Promoting gender equality in all spheres of today’s digital society has never been more crucial as the world embarks on the Decade of Action to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Digital technologies are crucial to the attainment of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and increasing the share of women with access to and using digital technologies to better their lives – and by extension improve the lives of their families and society is a development challenge we all have a stake in.
Recent ITU data shows that women are still trailing men in benefiting from the transformational power of digital technologies. It is estimated that over half the total global female population (52 per cent) is still not using the Internet, compared to 42 per cent of all men.
During this Decade of Action, we have an opportunity to reverse this trend. But its realization requires a monumental shift which we can all begin now.
One of these shifts took place at the last World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) where ITU Member states unanimously adopted a declaration that promotes gender equality, equity and parity in the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector.
The conference recognized that while radiocommunication plays a vital role in the globalization and the effective development of digital technologies, very few women participate in the international processes related to the advancement of radiocommunication systems and services.
The Declaration highlights the need to ensure that women participate actively and meaningfully in all activities of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) to effectively advance its work.
As a follow-up for the implementation of the WRC-19 Gender Declaration, the Radiocommunication Advisory Group – which among others reviews the priorities and strategies adopted in the Radiocommunication Sector – met recently, and resolved to establish a Correspondence Group on Gender to consider an appropriate course of action to initiate and implement the provisions of the WRC-19 Gender Declaration prior to the next Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-23).
The meeting endorsed the appointment of Mrs. Lucia Luisa La Franceschina of Italy as the Chairman of the Correspondence Group and Mrs. Olfa Jammeli of Tunisia as its Vice Chairman.
Under their leadership, the Correspondence Group will also provide guidance and encouragement toward the equitable selection of chairmen, vice chairmen and rapporteurs in the work of the ITU-R Study Groups and their Working Parties or other subgroups, the Conference Preparatory Meeting (CPM), and in the work of the Radiocommunication Advisory Group itself.
Prior to WRC 19, we launched the ITU Network of Women, which is dedicated to promoting women in radiocommunications, telecommunications/ICT and related fields to help meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equity.
The aim of this initiative is to start building capacity and to encourage a larger participation of women in key roles, to attend our meetings and conferences as delegates, chairs, and vice-chairs, for example, and to work towards achieving the 30 per cent threshold necessary for any real change. Additionally, it aims to encourage greater gender inclusion, to ensure women delegates play key roles for future radiocommunications conferences and events, and to grow the ITU women’s community, capacity, and contribution.
The Correspondence Group on Gender will support and provide input to the ongoing work of the “Network of Women” to enhance and maximize the effectiveness of this initiative.
I see the Radiocommunication Sector benefiting immensely from gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women through ICT.
A recent study by UNESCO shows that women continue to be under-represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women. Furthermore, women hold only 25% of computing jobs, 11% of engineering jobs, and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector.
The WRC-19 Gender Declaration calls upon ITU Member States and Sector Members to take proven measures to address these disparities.
The digital revolution is opening new horizons and empowering billions around the world with new tools to work, learn and innovate. In this Decade of Action, we must turn the tide and accelerate women’s participation in the digital economy.
I would like to encourage ITU-R Member States and Sector Members to actively participate in the work of the Correspondence Group on Gender.
We all have a role to play in ensuring that women and men can compete on a level playing field for opportunities in the ICT environment, and especially in radiocommunications.