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.
According to various research we talk differently to children depending on their gender. We talk to boys about their abilities. We talk to girls about their bodies. This influences how they see themselves.
Sheboard can also be the voice that reminds girls of their full potential; it reminds of their versatile skills and equal possibilities.
Why was Sheboard created?
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.
Sheboard was created in order to challenge harmful gender stereotypes which affect all of us.
All this starts very early. Already during the first years of a child's life children learn the gendered norms, attitudes and expectations of their society, meaning that by the time they reach primary school, girls and boys may already have a clear idea of how they are expected to behave, how they are valued and what their future role will be.
This is why Sheboard is not only meant for young people themselves but for all, to change the way we talk and think.
What kind of research is there to support the idea girls and boys are spoken to differently?
There is a wealth of evidence which shows that we talk differently about and to children of different genders. There is also evidence on how the way people are talked to impact on their socialisation, including gender socialisation.
For example, in a recent study researchers found that by the age of six, girls were learning the common stereotype that associates high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with men more than women. This means that many girls believe that men will do better in fields associated with brilliance – such as physics and mathematics. Not only were girls aged six less likely than boys to say that their own gender is “really, really smart”: this stereotype appeared to already be shaping their interests (for instance, the girls were less likely to opt into a game described as “being for super-smart kids”) and, therefore, potentially narrowing the range of careers they would one day contemplate.
Who created Sheboard?
Plan International Finland together with girls and young women of different ages and partners created the concept and application. Sheboard is supported by Samsung Electronics Nordic.
How is Sheboard funded?
Sheboard’s development has been supported by Samsung Electronics Nordic who has contributed with funding to the software development of the application and their knowledge of mobile technologies. Sheboard application is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Plan International Finland’s work to advance girls’ rights in the developing countries is supported by individual, corporate and institutional donors.
Who is Sheboard meant for?
Sheboard is meant for everyone. We’ve created it especially for girls, because the language we use and gendered norms have a particularly profound impact on the agency and empowerment of girls and on their expectations for their future.
Through Sheboard we want to start a conversation and raise awareness about how language contributes to the reproduction of gender stereotypes, which can prevent both girls and boys from realising their full potential.
How exactly will Sheboard help girls and amend the way we talk about them?
Sheboard is a conversation starter, not a solution in itself. It was developed to be the voice that reminds girls themselves of their full potential; it reminds of their versatile skills and equal possibilities. Using Sheboard as the default keyboard will help its user to reflect on how we talk to and about girls.
Plan International also works all over the world at many different levels in order to promote girls’ rights and gender equality. Developing innovations and technology, such as Sheboard, that benefit girls is one way of helping to bridge the digital gender gap.
Is Plan advocating for gender neutral parenting with Sheboard? What’s wrong with boys and girls being treated differently?
Plan promotes gender sensitive parenting. Gender sensitivity does not mean that we deny the existence of genders or talking about girls and boys. It means that we treat each person as an individual without predescribed perceptions of how that person is or should be. It also means respecting that there are different gender identities which do not fit into the division into girls/boys, women/men.
How will Sheboard help girls and women who do not have access to Smartphones?
While we understand not all girls globally have access to smartphones and the Sheboard application, we believe that Sheboard and other efforts that make the way we speak more gender-sensitive will directly and indirectly benefit girls more broadly.
Globally more girls are gaining access to smartphones and we are also working to promote girls’ access to technology. Following the launch of Sheboard at Slush, we hope to make Sheboard available across countries that we work in.
How does Plan International work on promoting girls’ access to technology and smartphones?
For example, in Uganda and Ethiopia Plan International Finland together with the local Plan offices run SmartUp Factory innovation hubs, where girls and young women from marginalised communities are able to access, use, and create technology.
How have women, girls and children been involved in the development of Sheboard?
This is an idea and initiative created by a team of women. It was originally designed for girls to help them realise their full potential with the help of the application but has since evolved to be also a reminder to all adults, women, men and others, to think how we talk about girls.
We have also included children and young adults in developing the application and its content. Plan International Finland’s Children’s Board members and young immigrant women involved in Plan’s projects in Finland have contributed to the content. User testing was done with school youth and we sought their feedback on the concept itself.
The campaign and launch of Sheboard is supported by multiple female talents. The campaign film is directed by Freshteh Piltan, a Swedish director born in Iran. Some of the spokeswomen pictures are taken by Hayley Le, a young photographer based in Finland, with a background in Czech Republic and roots in Vietnam. The spokeswomen for Sheboard include Maria Veitola, Lenita Airisto, Minna Parikka, Maryam Razavi and Rita Kostama.
What should a parent know about Sheboard? Is it safe to let a child to download Sheboard?
Sheboard has been designed for girls and people of all ages. It is family-friendly and can be used by children who have smartphones and can write and type themselves.
We would encourage parents to discuss the concept of Sheboard and why it has been developed before downloading the app. With younger children, we recommend using the keyboard together. If you find any word suggestions inappropriate, please report it to us by emailing [email protected]
How to talk about girl empowerment with your child?
Talking about gender is definitely something we encourage every parent to do. Perhaps start the conversation by asking if the child has had experiences where she / he has been talked to or treated differently because of his/her perceived gender. Discuss how this made her or him feel. Children may feel that they have not experienced unequal treatment or they have not paid attention to it. In that case, you could give some examples of this and explain that the point is not to treat everyone the same or to stop talking about boys or girls but to treat everyone as individuals, not putting anyone into a predescribed role because of, e.g. their gender.
