Technology is creating large scale opportunities to empower women and girls.
But when it comes to making career choices, the majority of countries around the world are witnessing a chronic global decline in the number of female tech students. This is in turn contributing to a predicted global employment shortfall, with at least two million information and communication technology (ICT) jobs which will not be able to be filled, due to the lack of qualified staff.
In OECD countries, female students account for fewer than 20 per cent of tertiary ICT enrolments, down from nearly 40 per cent back in the 1980s. Only around 3 per cent of total female graduates study ICT fields, compared with around 10 per cent of male graduates.
This academic gender gap is reflected in the number of female ICT professionals, estimated at just 20 per cent across the OECD. In Europe, only 9 per cent of app developers are female, only 19 per cent of European ICT managers are women (compared with 45 per cent women managers in other service sectors), and only 19 per cent of ICT entrepreneurs are women (compared with 54 per cent women in other service sectors), according to figures released by the European Commission.
That’s why, since 2010, ITU has been encouraging its 193 Member States, more than 700 private sector members and 120+ members from academia to support and celebrate international Girls in ICT Day, which is held every year on the fourth Thursday in April.
The day is an important part of an international drive to encourage more female students to study STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and to consider an ICT career.
With strong backing from the tech sector and national governments, ‘Girls in ICT Day’ has rapidly grown into a global movement, with an estimated 5,300 events organized in over 150 countries, reaching 177,000 girls.
Through this activity, and a core Resolution on ICTs and gender empowerment, ITU is a major force in promoting and increasing opportunities for women and girls in ICT careers. We’re delighted that this year’s first-ever UN Women in Science Day (11 February) allows us not just to throw a global spotlight on the issue, but helps bring more partners onboard to redress the problem.
At ITU, Houlin Zhao, our Secretary-General, has personally committed to helping to close the gender digital gap through several initiatives, starting with actions within the organization itself. As one of the founding members of the Geneva Gender Champions initiative launched by the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Michael Møller, and US Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, Mr Zhao has committed to the Panel Parity Pledge and to adopting positive measures to improve gender balance among ITU staff, as well as encouraging gender balance among delegates attending ITU conferences and meetings.
There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today. Of these, 600 million are teenage girls and young women. We hope that Women in Science Day will inspire them, and serve as one more key pillar in advancing opportunities for women and girls and realizing the gender goals embedded in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
Help us promote UN Women in Science Day and STEM studies by tweeting a message of support: #GirlsinSTEM #WomeninTech #GirlsinICT #dayofwomeninscience
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