers and parents can download lessons to help students learn about STEM topics, from the comfort of their homes.

These activities are built on global science and maths standards – and incorporate Mastercard’s deep expertise in payments technology and innovation – to enable children to discover a range of STEM careers, such as Fraud Detective, Data Scientist and Software Engineer.

Now in its sixth year, Girls4Tech has engaged more than 800,000 students across the globe – including more than a 1,000 in South Africa – through inquiry-based activities and real-world challenges, all with the goal of inspiring more girls to pursue STEM careers and reduce the gender gap in these fields. Recently, Mastercard launched its first 2020 South African Girls4Tech programme at Phoenix College in Johannesburg where it reached 110 girls aged between nine and 11.

“We know that these are challenging times for parents and teachers on many fronts and hope that these learning resources are a fun way to engage and inspire kids about STEM while at home,” says Suzanne Morel, Country Manager, South Africa at Mastercard. “The easy access to the website enhances what we’ve done in so many workshops in South Africa. We look forward to building on both efforts when it’s once again safe to gather in person.”

Each week, new activities will be posted on the Girls4Tech website, Facebook page and Twitter handle. Lessons are currently available in English.

While all lessons are designed for students to work independently, materials are also available for teachers to guide online sessions.

Impact Highlights from the First Six Years

  • To date, Girls4Tech has reached more than 800,000 girls in 27 countries and on 6 continents.
  • The programme has engaged more than 4,400 employee mentors worldwide.
  • Mastercard has partnered with Scholastic, Be Better China, Major League Baseball, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), R&A and YCAB in Indonesia to further scale the programme and offer STEM skills in unique ways to girls ages 8-16.
  • As technology skills evolve, a new curriculum was launched in 2019 to give students deeper exposure to the growing fields of cybersecurity and AI – Girls4Tech Cybersecurity & AI.
  • Girls4Tech programs also extend to girls ages 13-16 with Girls4Tech 2.0, as well as a 20-week coding programme, Girls4Tech & Code for girls 8-10.

We spoke to Suzanne Morel, Country Manager, South Africa at Mastercard and this is what she had to say about Girls4Tech™ Connect:

Please tell us more about Mastercard’s signature STEM curriculum?

Girls4Tech is Mastercard’s award-wining, signature education programme aimed at inspiring and preparing young girls aged 8 – 12 for careers in science and technology.

The curriculum was created in conjunction with Mastercard’s top engineers and technologists to teach the foundations of STEM through a fun, engaging curriculum.

In South Africa, Mastercard has hosted various Girls4Tech workshops at primary schools, where girls visit three stations, each themed around a specific STEM topic –  Algorithms, Cryptology and Digital Convergence. Mastercard employees serve as mentors and role models, and guide participants through the engaging, hands-on exercises.

In March 2020, due to social distancing requirements, Mastercard extended access to Girls4Tech through a suite of new online, creative educational resources. Through the newly launched website Girls4Tech Connect, teachers and parents can download lessons to help students learn about STEM topics from the comfort of their homes.

Why is STEM critical in South Africa?

STEM-related jobs are still the most in-demand jobs in South Africa, yet only 13% of graduates in STEM fields are women, despite the country being ranked 17th out of 153 countries in the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report.

Driving inclusion, and equal opportunity are key priorities at Mastercard. 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.

STEM skills are not only critical in giving women a leg up in the job market, but they can also help to boost their earning potential.

How many South African students have benefited from Girls4Tech?

Since we launched Girls4Tech in South Africa in 2017, we have reached over 1000 girls through our face-to-face workshops, and many more through our online programme, Girls4Tech Connect.

Globally, Girls4Tech has reached over 970,000 girls in 27 countries. Mastercard has further committed to reach 1 million girls globally by 2025.

In South Africa, from which communities/provinces are girls mostly participating from?

As our offices are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg, we have focused on rolling out the face-to-face workshops to schools based in those communities. Through Girls4Tech Connect, we are pleased to extend the reach beyond these communities, as anyone can access and benefit from the online programme.

Is the website zero-rated?

This is an international website and is not zero rated.

What are some of the topics students are learning about on Girls4Tech?

Girls4Tech offers topics such as algorithms, cybersecurity, data privacy, cryptology and Artificial Intelligence. These activities are built on global science and math standards to enable children to discover a range of STEM careers, such as Fraud Detective, Data Scientist and Software Engineer.

Will Mastercard be continuing to advance online learning beyond the pandemic?

Girls4Tech Connect will be accessible post the pandemic, enabling parents and teachers to access the interactive activities online. The programme continues to evolve, with new activities posted on a weekly basis on the Girls4Tech ConnectFacebook page and Twitter handle


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