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ITU celebrates International Day of Women & Girls in Science

‘EQUALS’ multi-stakeholder partnership aims to redress global gender imbalance in the ICT sector




Geneva, 12 February 2018

ITU joins its UN sister organizations and over 55 partners in the EQUALS global network to celebrate International Day of Women & Girls in Science, and to celebrate women and girls in science and technology every day.

EQUALS (www.equals.org) is a global multi-stakeholder network aimed at bringing more balance to girls' and women's access to, use of and benefit from information and communication technologies (ICTs). Its partners are challenging governments, the private sector and academia to come together to bring women to tech, and tech to women and girls.

ITU is a long-standing advocate for gender balance in tech and leveraging ICTs to improve livelihoods. It launched EQUALS in 2016 with UN Women, GSMA, the International Trade Centre and the United Nations University. The initiative adds momentum to existing ITU activities, such as its highly successful Girls in ICT Day global campaign, which is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday in April.

Girls in ICT Day encourages girls to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and to pursue a career in the technology sector. Since it was launched internationally by ITU in 2011, it has been celebrated in 166 countries worldwide, with over 9,000 events reaching over 300,000 girls and young women.

A founding member of the Geneva Gender Champions group, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao is a strong advocate for the power of technology to change the lives of women and girls, particularly in the world's poorest countries, and of the value that women scientists, engineers and others bring to the ICT sector.

"Internet connectivity allows women to access information, education, health care, financial services and more. It is a truly transformational technology, yet in the 48 Least Developed Countries, only one in seven women is online," said Secretary-General Zhao. "At the same time, women are vastly underrepresented in the ICT sector," he added. "We must all work together to address the digital gender divide and to provide women with ICT leadership opportunities."

With its three-pronged approach targeting Access, Skills and Leadership, EQUALS partners work together through three Coalitions to address fundamental blocks to eliminating the digital gender gap and to provide employment and leadership opportunities for women in tech.

The EQUALS Access Coalition, led by the industry body GSMA, aims to boost women's basic access to and ability to use technologies like smartphones and computers. The Skills Coalition, led by GIZ Germany, is working to address digital literacy and promote ICT-related studies for girls and women. The Leadership Coalition, led by the International Trade Centre, aims to break through the glass ceiling preventing talented women from rising to leadership roles in the tech sector and impeding female entrepreneurs from gaining vital venture capital funding. Figures show that in Silicon Valley only 2% of venture capital funding currently goes to female-led start-ups.

With its strong focus on evidence-based actions, Partners have also established the EQUALS Research Group, led by internationally renowned think tank the United Nations University. ITU is itself one of the most important primary data collectors of impartial global statistics on ICT access and use.

One early action of EQUALS has been the launch of the Gender Digital Inclusion Map, which enables users to visualize different initiatives around the world dedicated to bridging the digital gender divide. Already, 550 projects demonstrating particularly good practices in digital gender empowerment, have been mapped.

In celebrating International Day of Women & Girls in Science, the United Nations affirms that science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the United Nations internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"We need to encourage and support girls and women achieve their full potential as scientific researchers and innovators," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.  

More information about EQUALS is available at: www.equals.org

More information about ITU's full range of gender equality actions is available at: http://bit.ly/ITUgender