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April 23, 2020

We must build on best practices to empower women and girls in tech: Laura Chinchilla

By Laura Chinchilla, Former President of Costa Rica and Vice President of the World Leadership Alliance, Club de Madrid

As a consequence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the world is facing unprecedented challenges. With over 3.9 billion people forced to remain in their homes, and millions of companies abruptly switching to remote work programs, technology is now playing a critical role. Forced by the pandemic disease we are embracing online learning, redefining face-to-face networks, and making remote work, the new normal.

We are living the perfect storm for digital transformation, which also means new opportunities for everyone, but especially for women and girls.

As a member of the advisory board of the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report, we recently warned about a worrisome trend: although inequalities in the distribution of opportunities between men and women have improved over the last decades, progress is slowing. According to the report, the world Is not quite on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.

The importance of enhanced capabilities

One of the main reasons explaining this situation is the challenge women faces to move beyond access to basic capabilities – a partially accomplished goal – to enhanced capabilities. Enhanced capabilities related to technology are ultimately about how empowered people are to navigate the challenges and opportunities that they will face in the coming decades. In a nutshell, the mastery of technology by women will increasingly determine how much influence and power we will have to reshape the world.

Young women and girls are called to lead the future and in doing so, we must make technology their best ally.

However, we have to admit that the perspective in some parts of the world is not a very optimistic one.

According to the UNDP, in Latin America, 30 million young people are not incorporated either to education, employment, or training, and 76% of that figure are women. As an additional challenge, studying is not a guarantee for a bright future for women and girls, since less than 20 percent of women in the region transition from studying to formal jobs.

We must build on best practices

It is urgent to act right now. Governments, companies, multilateral organizations, and NGOs must join efforts and commit to creating an ecosystem of opportunities enabled by technology to support and empower women. Policies have to increase the representation of girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But they can also look for alternative ways to guarantee girls equal access to technologies.

We should build on best practices, such as the example of Laboratoria, a non-profit organization established in 2014 in several Latin American countries, that targets girls from low-income families facing major barriers to access higher education. It combines applied coding education, socioemotional training, employer engagement, and job placement services.

 

Break the barriers that separate talent from opportunity

Another example is SheWorks!, a social impact initiative of which I am a member of the advisory board. It received the Leadership award at EQUALS in Tech, as one of the most promising and innovative projects that uses technology to bridge the gender unemployment gap. With over 20,000 women from 93 countries, SheWorks economically empowers women by breaking the barriers that separate talent from opportunities, being the cloud and Internet the catalyst for exponential growth.

I am convinced that now more than ever before, the world will need more women with influence and power, capable of pushing in favor of progress grounded on the values of sustainability, integrity and tolerance, compassion, and cooperation. Young women and girls are called to lead the future and in doing so, we must make technology their best ally.

Photo: Getty Images
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We must build on best practices to empower women and girls in tech: Laura Chinchilla

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