An open letter to girls: It's time to dream bigger

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Who Helps the World? Girls!

Decades of research show there's one strong difference in what young men and women say they value in a future career: The opportunity to help others. And young women are far more likely to say that they want a job where they can have a positive impact on people and the world around them. This difference helps explain why some careers like school teachers, veterinarians and nurses are made up of more women than men.

We recently celebrated International Day of the Girl, which is all about empowering the girls who will lead and shape our future. In honor of this special day, I invite all girls to take a moment and think about how they might channel their interest in helping others, to helping the world. How? Well a good place to start is by taking a look at the Global Goals.

The Global Goals and you

The UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals for short, are 17 goals focused on making the world a better place for everyone (animals included). It includes goals like ending poverty, ensuring access to quality education and protecting our environment. These are big, challenging problems and solving them requires a generation of people who are passionate and motivated to do good.

And that sounds like a perfect job for… GIRLS!

Working towards solving the Global Goals may sounds like hard work. And it is – that’s why we need lots of diverse, passionate and curious people working on them. I invite you to think about the types of careers you’ve imagined for yourself, then think beyond to how you can take your interests and skills and apply them at a global scale.

Interested in helping to heal the sick?

Perhaps you’ve thought of a career as a nurse. You could also consider working towards Global Goal 3 – Health and Well Being. People working on this goal are interested in reducing preventable deaths around the world. You could lead the charge in improving access to healthcare in impoverished areas or developing programs to reduce substance abuse. This type of work opens up the possibility of helping heal people worldwide, not just in your own community.

Interested in helping animals?

Working as a veterinarian may be the career you’ve dreamed of, but you can also take on Global Goal 15 – Life on Land. You could work towards developing practices that help endangered species and maintain our world’s biodiversity. You could better understand and fight zoonotic diseases that threaten species around the globe. Helping species thrive worldwide can have powerful and lasting impact on our planet.

Interested in helping people learn?

By working on Global Goal 4 – Quality Education, you could channel your passion for teaching to bring education to those who don’t have access to educational resources many of us take for granted. For example, Tania Rosas was recognized by the UN for launching an app to help reduce illiteracy in indigenous populations. Likewise, Siena Castellon was named a UN Young Leader for her work to ensure that students with learning differences get the support they need and deserve in order to be successful.

Interested in all of the above?

To make any headway in solving these important global challenges, we first must understand them. Experts use data and analytics to identify areas of need and measure the success of the strategies designed to address them. Without data and the people who collect and analyze it, we wouldn't know who is most at risk for serious illnesses, which areas of the world are most impacted by deforestation, or where students struggle to receive an education.

Data scientists make it possible for us to better understand and solve the biggest problems in the world. If you're interested in skills that can be used to help in a variety of different ways, you may want to consider a career in data science and analytics!

Help others -- and make an impact!

There are so many ways to take your passion for helping others and channel that energy towards a bigger purpose. You can start by taking a deep dive into the issues at the heart of the Global Goals and explore the data at the heart of some of the world's biggest problems. You can also learn more about the ways in which young women (and men) are leading the way in working towards solving the Global Goals.

Use what you learn as an inspiration to take the issues you care about and consider how applying your talents with a global perspective can have a broader impact. I can envision a world where every girl takes this brave, bold step, and it is beautiful and bright.

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About Author

Jen Sabourin

Jen Sabourin, Ph.D., is a Software Developer and Research Scientist as part of SAS’ Social Innovation Division. Presently, her work is focused on using SAS resources and analytic capabilities to have a positive impact on the world, with a special focus on K-12 education initiatives. Jen holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University where her research focused on artificial intelligence and data mining applications for education. She is also is passionate about broadening participation in technology and data science and introducing students of all ages and backgrounds to the joys of computer science and analytics.

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