Thank you Cheryl [Cheryl Miller, founder of Women2020],
It’s a tremendous pleasure to be here in Brussels with you today and to get Girls in ICT Day 2013 off to a great start.
I know that we are going to hear some interesting commentary and insights on the European situation later on, so let me – as the head of a specialized agency of the United Nations – spend a few minutes looking at the bigger, global, picture, first.
Everywhere we look, we see that there are many fewer women than men working in ICTs both in the developing and the developed world, and this is particularly significant given the consistent projections that there will be an ongoing shortage of qualified workers in this sector.
This pattern is of course also replicated here in Europe, and I look forward to hearing some of the numbers and projections for the years ahead.
I think we all agree that careers in ICTs are very often dynamic, creative and flexible, as well as being well-remunerated – and this represents the most tremendous opportunity for women – who frequently find themselves under-paid, and often under-employed.
Women will not only help to solve the talent shortage, but will also be empowered by new career opportunities in a sector that promises excellent employment prospects both in the immediate future and in the long-term.
At ITU we are looking at ways of increasing the number of women pursuing careers in ICTs, as well as at ways of leveraging ICTs themselves to increase the social and economic empowerment of women and girls.
We have a three-pronged approach to increasing the number of women in ICT careers – and perhaps this can be our response to Cheryl’s request for three concrete recommendations to help achieve the Europe 2020 vision for Smart Growth:
- Firstly, to create demand among girls and women for careers in ICT;
- Secondly, to ensure a better supply of science, technology, engineering and maths education to girls and women; and
- Thirdly, to achieve long-term sustainability by encouraging ICT businesses to attract, to recruit, to retain and – last, but very much not least – to promote women.
We are also undertaking various initiatives in terms of leveraging ICTs themselves for women’s empowerment.
The most important of these is our long-standing partnership with telecentre.org, which 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.
We also maintain a ‘Girls in ICT Portal’ at www.girlsinict.org, which features over 500 programmes such as scholarships, tech camps and online networks. The portal is set up so people can add their own programmes – and we publish all event photos there, so let me invite you to log on and get involved!
For its part, the UN Broadband Commission – which was created three years ago by ITU and UNESCO – set up a working on Broadband & 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.
Finally, of course, we have our annual Girls in ICT Day, which brings us all together here in Brussels today, and which is being celebrated for only the third time in 2013, after being established by ITU’s membership at our Plenipotentiary Conference at the end of 2010.
Last year, on Girls in Day, over 1,300 events were organized in 90 countries around the world, and all the indications are that we will surpass this number today.
These events play an important role in demystifying ICTs and ICT careers, and I am pleased to report that we ourselves are hosting an event in Geneva today, at ITU’s new museum, the ICT Discovery, where girls from local schools will be welcomed and will attend coding, app and web-design workshops, and will also have the opportunity to meet female ICT professionals and hear their stories.
Let me therefore close on that positive note, and hand the floor back to Cheryl.