22 Oct 2018

Sheboard - challenging stereotypes with your smartphone

You can't have a sustainable world without gender equality, there's no questioning that.  We wanted to know what our partners at Samsung are doing to adress gender equality, so we asked them to write a post about their "Sheboard". We hope you like it! 

Research shows that we talk to, and treat children differently depending on their gender (see sources below). We tend to talk about how capable boys are and how pretty girls are and this may influence their self-esteem and how the children see themselves as they grow up. Today, as we are living increasingly connected lives, young people often refer to their smartphone as the remote control to their lives. It connects us, reflects us and shapes us – just like spoken language.

A group of Finnish girls engaged in Plan International came up with the idea that a smartphone should suggest empowering and positive words that would help them to break down stereotypes and reach their full potential. Together with Plan International Finland and Samsung Nordics, Sheboard was developed. Sheboard is a smartphone keyboard that uses a predictive text input to suggest a more diverse language when talking about girls or women to bring out their full capabilities.

Together with the young women, the team crowdsourced 2,500 empowering words, using AI to scan and analyze texts from female-empowering blogs and publications. Leveraging this database, the keyboard will suggest words for you that is meant to make the user react to what they have originally written, and change that for the better if needed. For example, Sheboard’s predictive text input will offer words such as “bold” and “intelligent” if you type in “girls are.”

Elin Wallberg, Corporate Citizenship & Partnerships Manager at Samsung

“Digitalization and technologies are for everyone and should support an equal and inclusive society. Sheboard is a good example of how stereotypes can be addressed and discussed in practice. We want girls to be able to realize their full potential in the new digital era and Sheboard is a great tool to help us do that”

Sheboard uses technology to help us reflect on – and change – the way we talk to and about girls by challenging the harmful gender norms that hold girls back. While Sheboard isn’t the full solution to gender stereotypes, it’s a way to start thinking and reacting to the way we talk to and about girls with the help of our smartphones.  The next step for Sheboard is a teaching material for schools in Norway and Finland aimed for school children aged 13-18. There are plans to expand this to the rest of the Nordics and world later. This material helps students become aware of the gender stereotypes related to girls and boys, and encourages students to discuss how gender affects for example career choices and the impact of digitalization on women’s and girls’ lives around the world.

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Sources & more reading

  • Combating stereotype threat: The effect of self-affirmation on women’s intellectual performance. Martens, Andy; Johns, Michael; Greenberg, Jeff; Schimelb, Jeff. 2006.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 42(2), 236-243. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2005.04.010.
  • Understanding Factors that Shape Gender Attitudes in Early Adolescence Globally: A Mixed- Methods Systematic Review. Kågesten, Anna; Gibbs, Susannah; Blum, Robert Wm; Moreau, Caroline; Chandra-Mouli, Venkatraman; Herbert; Amin, Avni. 2016. Plos One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157805
  • Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interest. Bian, Lin; Leslie, Sarah-Jane; Cimpian, Andrei. 2017. Science. Vol. 355, Issue 6323, 389-391. DOI: 10.1126/science.aah6524