British Columbia

19-year-old helps create app that tells you how to text about girls and women

Finland-based gender advocate Ronja Holopainen is only 19, but she helped develop the Sheboard app — a tool that makes language and texting more assertive with empowering autocorrect suggestions for women and girls. 

'The point of the app is a wake-up call for society to understand how we speak to girls'

Ronja Holopainen unveiled the Sheboard app at the Women Deliver conference on Tuesday. (Beth Mariam/CBC)

Finland-based gender advocate Ronja Holopainen is only 19, but she is one of the minds behind the Sheboard app — a tool that makes language and texting more assertive with empowering autocorrect suggestions for women and girls. 

Holopainen unveiled Sheboard on Tuesday at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver.

As a youth ambassador for Plan International — a humanitarian organization that works to advance equality for girls, among other things — Holopainen was instrumental in brainstorming sessions on how to use language that challenges gender norms. 

"The point of the app is a wake-up call for society to understand how we speak to girls," Holopainen told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On the Coast.

Autocorrect for equality

Android users can download the app onto their devices and it will suggest words that are more empowering for women and girls. 

For example, if someone were to text a message that began with "Girls are" — the app would suggest the rest of the sentence include words like "brave" or "successful." 

There are 18 apps for gender equality being presented at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Holopainen says the process of developing the app helped her notice that people generally text more about the appearance of women opposed to the "abilities and capabilities" of women.

On the other hand, she noticed that powerful and empowering words were allocated predominantly to boys.

Holopainen says she wants to continue to challenge gender stereotypes in technology and ultimately challenge the expectations and norms placed on women.

There are 18 apps for gender equality being presented at the Women Deliver conference, which runs until Thursday.

With files from On The Coast

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