Gentlemen – and ladies!
Good morning to all of you, and welcome.
It is a tremendous pleasure to see so many of you here today.
In particular, I would like to single out Walda Roseman, who created the concept of the Women’s breakfast, and who has contributed so much to their success over the past 18 years.
As many of you will know, Walda missed the most recent Women’s Breakfast, which was held at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad in May, due to the sudden passing away of her husband Larry.
Larry was a true believer in Walda, and in the power of ICTs, and I know that he would be proud to see Walda with us here today in Guadalajara.
Today’s breakfast is the sixth women’s networking event to be held at an ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. Drawing on the success at the event held at PP-06, the Women’s Breakfast once again gives you the opportunity to welcome and meet all the candidates for the five elected positions at ITU.
This is more of a networking event than a campaigning moment, however, so the candidates will not be asked to speak – although I have to say to Walda that it does seem rather unfair that I alone have been given this opportunity…
I would ask you therefore to consider that I am speaking now as Secretary-General – and not as a candidate for the election tomorrow!
Ladies and gentlemen,
I don’t believe that there is any longer the slightest room for doubt that empowering women, and delivering equality between the sexes, is not just for the benefit of women, but is essential to all of humankind.
I think we are all also in agreement that ICTs are one of the most important tools we have for achieving social and economic progress, and especially in helping us to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
It is therefore timely and appropriate for us to be participating at an event this morning which is being held specifically in honour of women, and particularly women in ICT who make a difference.
You have in your hands the power to shape the future and to make the world a better place. And I am confident that you will do so.
We do not yet have sufficient gender-based data for fixed and mobile phone use. But we do have this data for Internet use, and encouragingly the latest ITU figures show that globally the digital divide between men and women in terms of Internet use is closing rapidly.
Indeed, in most developed countries, there are already as many women as men using the Internet.
This is a great start – but we cannot rest on our laurels.
We are still a long way from a world of equal rights and equal opportunities. Just one of the nine candidates for the five elected official posts is female – and just one of the 21 candidates for the 12 RRB Members is female.
Only two major ICT companies I know of – Xerox and Yahoo – are run by women.
You could argue that a sector which is science and engineering-focused might be unusually male-dominated, but I would still argue for more female candidates, especially at ITU, and I would certainly hope to solicit more women candidatures in the future.
This will be seen as a challenge by many, but I regard it as an opportunity.
So let’s have the strength and courage to make the world a more equal place – a place where equal rights and equal opportunities deliver progress for all.
Before I wish you ‘bon appétit’, I would like to thank the sponsors of this Women’s Breakfast, Cisco Systems, The Internet Society, VeriSign and AT&T.
Thank you – and bon appétit!