As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge the critical role that innovation and technology can play in advancing gender equality. This year’s United Nations theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” highlights the transformative potential of technology in promoting women’s rights, empowering women and girls, and creating a more equitable world.
“Digital technology is opening new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls, and other marginalized groups. From gender-responsive digital learning to tech-facilitated sexual and reproductive healthcare, the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality,” an article from the UN Women says.
The UN is also calling on governments, activists, and the private sector alike to power in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive, and more equitable. “Facing a multiplicity of global crises, we have a chance to create a better future—not just for women and girls, but for all humanity and all life on Earth,” they added.
In honor of today’s celebration, let us commit to using technology and innovation to drive gender equality forward. From closing the digital divide to using data to drive gender-responsive policies, here are some ways innovation and technology can drive gender equality forward.
Bridging the ‘digital divide’
Digital divide is the unequal access to digital technology, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet. It creates a division and inequality around access to information and resources. By bridging the gap, everyone, regardless of their location, socio-economic status, gender, or other factors, has access to digital technologies. However, this is not currently the case, and women, particularly those in developing countries and rural areas, are disproportionately affected by the digital divide.
There are several reasons for this. For instance, women in rural areas may lack the infrastructure necessary to access the internet, such as electricity and telecommunications networks. They may also lack the resources to purchase digital technologies like computers or mobile phones. Additionally, cultural and social norms may limit women's access to digital technologies, particularly in conservative societies where women's mobility is restricted.
Bridging the digital divide is crucial for promoting gender equality. By providing women with access to digital technologies, they can access information, education, and economic opportunities that may otherwise be unavailable to them. If done right, women can access online courses and resources to improve their skills and knowledge, access financial services and markets to start their businesses and connect with potential employers and customers.
Investing in digital infrastructure and expanding access to digital technologies requires collaboration between governments, the private sector, civil society, and other stakeholders. At the end of the day, it is a crucial step towards achieving gender equality.
Using data for gender-responsive policies
Using data for gender-responsive policies involves gathering and analyzing information on issues that affect women and girls, such as gender-based violence, education, and economic participation. By understanding the specific challenges and barriers women and girls face, policymakers can develop targeted policies and programs addressing their needs and promoting gender equality.
Data on gender-based violence can help policymakers understand the prevalence and nature of violence against women and girls in different contexts, such as at home, work, or public spaces. This information can then be used to develop policies and programs that prevent violence, support survivors, and hold perpetrators accountable.
Collecting and analyzing data on gender issues requires investment in data collection and analysis and ensuring that data is disaggregated by gender to provide a more accurate picture of women’s experiences. This involves breaking down data by gender, age, location, and other factors to identify disparities and trends that affect women and girls.
Advancing women in STEM
According to the UN, women make up only 22% of artificial intelligence workers globally. It’s no secret that women have historically been underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), limiting their employment and economic opportunities. Therefore, advancing women in STEM fields is crucial for promoting gender equality and unlocking the full potential of women in the workforce.
To start, encouraging girls to pursue STEM education and careers is an important first step in breaking down barriers and increasing the representation of women in this field. This can involve providing access to STEM education and training from a young age and promoting STEM careers as viable and fulfilling options for women.
Providing mentorship and networking opportunities for women is also essential for advancing their careers. Mentors can offer guidance, support, and advice on navigating the often male-dominated field and can help overcome barriers such as bias and discrimination. Networking can also help women build relationships with others in the area and access opportunities for career advancement.
Promoting workplace diversity is also crucial for advancing women in this sector. This involves creating a workplace culture that values and embraces diversity and ensuring that women are represented at all levels of the organization. Companies can also implement policies and programs that support work-life balance and flexibility, such as flexible work arrangements and family-friendly policies.
Combating online gender-based violence
The intangible, almost-unreal world of the internet has become a source of livelihood for most people nowadays. But it remains a dangerous network, regardless of which platform and how you use them. Per the UN report, a survey of women journalists from 125 countries found that 73% had suffered online violence during their work.
Online gender-based violence is a growing problem that disproportionately affects women and girls. It includes a range of behaviors, such as cyberstalking, revenge porn, hate speech, and threats, that use digital technology to harass, intimidate, and harm women and girls.
Combatting online gender-based violence requires a multi-faceted approach that involves technology, laws, and policies. Investing in technology that can identify and prevent online abuse is essential. This can include developing software that can detect and block abusive content, as well as providing resources and support for victims of online abuse.
Creating laws and policies that protect women’s rights online is also crucial. It can involve criminalizing online harassment and abuse and strengthening laws that protect privacy and freedom of expression. It also requires collaboration between governments, civil society, and the tech industry to ensure that laws and policies are effective and enforced.
In addition, raising awareness about online gender-based violence and its impact on women and girls is paramount. In simple ways, such as education and outreach campaigns, awareness could help people understand the harm caused by online abuse and promote healthy online behaviors.