Joanne 8

Joanne's story to enlighten NY conference

[caption id="attachment_71266" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Joanne O'Riordan and her cousin, Denise O'Riordan."]

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On Thursday, April 26, leaders from United Nations agencies and top information communications companies will gather in New York to debate ways on how to close the technology gender gap. One of the main questions on the floor will be "If opportunities abound, and demand and salaries are high, what is holding young women back from working in technology?"

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According to a specialized agency at the United Nations responsible for information and communication technologies (International Telecom­munication Union), the percentage of young women earning computer science degrees in the 1980s was more than twice what it is today.

Today, girls are excelling at sciences, and in many countries now make up the majority of students earning bachelor's degrees. But when it comes to career choice, they are opting for fields like medicine and bio-tech, rather than computing and technology.

To put a spotlight on the issue worldwide, the UN agency has organized a high-level global "Girls in Tech Day" conference.

Some of the world's leading women in technology from Microsoft and Google will explore ways to encourage young women around the world to play a greater role in the technology revolution.

And outstanding women and girls who have been empowered by technology and have compelling stories to tell will share the stage.

One special guest is Joanne O'Riordan, a 15-year-old from Millstreet, Cork who will talk about how technology has helped her advance her life through education and social interaction with others.

Paul Connelly, an Irish media adviser for the UN based in Geneva, saw Joanne on RTE's "Late Late Show" last year and realized she would be a terrific inspirational speaker for the tech talk.

Joanne appeared on the show to discuss how she persuaded the Irish government to rethink cuts to disability payments. You see, Joanne was born with total Amelia syndrome and is one of only seven known people in the world born without arms or legs due to the rare genetic condition.

On the show, she explained how she met Enda Kenny during his election campaign and he personally guaranteed her that there would be no cuts to disability benefit. That night she charmed host Ryan Tubridy and a national audience.

This week, Joanne is about to fulfill a dream and travel to New York where she will talk at the global girls in technology conference about the benefits technology has for everyone - not just those who have disabilities.

Joanne is the first person with a disability to be invited to this conference and will travel to New York with her mom, dad and brother.

Joanne's inspirational story will reach an even wider audience with the release of an upcoming documentary currently in pre-production. Developed by her director brother, Steven, and producer, Adrian Devane and with Irish Film Board (IFB) funding, the film will tell Joanne's extraordinary life story.

The working title is "No Limbs, No Limits" and the producers hope it will have a positive effect on how people perceive those with disabilities while encouraging girls to get more tech savvy.

If the information sector needs more girls, and global companies are increasing the number of women in these roles, then Joanne's story will possibly inspire them to take another look at the ways technology can empower them socially, educationally and financially.

Joanne's recent appearance on Ireland's "Late Late Show" can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/vmx5Sd. For more information on the Girls in Tech campaign, go to http://girlsinict.org/what-girls-ict-day.