Committed to connecting the world

ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

   Women Leaders Forum

Connecting Women and Youth for Digital Development


24 September 2012, New York, USA

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here with you this afternoon for this important session of the Women Leaders Forum.

At ITU – as a specialized agency of the United Nations – we place great importance on gender equality.

In a world where over 95% of all jobs now have a digital component, that means getting more girls involved in science, technology, engineering and math, and more girls taking an interest in ICT careers.

We still have a long way to go.

Today, women perform two thirds of the world’s work, and produce half of the world’s food.

But they earn just a tenth of the world’s income and they own just 1% of the world’s property.

There is some good news, however: In 2012 there are now more women CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies than ever before, with a total of 18, up from just 12 in 2011 – and now including a significant number of tech companies, including Hewlett Packard, IBM and Xerox, all headed by women.
But that still leaves 482 of the Fortune 500 companies being led by men, so we still have a way to go.

On the government side, we have 16 women Ministers out of the 193 ITU Member States.

Only 10 of the 158 independent ICT regulatory authorities worldwide are headed by a woman.

At ITU we have a number of specific activities related to women and girls in ICT, and we are promoting a three-pronged strategy to increase the number of women in ICT careers:
  • Increasing the number of girls and women who want an ICT career – creating demand;
  • Increasing the number of girls and women who receive STEM education, ensuring supply; and
  • Encouraging ICT businesses to attract, recruit, retain and promote women, achieving long-term sustainability.

Earlier this year ITU launched a multilingual web portal focused on helping girls and women access training, job opportunities and career information in the ICT sector.

The Girls in ICT Portal now houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarship programmes and some 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

We also continue to encourage our members to organize international Girls in ICT day. This is something our membership decided at our most recent Plenipotentiary Conference in 2010, calling on members to promote this day on the 4th Thursday of April.

The event was celebrated on April 26th this year – and it succeeded in empowering some 30,000 girls and young women. Over 1,300 events were organized in nearly 90 countries this year.
To mark the occasion, ITU launched a new campaign, ‘Tech Needs Girls’ – a three year campaign comprising:
  • Advocacy;
  • Events;
  • ‘Girls in ICT’ ambassadors;
  • Further development of the ‘Girls in ICT’ web portal;
  • And much more – including video and audio content, and media and industry partnerships.

In addition, the theme of this year’s World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, (which marks the creation of ITU back in 1865), was ‘Women and Girls in ICT’, and we honoured three laureates who had played a significant role in promoting this cause: Cristina Fernandez, the President of Argentina; Sun Yafang, CEO of Huawei; and Geena Davis, award-winning actress.

In June, Geena Davis was named ITU’s Special Envoy for Women and Girls in the field of technology, and just yesterday Geena addressed the sixth meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, with a call to the Commission’s 60 top-level members to use the power of broadband to bring new opportunities to women and girls worldwide.

She called on the Commission to set up a special focus group on gender and technology – and the call to action was enthusiastically received by the Commission, which immediately agreed to establish a special working group, headed by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

We even received a spontaneous donation of a million US dollars from Reza Jafari, one of the broadband commissioners!

In two weeks, on 11 October, which the UN has declared as the first ‘International Day of the Girl’, we will be launching our ‘Tech Needs Girls’ prize.

This new prize aims to highlight the creativity and inspiration of girls (in the 9 to 18 year old bracket).

The prize, which will awarded next April on ‘Girls in ICT Day’, will be much more than a one-off recognition for the winners. It will be a journey highlighting the enormous untapped potential that exists for the ICT sector.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention ‘Women with the WAVE’, a high-level forum on the digital inclusion of women and girls, which ITU is organizing in Seoul, South Korea, in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, on 10 and 11 October.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to close these brief remarks by encouraging governments – and indeed companies – to keep focusing on the four ‘E’s: empowerment, equality, education, and employment.

Empowerment – means harnessing the power of technology to empower women and girls to bring about positive change in their own lives and communities around the world.

Equality – means ensuring that women and girls have full and equal access to the information and opportunities provided by new technologies.

Education – means giving girls the same educational opportunities and choices as boys, and providing them with positive guidance towards possible careers in the ICT sector.

And employment – means demonstrating that there are exciting and fulfilling careers in ICTs, and that these are excellent opportunities for girls.

If we can achieve this, then we will have played our part in making the world a better place – not just for women and girls, but for all the world’s people.

Thank you.