International Women’s Day, 8 March, was commemorated yesterday under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equity’.
From the earliest days of computing to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, women have made untold contributions to the digital world in which we increasingly live.
However, today a persistent gender-gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential. Their underrepresentation in STEM education and careers remains a major barrier to their participation in tech design and governance.
Additionally, the pervasive threat of online gender-based violence – coupled with a lack of legal recourse – too often forces them out of the digital spaces they do occupy.
At the same time, digital technology is opening new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls and other marginalised groups. Thus, the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequity.
This 8 March, UN Women – the global champion for gender equity, is calling on governments, activists and the private sector alike to power-on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive and more equitable.
A paradigm-shift is needed to harness the potential of technology and innovation to accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to recent data, women’s exclusion from the digital world comes with massive costs for all, having already shaved US$1trillion from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries in the last decade: a loss that, without an intended plan of action and suitable investment, is expected to increase to US$1.5trillion by 2025.
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said: “Women and girls have just as much right to access the digital world and prosper in it as men and boys”.
It is important to reflect on the progress made toward gender equity and the role of technology in furthering this goal. In Africa’s tech industry, women constitute only 30 percent of the professionals.
Women and girls remain underrepresented across the creation, use and regulation of technology.
It will take determined measures to provide the necessary skills and learning, especially in the STEM subjects, which will pave the way for the leadership of women and girls as technology creators, promoters and decision-makers.