How should I get my daughter, sister or friend to download Sheboard? Should I download it for them?
Sheboard is intended as a conversation starter. First talk to your daughter, sister and / or friend about Sheboard - have they had experiences where they have been talked to or treated differently because of their gender? How did that make them feel? You can also direct them to www.sheboard.com for more information.
It’s best the user downloads the app for her- or himself. Using the keyboard together for the first few times might be helpful.
Why use a keyboard, aren’t young girls only using video and snaps to communicate?
WhatsApp, which is more of a text-based messaging app, is the most used social media service amongst youth, leaving behind Snapchat and Instagram. 91 % of 13–17-year-old Finnish teenagers use Whatsapp (Research by ebrand Suomi Oy, 2016).
If I want to know more where can I find information?
For more information, please visit www.sheboard.com.
What about boys? Don’t they need a Heboard as well?
Sheboard is intended for everyone – girls, boys and anyone who wants to use it. We agree that achieving gender equality is as much about addressing boys’ and men’s behaviour as girls’ and women’s and know that harmful gender stereotypes affect all of us.
However evidence suggests that gendered norms have a particularly profound impact on the empowerment of girls and on their expectations for the future on a global scale. This is why we have created Sheboard, not Heboard.
How does Sheboard work?
Sheboard is very similar to other mobile keyboards. You can install it to your phone and use it like a normal keyboard; the only major difference is the predictive text input with its suggestions.
What devices and platforms does Sheboard work on?
Sheboard works on any Android device.
What countries is Sheboard available in?
Sheboard is available from the Google Play Store worldwide. During initial launch, it will be available in in English only.
What languages will Sheboard be available in?
Currently Sheboard is only available in English. We hope to make Sheboard available across countries that we work in.
What does Sheboard cost?
Downloading Sheboard is completely free to all users.
What is the user experience like? How do you ensure it does not irritate the user?
The keyboard is designed to look and feel like the default keyboard of Android Phones. It may not have all the different special functionalities that other keyboards have, but it’s designed to be very easy and straight-forward to use. The keyboard also learns from the user; the more you use it, the more relevant predictions you get.
What about data privacy? How do you store the data of the user and how is the data being used?
The application collects only frequency data of different words so that it can give better predictions. All this learning happens locally on user’s phone and also the collected data is stored locally on user’s phone. No data is transferred anywhere from the phone; the keyboard doesn’t even have internet access. Data is stored locally to the internal memory of the phone and is not accessible even by other apps. The keyboard does not read sensitive fields like passwords or numbers.
Can the app help the user with predictive text input in all texting? Or just provide empowerment word suggestions?
Yes, Sheboard can help the user with predictive text input in all texting. It also learns from the user, so the more you use it, the better it will become.
What if Sheboard suggests something it shouldn’t? Where can I report inappropriate content?
If you find some word or sentence suggestions inappropriate, please report to [email protected]
What personal user information does the app relay to Plan, Samsung or other parties?
The application does not send any data anywhere and doesn’t have access to the Internet.
How can Sheboard be downloaded? Will it be preinstalled on certain Samsung devices?
So far Sheboard is not preinstalled on any devices, but requires download from Google Play.
Plan at Slush
Why is Plan participating in Slush?
This year is the fourth time Plan International is participating to Slush. It has always been a great source of inspiration, new ideas, contacts and a place to showcase our work in the intersection of digital and international development. Plan has been able to draw practices, methods and thinking shaping our work. One example of the results the Smartup Factory project (an innovation centre for marginalized youth) currently operating in Ethiopia and Uganda.
Digital technologies, innovation and design thinking have been part of Plan International work for several years. To achieve gender equality, girls and young women need equal access to technology and digital training. While not a panacea, technology and the internet can be a great enabler for all girls and women.
What is the role of Slush in Sheboard?
Slush is great platform for launching Sheboard. It will be launched on 30th November at Samsung’s Innovators Café at Slush.
How will you promote Sheboard at Slush?
Sheboard can be tested at Samsung’s Innovators Café at Slush, next to the Founder Stage. Sonja Korpelainen from Plan Finland’s Children’s Board as well as Hana Hailu and Fiona Agenorwot from Plan’s SmartUp Factory innovation hubs in Ethiopia and Uganda respectively will also be present at the stand and available for interview. They will also be showcasing Sheboard in action at the stand.
Why does Samsung support Sheboard?
For Samsung, social innovation is an important field that they work actively with and have done so for quite some time. Samsung believes that technology has a great potential to make our lives better.
When Plan contacted Samsung and presented the idea of Sheboard, Samsung saw it as a perfect match with their philosophy for using technology for good. Samsung decided to contribute to the project in a way that they know best, by sharing knowledge about mobile technology and innovating for new solutions which can inspire people to live up to their full potential.
What is Samsung’s role in Sheboard development?
The initiative for Sheboard came from Plan and Samsung has supported Plan with the technological implementation. Samsung has also backed the project financially to develop the software and supported the promotion Sheboard, e.g at Slush in Helsinki, where the official launch took place on Nov 30 2017.