ITU WSIS Forum 2013
High Level Dialogue 1
Women's Empowerment in the Information Society: Systemic, Scalable Strategies
14 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a tremendous pleasure to be with you this afternoon for this very important High Level Dialogue on Women’s Empowerment in the Information Society.
In the second decade of the 21st century, we are all very much aware of the power and importance of ICTs in every aspect of our lives – and ICTs increasingly play a vital role in all societies, in all countries.
ICTs are also a huge enabler for women in all communities – and especially in the developing world.
Even a simple mobile phone enables women to stay in touch with family and friends; can provide women with access to all kinds of valuable information, such as healthcare and reproductive information; and can be a valuable tool for marketing skills and selling products and services.
With ICTs we can deliver basic education in areas such as literacy, entrepreneurship and e-agriculture in ways never before imagined – and given that women do most of the world’s work, this offers enormous potential for improving the lives not just of women but of all the world’s people.
I am proud to be able to report that ITU – the UN specialized agency for ICTs – has partnered with the Telecentre.org Foundation on a Women’s Digital Literacy Campaign.
This campaign, launched in 2011, is on track to train one million women in basic ICT skills – and indeed by March this year we were already past the two-thirds mark, with 680,000 women from 147 organizations trained in 85 countries.
For its part, the UN Broadband Commission – which was created three years ago by ITU and UNESCO – set up a Working Group on Broadband and Gender in September last year, in answer to a direct appeal from Geena Davis, to harness the power of broadband to empower women and girls.
The working group had its first formal meeting in Mexico just over a month ago, chaired by Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator, and I was very pleased to have been able to take part myself, along with the co-Chair of the Broadband Commission, Carlos Slim.
The Commission has also endorsed a new advocacy target, to achieve gender equality in access to broadband by 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a world where there is a large and growing skills shortage in the ICT sector, we need to get more girls involved in science, technology, engineering and maths – the STEM subjects – and we need to get more girls taking an interest in ICT careers.
ITU has adopted a three-pronged approach to increasing the number of women in ICT careers:
Firstly, to create demand among girls and women for careers in ICT, especially through our annual Girls in ICT Day initiative, which takes place on the fourth Thursday in April;
Secondly, to ensure a better supply of STEM education to girls and women; and
Thirdly, to achieve long-term sustainability by encouraging ICT businesses to attract, recruit, retain and – last, but very much not least – promote women. This involves issues such as pay gaps, recruitment strategies, making the work environment more attractive to women, and of course the work-life balance.
How can we move this strategy forward?
As you may know, UN Women and the UN Global Compact developed a core set of principles for all kinds of businesses offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
These principles are known as the Women’s Empowerment Principles. The WEPs were developed following an international multi-stakeholder consultation process, which began in March 2009 and culminated in their launch on International Women’s Day in March 2010.
Nearly 600 companies around the world have now signed on to these principles.
One of the recommendations made by ITU during the discussions on Women’s ICT Careers, at the Women, ICT and Development meeting in Washington DC in January, was to develop a Roadmap for the Tech Sector.
This roadmap would address the challenges and barriers to engaging more girls in STEM studies, as well as those that prevent women from fully-engaging in ICT careers and advancing to the highest levels.
I am therefore delighted to be able to announce that ITU, UN Women and the UN Global Compact have agreed to launch an international multi-stakeholder consultation process to develop a Tech Sector Roadmap designed to tackle just these challenges.
We will look forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders – including WICTAD and the Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender – as we develop this roadmap.
ITU looks forward to bringing its experience in promoting girls into the ICT pipeline and women into ICT careers.
In addition, ITU can promote the Tech Sector Roadmap among its 700+ Sector Members, which include many of the world’s leading ICT companies and top academic institutions.
I am sure that my colleague here from UN Women will also wish to share her thoughts on the Tech Sector Roadmap.
This high level panel has been convened to identify systemic, scalable strategies for empowering women in the Information Society – and I believe that the Tech Sector Roadmap is a perfect example of this, and will make real progress in enabling girls and women to step up to technology and seize the amazing career opportunities ahead.
We have much to look forward to – and I wish you a very constructive dialogue!