March 8, 2017

Want more women in tech? #BeBoldForChange with #BeEQUALS

By Houlin Zhao

To celebrate International Women’s Day today, 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.

To reap the full benefits of today’s digital economy, we need more women in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) – and we need bold leadership to make it happen.

As ITU celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) under this year’s theme ‘Be Bold for Change’, we are gearing up to bring this important message to South by Southwest (SXSW) this week, especially during a session on “Why Women in Tech Matter.”

As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICTs, ITU estimates that there are some 250 million fewer women online than men. And our data suggests, worryingly, that the digital gender gap is actually getting wider.

Without concerted efforts, the gender gap could continue to grow. But the gap is not just in global access to Internet. Only 6% of mobile app developers worldwide are women and about 10% of technical jobs in Silicon Valley are held by women.

Thankfully, the issue of gender balance in the field of technology has become a hot topic. Companies are realizing that bringing more women on board is good for their bottom line and governments are investing in the future workers of tomorrow. As more evidence shows that gender equality benefits not just women and girls, but men and boys too, there is good reason to believe that by working together we can close the gender gap!

But, to progress we need bold leadership to accelerate the pace of change.

#BeBoldforChange with #BeEQUALS

At ITU, our commitment to champion the inclusion of women and girls around the world in the digital technology revolution is strong and has been getting stronger.

EQUALS, our newest initiative with UN Women, aims to level the playing field for women in tech by working together to address the imbalance. EQUALS aims to make a real difference for women who are already in the tech sector and for the future innovators that may create the next app that solves hunger or the one who invents true artificial intelligence, or maybe the next Snapchat.

With our partner, the United Nations University Institute on Computing and Society, we have begun to study the trends on women’s access, skills and roles in leadership to understand the barriers that women face and to scale up the strategies that are working.

The EQUALS Gender Inclusion Map shows that there are already hundreds of global initiatives that aim to get more women and girls interested in tech. EQUALS believes that by working together we can achieve more and be more relevant to the girls we are working with and for.

ITU’s tradition of work on women in tech

EQUALS builds on a tradition of ITU work to help address the digital gender gap.

Girls in ICT Day is ITU’s annual day to promote and inspire girls to seize opportunities in ICTs. Celebrated every year on 27 April, we encourage our members and partners to plan, organize or support a Girls in ICT Day event. To date, over 240,000 girls have taken part in events in over 160 countries to receive hands-on training and discover the world of technology and the opportunities it offers.

In addition, every year we host the GEM-TECH Awards with UN Women, an annual achievement award to recognize the efforts of outstanding women and global programmes to promote women in ICT. We also award innovative applications of technology to empower women, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 5 for Gender Equality.

#BeBold for Women in Tech

Technology’s greatest strength has always been its ability to solve problems and to help individuals tackle the most pressing needs of their communities. But fulfilling this potential will require mobilizing leaders of all stripes to help women and girls gain their rightful place at the table. Universal access means equal access for everyone, no matter how much they earn, where they live or regardless of their gender.

On International Women’s Day, I call on all of you to join ITU to help drive gender equality and to #BeBoldforChange with #BeEQUALS.

Houlin Zhao (@ITUSecGen) 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). He is committed to further streamlining ITU’s efficiency, to strengthening its membership base through greater involvement of the academic community and of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and to broadening multistakeholder participation in ITU’s work. He is married with one son and two grandchildren.
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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.

Want more women in tech? #BeBoldForChange with #BeEQUALS

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