GIRLS ARE RAISED BY WORDS – let's choose the right ones.
The way we talk to girls impacts their self-esteem. Research shows that we talk differently to children depending on their gender. We talk to boys about their abilities. We talk to girls about their bodies. Boys are brave. Girls are pretty. Most of us do this unconsciously. With Sheboard, Plan makes us reflect on whether we use gender-neutral language – while typing with our phones.
Across many contexts, girls and boys are being “socialised into” and taught gendered attitudes, norms and expectations about their behaviours, value and future role right from birth. These are potentially limiting for both sexes, but evidence suggests that gendered norms have a particularly profound impact on the agency and empowerment of girls and on their expectations for the future.
By the time they reach primary school, girls may already have a clear idea of how they are expected to behave, how they are valued and what their future role will be.
Sheboard is a mobile keyboard that helps us reflect on how we talk to and about girls. Using predictive text input, it suggests to use more diverse language and words when talking about girls or women. Sheboard can also be the voice that reminds girls of their full potential; it reminds of their versatile skills and equal possibilities.
How it works
Unique dictionary with over 2500 empowering words
The predictions of the app were constructed with a base dictionary and a word chart with our bespoke suggestions. To create the base, we chose female-empowering blogs and publications and analysed the texts with AI. This dictionary generates suggestions in the same way that any mobile keyboard would. The system also learns from the user to make the experience more user-friendly.
We created a chart of over 2 500 words that override the standard suggestions. These are the core of the app; the Sheboard suggestions that make our language more diverse and gender-neutral.
To amplify the campaign, we had spokespeople donating sentences to Sheboard. Each spokeswoman chose a sentence that they would have needed to hear and believe in as a child.
Launch at Slush
Sheboard was launched in the world's leading startup event, Slush, on November 30th. The theme for the event in 2017 was Call for Solvers: "how should we use technologies to serve us, world’s population and the universe". The program was based on the insight that technology can be used for good or bad, no matter if we're talking about sustainability, social issues or personal lives. That's what Sheboard is about; an innovative way of using technology for good. Thus, it was a perfect match to launch the keyboard in the event. The app was presented by teenaged girls from Finland and Uganda.
Pre-launch at Women & tech breakfast
The day before Slush, start-up accelerator Vertical arranged a Women & tech breakfast event with the theme “Impact of Technology in Society”. Accordingly, Sheboard soft launch was organized in the event. Plan International Suomi introduced the application and initiative, followed by a panel discussion and free conversation. Sheboard was used "as a base to dig deeper into the subject of impactful technology".
Sheboard has been covered by almost every Finnish media outlet and noted in different online communities such as parental, female empowering and sexual health related. It was also referred to be one of the key takeaways from Slush. The summed-up reach of Finnish media is more than 2,5 million.
The global editorial reach is more than 600 million. The campaign has been noted in media everywhere around the world; from Ukraine to Turkey, from India to Mexico. It was noticed and shared in every continent. Social discussions varied from the discriminative nature of algorithms to parents’ self-reflection.
Sheboard is currently is the process of being localized to other languages and keeps further growing being a global phenomenon. The innovation and initiative is widely discussed also outside the western world, e.g. in Brazil, and works as a global discussion starter, influencing millions of people in their direct behaviour.