A new predictive language app suggests alternative words that can empower girls
Research has shown that people talk differently to children depending on their gender. Without even realising it, adults tend to talk to boys in terms of their abilities, but to girls in terms of their looks. Over time, this difference can affect how children, and in particular girls, see themselves, and can affect their self-confidence. Finnish child rights organisation Plan International, in conjunction with Samsung Electronics Nordic, decided to try and change this unconscious behaviour with a predictive text app. Sheboard seeks to empower girls by raising awareness of the impacts of gendered speech.
As users are typing, Sheboard will suggest gender neutral words as well as words that are designed to empower girls, such as “I’m capable” and “I deserve”. The app also swaps stereotypical expressions with those that are more positive. The goal is to remind girls about the qualities and abilities they have. In the words of Nora Lindström, Plan’s Global Coordinator for Digital Development, “We want to help people see the impact that words have, and make them consider ways in which they can change how they talk in order to empower girls.”
In developing the app, Plan had girls and women of different ages contribute their personal empowerment phrases. Plan acknowledges that technological innovations in and of themselves won’t change gender-stereotypical behaviour. However, the hope is that the app will lead to a greater awareness and understanding of these issues and in Finland and elsewhere. The app is currently available on Google Play. Sheboard joins other girls-power products such as an app that adds augmented reality statues of remarkable women to public places and toys designed to encourage girls to enter STEM fields. What other ways are there in which technology can help empower girls?