Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | SDG5
March 5, 2018

The time is now for gender equality in tech

By Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General

This week, we join communities, organizations, and citizens across the world to celebrate International Women’s Day to recognize the achievements of women and inspire others to act for gender equality.

With the theme, ‘The Time is Now,’ the ITU, the United Nations’ agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), stands committed to press for gender equality in the field of ICTs.

Along with infrastructure, investment and innovation, inclusivity is one the four pillars (“4 I’s”) that will help us bridge the digital divide, including the gender digital divide. The 4 I’s are at the heart of ITU’s strategy to use the power of ICTs to help accelerate the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The incredible power of ICTs to empower women and to achieve the SDGs has been globally recognized.”

From the highest levels of leadership to one-on-one mentoring to global events and sustained initiatives in all of our sectors, ITU is working to ensure that women and girls have equal opportunities to flourish in the fast-paced, innovative and exciting sphere of ICTs.

EQUALS Global Partnership

EQUALS is a ground-breaking global network of over 55 partners who have committed to work together to improve women’s access to technology, build relevant digital and STEM skills, and promote female leadership in the tech sector. Established by ITU, UN Women, the International Trade Centre, GSMA and the United Nations University, EQUALS provides a holistic, data-driven approach to achieving gender equality in tech.

Each year, the EQUALS in Tech Awards recognize the great efforts around the world to empower women in the world of ICTs. Watch the video below to learn about these inspiring women in tech:

International Girls in ICT Day

Celebrated every year on the 4th Thursday of April, International Girls in ICT Day is the day to inspire the next generation of girls to learn more about the exciting world of ICTs. To date, over 300,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 9,000 celebrations of International Girls in ICT Day in 166 countries worldwide. This year we will observe Girls in ICT Day on April 26, 2018.

We are delighted to see that International Girls in ICT Day has been receiving increased global support, and that in some places it has moved from one-off events to sustained, year-long actions!

For example, this year, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology, has established, under the Girls in ICT programme, 226 computer labs in Government Girls’ institutions in Islamabad. Over 100,000 students and 202 teachers are now being provided with training by Microsoft.

This is one example of many that show the incredible reach of Girls in ICT Day. On the Girls in ICT Day Portal, ITU hosts resources for companies, partners, governments and NGOs to host open-days or hands-on training for girls.

ITU Network of Women

To reinforce women’s participation in ITU’s main conferences, including the World Radio Conference 2019 (WRC-19), we are actively preparing women for roles in this upcoming international treaty-making event, governing the use of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.

In 2016, the ITU ‘Network of Women for WRC’ (NOW) initiative was launched to encourage gender balance in decision-making bodies, panels, statutory committees and study groups at ITU-R events. NOW4WRC19 initiative aims to encourage a larger participation of women in roles such as delegates, chairs and vice-chairs at WRC-19. The NOW4WRC19 initiative builds on the success of the WeLead mentoring programme launched by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the WRC-15.

Women in Standardization Expert Group (WISE)

ITU’s Women in Standardization Expert Group (WISE) is dedicated to making the world of standardization and telecommunication and ICTs development open and accessible to women.

RELATED: Reshaping the future: Women, girls and tech for development

WISE promotes the integration of a gender perspective in the work of ITU’s Standardization Sector (ITU-T), and invites Member States and Sector Members to contribute to meeting gender-equality objectives through the nomination of women to leadership positions in ITU-T and the equal participation of qualified men and women in standardization activities.

UN System Wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-SWAP)

As a UN agency, ITU adheres to UN-SWAP, a unified gender equality framework to promote the empowerment of women and accountability on gender equality. The framework contains a common set of gender mainstreaming measures for UN agencies to report on. Each year, ITU reports on its progress to gender equality. Having completed its initial 5 year period, the bar is being raised with new standards and reporting requirements. UN-SWAP 2.0 has recently entered into force as of 2018.

Commission on the Status of Women

ITU will co-host sessions related to ICTs and Women’s Empowerment at next week’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York. Specifically we will look at “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls” in a joint session with FAO and the GSMA on ‘Leveraging the power of ICTs for rural women and girls.’ And we will review the theme on “the participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies.”

International Gender Champions

Lastly, I am proud to represent ITU as a member of the International Gender Champions. This year, I am extending the IGC panel parity pledge as an organization-wide commitment. ITU will avoid single-sex panels and organize for a balance of men and women. When ITU is invited to speak elsewhere, we will request gender representation in panels before accepting. I am also committing to fully and actively encouraging balanced representation of women in delegations and in the key roles of chairs and vice chairs for this year’s Plenipotentiary Conference. Progress towards these goals will be publicly tracked and reported.

I hope you will join me this International Women’s Day, to commit to continue to push the agenda for women in ICTs and to ‘press for progress’ for gender equality.

Houlin Zhao was elected 19th Secretary-General of the ITU at the Busan Plenipotentiary Conference in October 2014. He took up his post on 1 January, 2015.Prior to his election, he served two terms of office as ITU Deputy Secretary-General (2007-2014), as well as two terms as elected Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (1999-2006).
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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

The time is now for gender equality in tech

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