March 10, 2017

Paving the way to gender equality: A welcome honour indeed!

By Malcolm Johnson

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, ITU News is running a special series of blog posts on women in information and communication technologies (ICTs). All week, we’re featuring stories about women in tech and global programmes to accelerate the pace of progress for gender equality in ICTs.

Last Wednesday evening I received a pleasant surprise: an email from the Geneva Environment Network informing me I had been nominated and selected as a “Gender and Environment Advocate”, and inviting me to a celebratory breakfast launch on International Women’s Day this week at the International Environment House in Geneva.

In 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Geneva Environment Network had initiated this award with the selection of 20 Geneva-based inspirational women in the field of environment. This year, the organizers took a step forward and decided to focus on gender equity in the field of environment and to open nominations to men as well as women. So, I was delighted to be the first man awarded this honour at this year’s event!

Throughout my ITU career, I have spared no efforts to ensure an equal standing and representation for women in the workplace. During my tenure as the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) Director, I introduced a number of initiatives such as courses on unconscious bias particularly for those sitting on interview panels, leadership courses for women professionals, and ensuring that all TSB staff (myself included) took the UN Women’s online gender awareness course. I am proud that these efforts made a concrete difference with the number of professional women staff members increasing from 20% to 44% during my tenure!

I always say that this was not through selecting women candidates because they were women, but because they were the best candidates, and I am pleased to say that they have proved that to have been the case!

These women have made excellent professionals: dedicated to their work; efficient and effective; and always entirely reliable. I have found them to be more inclined to activities with social or environmental benefits, such as climate change and accessibility, which I have always championed.

Boosting ITU’s commitment to environmental sustainability

When I joined ITU in 2007 as the TSB Director, I had a clear strategy to boost ITU’s commitment in the field of climate change and sustainability. In 2007, we published a Technology Watch Report on ICTs and Climate Change. It met with mixed reception. I was often asked: what have ICTs got to do with climate change? And what has ITU got to do with climate change? On the other had some of our industry members really supported more activity in this area and Japan hosted the first ITU symposium on ICTs and Climate Change in Kyoto in 2008. This led to the Focus Group on ICTs and Climate Change, the recreation of ITU-T Study Group 5 to become a study group on Environment and Climate Change, or activities in the UN Climate Change Conferences, and or work on smart cities and much more. People no longer ask those questions!

These new areas of work attracted a lot of interest from women professionals and I would particularly like to mention Cristina Bueti in TSB for driving forward this work until today. Cristina was recognised by the Geneva Environment Group at last year’s ceremony.

MJaward soloSo, I was very happy to be able to attend the event this week, along with a number of other awardees including another man! It was nice to see so many people devoted to the cause of empowering women and supporting their efforts on environment.

What I was particularly pleased to learn was that it was my own colleagues at ITU had nominated me for this award. Recognition such as this really encourages people to makes further efforts, and I would like to congratulate the organisers for this initiative – and thank my colleagues!

I will continue to take an active part in ITU’s key gender activities, such as: “Girls in ICT Day,” which has been consistently encouraging girls and women to consider and pursue careers in the field of ICTs; our Gender Equality and Mainstreaming in Technology Awards (GEM-Tech Awards) that celebrate the achievements of women in the ICT sector; and the new EQUALS initiative, which forges key partnerships to give women and girls the access, skills, and leadership they need to succeed in tech. And, of course, we’ll be working hard to speed progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 13 on Climate Change!

Malcolm Johnson
Malcolm Johnson (@ITU_DSG) was elected ITU Deputy Secretary General at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 in Busan, Republic of Korea. Mr. Johnson was elected as Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in 2006 in Antalya, Turkey and was re-elected at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2010 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
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Paving the way to gender equality: A welcome honour indeed!

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