Globally, there are fewer women studying and working in careers requiring advanced digital skills.
However, many jobs requiring these skills go unfilled because employers cannot find candidates with the requisite skills.
The opportunity for girls and women to fill these jobs and close the digital gender gap took center stage today during a Women’s Breakfast at the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) in Buenos Aires.
The Women’s Breakfast featured a panel discussion in which ICT leaders from Bangladesh, Lesotho, Tanzania, Argentina, and the Inter-American Development Bank discussed steps they are taking to close the digital gender gap.
The Davos-style event allowed for an exchange with the audience, giving other leaders a chance to showcase initiatives and share best practices on digital skill development s and job creation opportunities for women and girls.
Changing stereotypes is a big challenge as many still picture boys and men in their minds when they think of computer programmers and other ICT engineers, agreed the panelists.
But this is changing.
“Put a laptop or mobile phone in the hands of girls and women and you will change the society.” — Tarana Halim
“Without empowering women, sustainable development is not possible,” said Tarana Halim, State Minister of the Post and Telecommunications Division of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology. “The government understands this. The skills development of women is a must.”
Ms Halim laid out some of the initiatives Bangladesh is taking, in conjunction with private sector players such as Microsoft who offer software and hardware training. She also spoke of some of the challenges to women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.
“In the patriarchal society it’s very hard to even convince women that they need this training,” said Halim. But, she said, new technology is changing mindsets.
For instance, mobile phones now allow girls to more frequently discuss critical issues that are sometimes taboo, such as adolescent healthcare.
“Put a laptop or mobile phone in the hands of girls and women and you will change the society,” she said.
The importance of including men in efforts to close the gender divide was highlighted a number of times.
“The only way we will acheive gender equality is when men join hands with women,” said María Inés Baqué the Secretary of Innovation and Public Management of the Ministry of Modernization of Argentina, who led the panel discussion.
The lively breakfast concluded with an opportunity for interested stakeholders to pitch their project proposals to prepare more women for careers in the digital economy.